5 lessons I learned since being a freelance photographer

By now, I’ve been a self-employed photographer for over five years. As many blog posts and LinkedIn articles showed me, it’s time to write a lessons-learned article.

1. Routines, systems, and checklists

Whether it’s recharging the batteries after a shoot, putting in a reminder to follow up on a pricing offer you made, or just a checklist of what gear to bring for a shoot. Make checklists build routines, and have a system.

Don’t do it all out of your head.

I have a checklist with all gear I have. It mentions all the camera bodies I have, all the lenses, memory cards, batteries, backgrounds, tripods, and cables.

Anything I own that I might have to bring to a shoot is mentioned in it. I can review the list the day before a shoot and see what I should bring. It even tells me to check the battery charge, memory cards, image file size, and type.

2. Ask for feedback

Especially at the start of my career, I found it intimidating to ask for feedback. I actually still do.

I now have a templated email I send to clients after a shoot. It’s easier to pick the template, adapt the name and some details and send it. Creating an entire email from scratch asking for their criticism was often too big of a barrier—the result: was me not asking for feedback.

Feedback from the client helps you improve. It also helps you to confirm your skills. Getting positive feedback helps battle that dreaded imposter syndrome you will encounter.

Oh, and also give feedback to yourself. I wrote an article about how you can do that.

3. The newest toys are fun … and unnecessary

I love having a new camera or lens. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with treating yourself with one of them occasionally. Mainly when you feel limited by your current gear.

I recently bought a 35mm f1.8 lens, even though I already had a 16-35mm f4 lens. But that lens didn’t feel good. I didn’t like its aberrations, found the f4 limiting me in some situations, and rarely needed anything wider than 35mm, let alone 24mm.

But there are plenty of lenses that seem fun and helpful but are just a strain on your finances.

Try to keep your gear limited to what you actually need and use. Anything else, you can rent.

4. Posting on LinkedIn works

At least for me. I am a business photographer, so my clients are other businesses. Making Linkedin a great platform.

There might be a better place for wedding photographers. So do test what platforms work for you.

But posting online works. Post your work, share tips and insights, and interact with your clients.

5. Ask questions and listen

Often clients come to me telling me they need photos for something. Even though they know where and how they want to use the photos, they are often unclear on anything more specific.

That is, until you start asking questions.

Don’t train yourself to tell them who you are and how you work.

Train yourself on asking who they are and what they do.

Call them or plan a (video)meeting. Treat it as a first date; find out who they are, what they like, and what they need.

Listening is better than talking.

What lessons would you add to this list?

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