1. What are three key things a freelance photographer should do to turn the gig into an actual business?
I think the transition from freelance to professional is different for each person. I was lucky/unlucky enough to lose my job a year and a half ago, which sort of forced me to go full time. If you are gainfully employed, however, there are a few things that I think will be helpful for a slower transition.
Talk to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE that you know about what you do. Yes, some people will not find this interesting, but forget about them. Forget about anything negative that you hear, and anything that sneaks into your brain. It sounds cheesy to say that you should believe in yourself, but that is truly the most important thing. Be brave enough to believe that you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
I get the most joy out of shooting portraits of babies and kids. I have found that I cannot, at this time, make a living just shooting what excites me. This means I have shot everything else that people have offered to me, including: awards ceremonies, art openings, weddings, family portraits, commercial work, etc. You don't always have to love what you do; the goal is to get paid so that you can get the equipment and name recognition that you need. The more you say yes to people, the more people will offer you work. Once you're getting enough offers, you can be more selective about the jobs you accept.
Photography business is an actual job.
As great as it is to work from home, travel and enjoy summer days by the beach, there is a lot of work that goes into having your own company. Be smart about setting up your business and keep track of everything. Hire an accountant and work with a reliable tax person. Freelance photographers likely don't have as many expenses or clients as full-time photographers, which makes life easier. There are less people to keep track of, and less people to keep in touch with. If you want to go full time, be prepared to put in more hours than you would at a 9-5 job. Being self-employed is fantastic, but everything falls to you at the end of the day and your success will depend on how much of yourself you're willing to invest in your business.
2. How important is it for an artist, writer, or any type of creative freelancer to have a website with professional headshots?
I have to laugh at this question because although I think it's relatively important for people to have headshots, I do not have any of myself. I am one of those photographers that hates being photographed, shame on me! That being said, headshots are a great way to eliminate some of the anonymity that comes with websites and the growing social media world. There are a ton of blogs and websites out there, and for every field, there are hundreds of qualified people. I think a lot of consumers like to feel connected to the person or organization that they hire and a smiling face is an easy first step at getting business. I think headshots are most important for creative types that meet their clients face-to-face. I want to know my web designer ahead of our meeting time, but I don't mind ordering a print off of Etsy without knowing who made it.
3. You've only been doing photography professionally for a couple of years, right? What steps lead you from your previous job to photography?
I've been shooting for a couple of years now and the path to working as a professional photographer had very little to do with my previous work environments, rather, it had more to do with being an introvert. Photography has been a great way for me to connect to people and be a part of social situations that would have been a little intimidating to me in the past. I feel more confident with a camera and I like interacting with new people all the time.
4. Any advice for other 9to5ers looking to transition into full-time creative freelancing?
Well...I don't think I have anything concrete to say other than to just go for it. Figure out what you need to do to pay your rent and your bills and as long as you can make that much money, jump in. You won't be living in the lap of luxury right away, but if you work hard and network a lot, the chances are that you will make it. There is never a good time to give up the comfort of a steady paycheck and health insurance, but being your own boss is incredibly rewarding. Do some serious thinking about whether self-employment is the right thing for you before you make any drastic moves, but then just run full speed ahead and don't stop to think about how crazy you are for quitting your cushy job!
5. Most memorable shoot you've done?
I've got a couple of big shoots planned that I am very excited about and I think those will be very memorable. Up until this point, my most memorable shoot took place in San Francisco. I flew out there to shoot engagement photos for a really sweet couple, Anika and Justin. We spent a lot of time shooting in the city, and then we went to the beach, took our shoes off and I photographed them as the sun set over the ocean. The light was amazing and it felt so good and rewarding to be halfway across the country, getting paid to do something that made me feel so happy. Both Anika and Justin are laid back and I was able to experiment a little with posing and lighting without feeling rushed or pressured. Plus, there is nothing like a California sunset.
6. Favorite part about being a professional photographer/owning your own business?
I LOVE not having to sit behind a desk all day. I cannot sit still for long periods of time and it's amazing to be able to get up late, take a walk by the lake and then start work when I feel like I'm ready to work. I'm not a morning person and there are some days where working 12 hours is a cinch and other days where I'm just not in the mood. The variety that this job affords me works really well with my personality and my work ethic.
Visit Lousia's website: louisapodlich.com