My daughter graduated from art school last year and is pursuing freelance work in the video and photography industries. While this is not a letter to her specifically, her decision inspired me to write about starting out in a creative services business. I am a still photographer, and I have worked as a freelancer for most of my career. Some of these tips are specific to photography and video production, but many apply to all freelancers in the creative professions, whether graphic and web design or other fields.
I. Basics to be in business
1. Be reachable
Have a cell phone that receives email. If someone can’t reach you, they will contact the next person on their list. Return emails, phone calls and text messages promptly.
2. Record a legitimate voicemail greeting
Include your name and speak clearly; you want a person with work to want to call you back.
3. Use an email address not tied to a specific ISP
Have your own domain name, or use Gmail or an equivalent. This will allow you to keep your email address when you switch internet providers.
4. Maintain a web site
Nowadays a web site is as important as a business card. Make sure your phone number and email address are visible on every page. If your site shows up as “under construction”, you fail. A home page is enough to start, but to maximize impact include great examples of your work.
5. Have a business card
Make it creative but readable.
6. Create and use a contact database
It can be as simple as Address Book on a Mac, Microsoft Outlook on a PC, or Google contacts in Gmail. I use Address Book and salesforce. Whether it’s simple or complex, have a place in your computing world where you keep people’s names, phone numbers and email addresses. It’s also helpful if the database syncs with your phone.
7. Be ready to talk money when somebody calls with a job
Know what you charge for a day’s work. Do not say “Yes” without talking price. If you don't know market rates in your city, ask others. Know what you normally charge, but don't be afraid to ask the photographer what his or her budget is. The same photographer may have some jobs with an editorial budget (lower) and others with an advertising budget (higher).
Read the other parts of this series.
Look for Part 2 next Monday.