Q: Tell us a bit about what you do, when you started out and what drives you.
I'm a photographer (and essentially an editorial portrait photographer). This
means that typically my work involves taking photographs of people to accompany
stories and articles in newspapers and magazines. I work for a range of
national newspapers and magazines but also have a few regular local corporate
clients in Manchester where I'm based. Over the last few years I've been lucky
to have the experience of photographing such a wide range of people that it
means that I can adapt my style to quite a wide range of photographic styles
too, from formal corporate portraits, to informal documentary style
I started freelancing whilst I was completing a degree in photography, though I knew from the start it wouldn't be easy to build a career after completing the degree. The course was quite conceptual and offered little practical advice in terms of where to go once you'd finished. So whilst studying I assisted other photographers and built up a network of working photographers who I would keep in touch with and who'd advise me on what steps to take next. Although the course didn't equip me for the world of work it provided me with a creative foundation and a style on which all my work is based now. It also reminded me that in order to keep my work current and dynamic it is important to keep up my own projects. Otherwise it is easy to become jaded, so I always make sure I have a couple of personal projects in the pipeline no matter how busy I am with paid work.
Q: How do you find clients? Do you market yourself to any particular types of client, if so why and how?
As well as advertising my services on Freelance Alliance, I do a mail-out to show potential clients my current work a couple of times a year. Word of mouth is always important though and recommendations seem to be my main way of gaining new clients. Most companies will already have a photographer that they'll use and don't know where to start in terms of replacing them if they have any issues, so the best way to show these potential clients that you could do a better job than their current photographer is to be recommended by someone else who they know who you've already done a good job for.
Q: What lessons can you pass on, to those starting out, regarding finding the ‘right’ clients to work with?
Dream clients are those who work with photographers regularly and they understand the constraints of photographing a live situation involving people. They understand what time it takes to edit images, they understand why you get paid the rate you charge, they tell you clearly what they want from the images early on and they help in the process rather than creating more challenges for you. Nightmare clients are easy to spot because they don't brief you clearly to start off (so you don't know what exactly you are being paid to do), they spring little additions on the the work load and expect work to be done in a very short time frame....and also they take a long time to pay you.
Q: Businesses have been through a tough time recently, how has yours fared? Plus, any tips for others?
Luckily for me I started my career not long before the economic downturn so I've never known life as a freelancer to be easy. I am getting more jobs and more new clients each year, although i have found recently that clients are regularly bartering down my rates offering me half what i would have been paid previously. Before recent times the pricing guidelines tended to be followed without argument.
Q: What have you been working on recently?
My work recently has taken quite an unexpected corporate turn, so I've been working for a lot of in-house corporate magazines, and also longer projects for charities who've needed photographic evidence to prove they deserve to retain their funding. I've found that newspapers have really slowed down in terms of commissioning photography, so I'm having to adapt my style slightly to find alternative work. One alternative road I've been going down is non-formal children's photography for nursery schools, and this has been quite an interesting change. In personal projects I have two ongoing current projects and have also started to sell art prints. If there's one thing the recession has taught me it's that you have to constantly keep thinking about what you're going to do next and where you're going to find that next client. You have to challenge yourself.
Q: What's in store for your freelance business next and any plans for the rest of 2011?
To keep busy I'm thinking of how to create work for myself all the time, so I've always got a million different things going on. The plan is to complete the personal projects and produce 2 separate exhibitions sometime next year. In terms of paid freelance work it is so unpredictable. From one day to the next you're working plans for the week can change entirely so it's so hard to plan what you'll be doing next week, never mind next year.
Q: In 15 words or less, what makes for a happy freelancing lifestyle?
A happy freelancing style is being professional and
efficient yet allowing space for creativity.