Sunday, May 18, 2014

Where to Find Freelance Work

In 2011, I was preparing for a year of traveling around the world and taking a sabbatical from the demands of my wedding photo business for a while.  Since I had to stop taking wedding clients 12 months in advance of traveling, I also had to create a plan to help me live a more freedom-based lifestyle while still being a photographer with professional recurring bills to take care of.

At first I was terrified to give up my security blanket of wedding clients who always planned well in advance, rarely ever cancelled their shoot, and were a very predictable source of income, however, after I'd paid off enough debt and saved up enough money, I had a little more courage to take some leaps of faith and try a more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants style of booking and serving clients.  What I ended up finding was how much I really enjoyed short-assignment and easy-for-me work that I could pick up on the fly and turn-around in less than a week.

Disclaimer: if a lack of security or routine throws you into a stress ball of unhappiness, this may not be the road for you to travel, but it can be a chance to pick up some side jobs in your free time.  However, if you're zen like a surfer riding a tsunami, than the freelance lifestyle will actually serve you far better than a more predictable routine-and-commitment based type of work.

Bonus Tip: if you're overworked, these can also be great resources to find your ideal virtual assistant, retoucher, white-balancer, graphic designer, web coder, video editor, and more!

Craigslist

The most obvious and freely available resource for finding wanted requests as well as promoting your creative services is by far, the Craigslist job boards (mostly in the United States).  People get used to using the site for all sorts of things like apartments, furniture, tickets, etc, and because the board is so vast, they just use it to look for everything else they need as well.  The really nice thing about Craigslist for an in-person service business is that it's locally focused, so you're most likely to get local leads that are easy to serve rather than national or international leads.  Granted, there are a lot of people out there giving their work away, but that doesn't mean that a buyer can't recognize the difference and value of hiring a professional.

Thumbtack

This service has only emerged in the online marketplace in the last couple years, but has aimed to streamline the process of finding creatives and services by allow people to create a posting with some guidelines for their request and a local area that they want to be served in and then the first 5 bids to respond are shown to the client.  This really streamlines the process for the person who's making the request so that they aren't overwhelmed with bids that are outside of their budget or from people who are unavailable.  It makes the process for service providers easy so that they only need to respond to a request if they have the time available to take the client.  It's free to create an account, but there is a small charge for each request you bid on.

Elance

One of the first and still most popular places really dedicated to connecting creatives with job opportunities.  Client billing and payment is managed entirely through the site, so if you need help with contracts or billing, they can help streamline that process for you.  You search for projects that fit your skills when you have time to apply, you make bids, and you're either accepted or not, but I believe the Elance cut is taken only when you're hired and paid through their system.

ODesk

Very similar to Elance, but also provides public profiles so that clients can seek you out directly by searching for available help rather than being directed to posting a job first and getting whatever comes in.  This freelancing article on FreshBooks shares some of the pros and cons of these similar systems.

The Creative Loft

Rather than a service that collects a commission or fees for transactions, this is a membership-based service for access to creating a profile and/or a listing for requests.  It seems to focus more on the community aspect of working as a freelancer, by providing forums and message boards for creatives to connect more easily and share.

Guru

This may be more ideal for commercial or studio work in which a product that needs to be photographed for a website can be shipped to the photographer.  Because the site doesn't easily filter by location, it's more ideal for someone who can provide their services virtually.

People Per Hour

Also ideal for people who prefer to work virtually, but this allows you to define a specific task that you're willing to perform at a very specific rate so that clients can hand-pick from services and prices like they would if they were in a grocery store.  There's also a bidding process that can help streamline inquiries, but they seem to do a great job of making the resource easy and user friendly.

Disclaimer:
Because I tend to stay busy on referrals alone, I've only tried two of the services above, the rest are things I found when I was looking for extra assignments to take on, so I'd love to hear about your experiences.  I used Craigslist while I was building my business from the ground up almost 10 years ago, but haven't used it for photo assignments since then.  I signed up for Thumbtack recently after moving to NYC, and there are many requests that come in too low or too far away for me to serve them professionally, however, there are a few gems in the rough and on a rare occasion I do actually respond to a request if it looks like it will fit my working style and schedule.

Are there other services or sites that you've tried and had success with?  Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.


Anne Ruthmann is an lifestyle & event photographer in New York City. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography in 2004 as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smarter solutions to small business problems. Stay in touch on Twitter or Facebook.

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