As many of you know, I went on a social media detox for the entire month of May. What exactly is a social media detox? It's pretty much exactly what it sounds. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Path, no Snapchat (j/k, I don't use Snapchat). I needed a month to refocus and have as little distraction as possible. I learned SO much during this time. I learned a ton about myself and my desires. I could tell you more, but I'd rather tell you in person than over another social media platform. :) One thing I will say is I highly recommend these mini cleanses.
What I do want to talk about instead is this list of tips I've made for freelancers (mainly photographers):
1. Do not over promise.
I've made this mistake countless times and I think I finally understand what this means and why it is so important. When you over promise the number of photos you are going to deliver, you end up spending a lot of time editing. This often leads to batch editing which then leads to your photos looking good, but not amazing. My philosophy has always been to give the client as many photos as possible, but then I end up spending hours and hours editing okay photos, and not great photos. Editing too many photos means less attention is being given to each individual photo, and therefore the quality of your work goes down. Don't give the client 100 photos or even 50 photos. Promise the client (ie) 10 really amazing kick ass jaw dropping how the eff did you do that photos.
2. Go above and beyond.
This leads me to my next point, which is to go above and beyond. I like giving my clients extra photos or behind the scenes stuff. It makes them happy and shows them that you care. If you promise 10 photos, give them an extra 2 really amazing photos as well. Maybe going above and beyond means cutting them a small deal. Please don't think you have to do this, but if you gave them a flat rate and the job ended up taking you less time, discount it. Or don't. But give them a few extra photos. Leave the job on a high note.
3. Over estimate the time it takes to edit.
I once had a job where I was to shoot a few hundred (okay, we're talking over 1000) different products on a white backdrop. I figured it was no big deal to edit all of these photos, I knew what I was doing, and I had shot hundreds of photos like this before for Photojojo. I decided to give the client a flat rate and told them it would take me a day and a half to edit (10-14 hours). While the client was great, this was the worst weekend of my photography life. In a three day period I ended up editing these photos for over 60 hours. I was in tears every night ripping my hair out, mentally and physically exhausted. By the end of it all, I couldn't move my right hand, it was awful. What I learned from this is how long it takes me to edit per photo, and it is about 3-4 times longer than what I expected. It's better to over quote how much time it will take you to edit than underquote. Underquote and you end up missing your deadline or giving your client half ass work (which you should never do). Overquote and you end up giving your client their photos early and making them oh so happy!
4. Seek art direction.
This is a tough one and I think all creatives can relate to this. You want to be creative and do what it is you love, and this is what actually gets you hired. But then you get a client and they want it this way. While it is important to be as creative as possible, a lot of clients want you to be creative within their realms. The last thing you want to do is an entire photo shoot with all your creative energy involved, and then have the client come back at you and say, "well, we really wanted the backdrop to be blue instead of yellow" or, "we wish they were facing the other way." Before your shoot, sit down with your client and make a really clear outline of what they are wanting. Make sure you fully understand the shoot and the photos they expect to get. Suggest to them other creative ideas (sketch it out, show them examples). This will help them understand your vision as well. Don't start shooting until you have all these details worked out. If your client is on set with you, show them the photos as you are shooting. They'll tell you what they like and don't like. Of course, some clients will let you do whatever you want. Sometimes it's because they don't really know what they are doing and so the trust you. If this is the case, take full advantage of this and shoot to your heart's content!
5. Charge properly.
I'm not going to say you always need to charge money, but I am going to say that 95% of the time you should be charging for your shoots, and 95% of the time this should be at your full rate. These are the only exceptions I make to my rates:
- If I think I will learn and the shoot will help me become a better photographer, I will offer a slightly lower rate.
- If they are going to give me full credit as the photographer and I think it will get me business from others, I will offer a slightly lower rate. Note: only do this if you really, really think it will get you business as there's a good chance it will not.
Notice how I said "a slightly lower rate"? That's because I mean it. Your skills are 100% worth it. Plus, you aren't being selfish, you're just actually trying to live. No, you're not trying to buy those nice new shoes, you're literally trying to make enough money to pay rent and buy groceries. But hey, you do need good photographer shoes! ;)
Okay, I lied. This is the other time I will break my "charge properly" rule. But that's because I'm wanting to collaborate with someone. The situation is that we will both benefit from the photo shoot (I get photos for my portfolio, they get photos for their business). These collaborations are usually going to be your call. Are headshots really going to help our portfolio out? Probably not. But collaborating with some top dawgs/people you respect and admire who also produce really amazing work, those photos will help your portfolio out. Plus, you learn a ton and you get to network. What's that song? Stop, collaborate and listen! Collaborate and please do listen. Learn as much as you can from the individual you are working with. Listen to them, ask them questions, build a strong relationship with them.
Those are all the tips I have for now. Freelancing is hard, it is really hard. It can be very lonely. You spend a lot of time alone and for a long time, you don't know where your next pay check comes from. Maybe you shouldn't freelance right away. Perhaps you should work part time and start freelancing part time. I've learnt that not having as much time to work on what you're passionate about makes you more passionate about it. Having too much time can be draining. But! Don't give up! You can make it work! There are going to be days, weeks even months that you may feel completely burnt out. Try and understand why you are feeling this way and what changes you can make. You can make it work by choosing to make it work. Don't freelance because it's cool, freelance because you can't imagine doing anything else. Make sacrifices. Think less and do more.
Oh yeah, and continue to explore other fields, too. While I do get a lot of inspiration from photography, I also find inspiration through nature, reading, health, relationships, feminist arguments and driving. The more you learn and expand what you know, the more you'll be able to create.