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.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.


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.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3,  Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Look for Part 2 next Monday.