Turn your hobby into your profession: Freelance photographer

February 21, 2012


Each month we look how people have successfully turned their hobby into their profession. This month we start this feature with perhaps one of the most popular hobbies, photography. Here we will be discussing the most important factors and issues you may come across when you set up your own business as a freelance photographer.

Freelance Photography

If photography is your passion then there are many advantages to setting yourself up as a freelance photographer. As with any freelance role you will be able to choose your own working hours and be your own boss. As well as this you will have more control of the direction you take your career in and through working with a wide variety of clients you will also gain very varied experience and an impressive CV.

Obviously if becoming a freelance photographer was easy then everyone would be doing it. One of the major drawbacks is that there is less job security working freelance. You will need to be business savvy and good at networking to ensure that you can source enough work to keep you earning a salary to live from. You need to weigh up all the pros and cons and do your research in to the market before deciding whether working freelance is right for you.

Source: bbc.co.uk via Cashzilla on Pinterest


Invest in your business

Investing in the best equipment is an essential factor in setting up your own photography business. Since the quality of your work will be directly affected by the quality of your photography equipment. This will in turn affect the variety of jobs you can complete and the referrals you get from clients. As an experienced photographer you should know how to source the best cameras and other equipment, however remember it is unwise to spend a lot of money in one go. Instead, start off with equipment that will allow you to do basic jobs and as the jobs roll in and your earnings increase you can invest more in the range of equipment you have.

Also consider investing in yourself by way of training days. One of the main risks of freelance work is that your skills become outdated so keep up to date with the latest techniques by active learning.

Charging for your work

The way you charge for your work is very important because you need to ensure you are able to earn a professional income in order to work freelance. The most common ways photographers earn money is through commission or through reproduction fees.

Photographers working on commission charge by time. The figure you charge will depend on your own individual circumstances and preferences. Since you are working freelance you will need to work out the optimal fee, which is both competitive and allows you to earn enough to live, cover holidays, illness periods, your pension, administrative fees etc. It can be hard to work out the ideal fee to charge. You will need to do a lot of research into your business costs and even check out what other freelance photographers are charging. Never be afraid to negotiate better rates.

The photographer is the owner of the intellectual property in the work. The commission fee should include an initial limited licence for reproduction, to be negotiated between the photographer and the client, beyond which further reproduction fees are chargeable.

Check out this handy photography day rate calculator form londonfreelance.org which should give you some idea about how much to charge.

Promoting your work

It may be wise to start of working in a range of areas, but as you gain experience you should decide if you will continue to operate in a range of fields, or if you should specialise in sport, food, landscape, or business photography. Specialising should help you to target your market better.

It is extremely important to set up your own website. This will allow you to show off your best photographs and sell your work without needing a bricks and mortar shop.  The next step is to set up social media profiles. This will allow you to network with other freelance photographers and with clients. Spreading the reach of your work and maximising the level of interaction with other potential clients will help you become better known. It will also help you pick up business tips.

Don’t forget traditional marketing techniques as well. It’s important to have a business card which you can hand out when you meet potential clients, at networking events or to current clients so they keep you in mind for future work.

Administrative issues

As well as concentrating on your creative work, life as a freelancer will also require you to have a strong business head and organisational skills to ensure that the administrative side runs smoothly.

It is important to keep track of business income and expenses by making sure your clients pay in a timely manner, as well as managing insurance and tax issues. To make sure you are paying the correct amount of tax you should always consult an accountant. However, this can be an expensive resource. It is important to use small business accounting software which will help you keep track of all your business costs but will also result in paperwork taking up less of your time. There are several online versions which will make the process as efficient as possible.


Success as a freelance photographer ultimately depends how much time and effort you can invest into the project. There are relatively low entry barriers to establishing yourself and experience will be your greatest asset. Remember to make use of online resources to make yourself known and find work more easily.

Do you have any other top tips for starting out as a freelance photographer? If you liked this guide to setting up as a freelance photographer then you can find it in a downloadable format via our PDF sharing account.


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  • http://www.purechecks.com/ Kyle Kam

    I have a friend who is a professional photographer and he enjoys what he’s doing, he said to me. When we were kids, he’s really into taking pictures of anything he thinks has meaning to him. My point is, our hobbies may be a factor when it comes to choosing our field of work. That’s a good reason to be comfortable and stable with the you’ll choose.