Sunday, May 18, 2014

Where to Find Freelance Photo 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 LOCAL 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.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Working For Free: When You Should and Shouldn't

Donating our time as creatives comes naturally to us when we love what we do.  After all, we were probably doing our work for free long before we decided to make it a business.  There are situations when donating our time can really benefit us creatively and as a business, but there are other times when donating our time dampens our creativity and takes us away from paying projects.  Here are the questions to ask yourself when deciding if you should or shouldn't take on a pro bono project:

1. Are you doing this for attention or exposure?
If you're hoping it will give you more exposure, and it doesn't lead to anything, or worse yet, someone uses your work without giving you any credit at all, you may wind up feeling very upset with the people you worked with and as if you could have spent your time marketing yourself more wisely in other ways.  If you still want to do the job in the hopes of gaining some exposure, make sure the client understands that this is a trade of your time for full credit whenever your work is used, and make sure to get it in writing so that you have rights to refuse any illegal or uncredited usage.

2. Did they ask you, or did you offer?
If they asked you, than they really need your services and should most likely be hiring you rather than asking you to do it for free- if you say no, they'll likely move on and look for someone else who will do it for free.  If you're offering, do it because you have some time in your schedule to spare and enjoy the work or the mission of the organization, or because you're comfortable working out an appropriate trade agreement that recognizes the value of your donated time, since you can't claim your time as a tax donation.

3. Are you in a desperate situation financially?
If you're in a desperate situation, taking on more free work isn't going to help your situation.  If anything it will simply worsen your morale because you're continuing to devalue yourself.  You'd be better off taking small jobs or craigslist requests that pay something rather than doing any additional free work that will weigh down your schedule when you could be working for others who will pay you.

4. Are you falling behind on other work?
If you can't keep up with the work you have on your plate, and an opportunity that you've always said yes to for free in the past walks in the door, than it's time to let them know that you can't do it for free anymore because it will take you away from caring for your paying clients.  If they'd like to become a paying client, perhaps it can become a priority for you, but you'd need to make it very clear as to how it will be different than what you've done in the past.

5. Do you want to help make a difference?
If you're doing pro-bono work for a non-profit organization or individual out of the love of your heart, make sure you still have all of your contracts in order about how the images will be used on your behalf and on behalf of the organization.  Also, if you'll be using sensitive subjects or stories on your own website or portfolio, make sure you get model releases and permission from the organization and/or the subjects before sharing the work.

6. Are you doing it to test equipment, try something out of the ordinary, or build a portfolio?
This is probably the best reason to do something for free, because not only is it a way to improve yourself as a creative and take risks you don't want to take on a paying client, it's also going to benefit you in the long run if you create something successful and have the permission to share it with your audience.  This is how many people fill their time with personal projects that generate buzz around their work.  If you're going to do it for free, the best reason is to do it all on your own terms.

Anne Ruthmann is an editorial & 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 smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Twitter or Facebook.
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