So…you decided you want to follow your passion and pursue a freelance photography career. Wonderful! But now you are faced with the question of how to turn it into a profitable business? — We know the pain.
The good news is that photography can be a very lucrative freelance career, especially since ‘The Internet’ completely changed the game ofcourse in a good way! Today it is easier than ever to learn more about photography, whether it is the creative, technical or business side of it. With the tools available, you can set up an online portfolio and promote it to attract new clients within moments.
With all conveniences that come with the new, digital era, the photography field is also more competitive. This requires you to be up to date with trends, and be creative in marketing your services. Whether you are just starting out in the photography business, or you are a seasoned professional – these 10 ways can help you turn your photography skills into a booming business. Be open and curious about them and research further the ones that catch your attention.
Let me add, none of these is an overnight solution and you will need some time to build a steady income. It will all be up to you, and ofcourse the time and energy you put into it which will dictate how fast you will progress and build a steady income out of it. However, with all these business ideas you can start right away! And the best thing?! you don’t need expensive gear or a photo studio to start. So, let’s get into it! 😉
Here are 10 proven ways you can earn money as a freelance photographer
#1 Photograph small businesses
In the era where content is king, demand for people with photography and videography skills is rapidly increasing. Therefore, there are more ways than ever you could earn money as a freelance photographer. Even small business owners understand how important it is that they have an attractive presentation of their products and services and they probably realize how hard is to keep up with social media, and marketing trends without quality content. This is exactly where you come into the picture. Whether it is your local coffee shop, dance studio, or a bakery – small business owners will likely be thrilled to hear your ideas.
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So start researching potential clients in your area today, and approach them with an offer. Remember that most likely those are the clients that are not sure what they want. So don’t just offer your services. Instead, plan out the kind of content they would need to better promote their business.
Photographing different small businesses is also something you can do while traveling. Offer your services to the owner of your Airbnb place, or the manager of your favorite beach bar. This is the way many backpackers and travel bloggers are supporting their trips, so it is already a paved path for you and you can find ideas online. Once you get into it, you’ll start noticing potential clients wherever you go.
#2 Teach photography to others
You have probably learned a ton of valuable tips on your photography journey that you can share with others. So why not share it? Teaching is also a great way to learn new things and become a better photographer, as well as meet new and interesting people.
Remember, you only need to know more than the person who is just starting out to be eligible to create a class. You don’t need to be a veteran in the field. Ask yourself what specifics of photography you are most interested in – Is it the technical, creative or business side of photography? Are you mostly shooting portraits, landscapes, events? Figure out your niche and build a course around that.
There are plenty of formats of teaching photography – You can hold workshops, seminars, in person or online classes, photo tours, or a complete online course. Team up with fellow photographers and organize workshops together. Organize and list a photo tour online in your hometown or the place you know very well. Create a photography class teaching your style. Or shoot an online course and host it on sites such as Udemy or Skillshare. Opportunities are endless. It’s up to you to find what suits you and just do it.
#3 Shoot an Event – birthday, wedding etc
This is probably one of the most classic ways to earn as a freelance photographer. It is also how most photographers got their first gig. It’s fun and exciting and there are plenty of opportunities: engagement parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate events, concerts, birthdays… You name it. It can be physically demanding, but also a rewarding experience. Besides making decent earnings, you’ll also learn to work in a number of situations and sharpen your skills. There can be a number of challenges at events. From low light conditions to a little time to shoot – this will without a doubt make you a better freelance photographer in no time, which of course allows you to increase your rates.
Get into stock photography – No 1 source of passive income for photographers
Besides client work, there is also a lot of creative ways to earn passive income online. Passive income sources will require a significant amount of work in the beginning but they will make you money in the long run without putting too much effort into maintaining them. One of the most popular ways of earning a passive income is stock photography.
Arguably, stock photography is one of the best ways to start earning money as a beginner freelance photographer. You can do this with any skill level and any equipment(even with your phone)! Some photos(or videos) will do better than the others, so you will want to watch out for the trends and statistics and adjust what you are shooting accordingly.
What creates a good stock image is being able to see the image through the eyes of the potential buyer. You need to think about how your images can be used, otherwise, you won’t see much sales no matter how good your skills are. That is why it is very often the situation in stock that amateur photographers earn more than professional photographers.
As it can be a very competitive field if you don’t know what you are doing, you’ll want to cut the learning curve by exploring classes on the topic. You can find some interesting ones on Skillshare, Udemy or specialized courses like Microstock Academy. Learn to add a proper description, tags and follow image requirements and you’ll see your profit rapidly increases. The biggest stock sites you could upload your photos and videos to are: Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Pond 5.
Sell your digital prints online
People from all over the world are willing to pay a great deal of money for artworks! If you are a landscape or a fine art photographer, or in general on the creative side of the photography this can be a big source of income for you! One of the biggest and most-known marketplaces for selling your artwork is Fine Art America. On this website, you can sell photos in the form of prints, canvases, pillows, smartphone cases, and other products. You are selling your digital images, so there is no hassle in printing and shipping the artwork. Other marketplaces for selling your prints are Great Big Canvas, Image Kind, Cafe Press, Redbubble, Zazzle, Society 6. As with website for stock images, you wouldn’t want to rely on one platform, but diversify and learn how to sell your prints on multiple platforms. If you already have a decent audience and good traffic on your website, you can sell them on your website too!
Start a YouTube channel – Become a photography guru!
If you want to build a brand for yourself, there is no better place than YouTube. It’s a perfect creative outlet for every freelance photographer to share experience and teach and inspire other people. Having a presence on a powerful platform such as YouTube allows you to gain a wider audience, and monetize your channel in different ways. Another one on the good side is that YouTube is easier to build than Instagram and Facebook. As it is a search engine and people will find your content in the years and years to come. For photographers and videographers, having a YouTube channel comes more natural than writing a blog, because it requires a skill set they already have.
Once you build up your channel, the AdSense revenue(money from the ads) will start to flow in. Of course, until you build a huge following, your ads’ revenue will be quite low. You can also get sponsorships deals, or earn through affiliate marketing. Actually the most important benefit of building a YouTube channel is that you will position yourself as the expert and the authority in the field. That will without a doubt lead you to new clients.
Affiliate marketing for a freelance photographer
In short – affiliate marketing is where you promote a product, service or somebody else, and you get a commission off of that. One of the most popular affiliate programs is Amazon Affiliate program. You have probably seen and even clicked on these kinds of links before other people’s blogs or YouTube video descriptions. When the person clicks on that link and buys anything from Amazon in the next 24 hours, you get a small commission usually between 4-10 %.
If you already have an audience on your social media, website or YouTube and you don’t have affiliate links incorporated in your content – you are missing out on potential income. People genuinely want to know what products and gear you use. So why keeping it a secret when you can earn from your recommendations. Affiliate marketing will never be your main source of income, but since it is very easy to implement, you shouldn’t skip it.
Sell photography-related digital products
One of the major trends in the past few years is selling digital products such as Lightroom presets. You probably have seen more ads for Lr presets than for any other photography products. And you probably have bought some as well! If Lightroom is something you are really good at, you should definitely consider selling them. Since it is a digital product, the whole process can be automated. Once you create it and put it up for sale, you don’t need to think about it much, and you can earn money in your sleep.
Besides selling Lightroom presets, which are currently the most common products, you can also sell Photoshop actions, ebooks on photography, or even photography contracts. Whatever you find useful, it is likely that someone else would do too.
Participate in photo contests
This is a great way to showcase your work and talent and get in the spotlight. They are fun to participate in, but they also pressure you to sharpen your skills to be more competitive. Besides that, you’ll learn to evaluate your images, curate them, and be more thoughtful about the work you put out.
There are dozens of photo contests online you can apply to in every genre. Winners of the contests sometimes get cash prizes, sometimes gear. But it can also be an exhibition of their work and worldwide exposure which for sure will land them new jobs and clients. This should not be your primary source of income. It will serve more to promote your work and be part of the community. Some of the best photo contests are Sony World Photography Awards, International Photo Awards, National Geographic Photographer of the Year. There are also apps that have new photo contests you can participate in every day like Gurushots or ViewBug.
Try editing and retouching jobs
If you are proficient and fast in image post-production, here is a great photography side gig for you! You can work anywhere you want, anytime you want. For a retoucher gig, you’ll need to make a different kind of portfolio. This portfolio should include before and after images, or timelapse videos that explain how you created those jaw-dropping images. Untrained eye can’t detect the changes you made, so you’ll need to make easier for them by showing the changes.
You can reach out to a freelance photographer who doesn’t have time for post-production, a photo studio, perhaps a model agency, etc. You can offer your editing/retouching services independently or include them in your photography services.
There are a plethora of opportunities to earn money as a freelance photographer these days. Observe what others are doing, and you will likely find a style of business that suits you. We are curious to know what caught your attention and what you’ll start implementing. Let us know in the comments below!
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