Of all the advancements in technology I’ve witnessed in recent years the one that has impressed me the most is communication. The way we are able to communicate today is nothing short of astonishing. Our ability to converse with virtually anyone has bridged a huge gap in the ability to attain and provide information. I am often contacted by someone I don’t know, usually on instagram but always with the same two questions? “How did you make the transition to a full time freelance professional?” “Do you have any advice for an aspiring freelance artist?”
Considering the amount of times I’ve received these questions I thought a blog post was appropriate. Just to put it out into the abyss of the internet and hopefully my information can provide some assistance to all aspiring freelance workers. So let’s begin.
“How did you make the transition to a full time freelance professional?”
“Do you have any advice for an aspiring freelance artist?”
I made the transition when I felt it was appropriate for me to make the statement “I am a professional” based on the skill set I had acquired. Not implying I was/am the best, far from it, but I had collected enough experience to confidently market myself as a wedding and commercial professional; worthy of documenting a wedding or representing a business with my skill set. I also waited until I adequately introduced myself to the local wedding community and had built a network of colleagues that could be a source for referrals. I often think people enter the world of freelance and become disheartened by its challenges because they weren’t ready for it yet. You have to know this isn’t a traditional job and you can’t treat it like one. Nothing is given to you, you are your business, everywhere you go is a potential client and you have to sell yourself 24/7. Anywhere you find yourself it is your obligation to let people know who you are, what you do and you’re ready to work. Once I knew as an artist I had something I could call a “style,” the skills to make videos I felt had some marketability and when I was mentally ready to digest the fact that paychecks are OVER unless I make them happen - that was when I decided I could make the transition.
With that said...some real talk. That confident paragraph above does not depict my emotional state of terror when making the transition. I was ready, I had the skills, I knew I had to market myself but I was horrified. I had a newborn at home, a wife not working, I moved into a new, much larger, much more expensive apartment and now consistent paychecks were over...did I mention I was terrified.
Obviously I had already built a solid portfolio and had commissioned work already booked. It wasn’t a case of me just leaving a job, buying a camera and having hope as a backup plan (I would also highly advise against that, that’s not a liberating transition to self employment rather a reckless excuse to be unemployed with a camera). There was still that horrible feeling of the unknown, so learn from my mistakes, I would advise anyone looking to join the freelance lifestyle to book at least 6 months worth of commissions before you leave a job with a consistent paycheck. I had weddings booked but they were all around the same time in the year so I had to live off deposits and small gigs in between until final payments showed up. It worked but it was hard, way harder than I like life to be.
Even with the challenges I discussed and the candid story of terror, I urge people to do it, if you don’t make the jump your work will always reflect that of a “part timer.” That’s not a statement of quality but your work changes when everything depends on it. My video work went from “something I also do” to the way I feed my daughter. You can bet your bottom dollar the level of care that went into my work reflected those sentiments.
For all who this applies to, best of luck!