There are more than a few options for a photographer/videographer to make a living. What it often boils down to is toughing it out in the Freelance world or securing a job that gets you stuck in traffic every morning. I've done both, and let me tell you, they aren't easy (it's always work).
Ahhhh, FREELANCE...FREE. LANCE. It just sounds cool. "What do you do for a living?" And you respond..."I'm a FREELANCE..." It's what all the real artists and photographers are doing, right?
Working freelance can be really awesome and there are a lot of upsides. Every day I wish I could work solely freelance! Let's run down the benefits of freelance.
· Freedom - Free is in the name right? When I worked freelance, my schedule was all over the place and I often had the time to do what I wanted. "No shoot today?" well I'm going to work on my computer a bit. Being a night owl, editing was typically done in the middle of the night. I was able to make my own schedule and tailor it exactly how I wanted at any given time. This often meant my week or month was curated with projects I was excited about and wanted to really be a part of.
· Variety – Every week I was onto a new project. Once something is completed, I just moved onto the next adventure. This kept things fresh and new, always kept me engaged in my work. One day I’m shooting educational videos for a local start-up and the next I’m in a hotel suite shooting a music video. Things were always moving and it’s something that I really miss.
· Pay – What really shocked me was how much money I was pulling in after a single days work. PA-ing could net me between $150-$200. A jack-of-all-trades project could bring in a couple months rent. Everything I’d done before didn’t come close in comparison. Pay rates for working freelance are much higher than being an employee at a full-time job. What do you do with the difference? Well, that’s where the trouble comes in and the exact reason there’s such an income difference.
· Pay (but for real this time) – You take home a lot more than you would working for an employer or 8-5, but what I didn’t initially take into account is all the expenditures that come with being freelance. Sure I might be bringing home $300 after a days work, but a large chunk of that goes to taxes. I like having medical insurance? Fork over a little more for that, I’m paying for it myself. That new microphone or lens I want? I’m the one forking over the large bill to have that in my kit and maintain it. That large sum gets cut down pretty quick with just the cost of doing business.
· Dry Spells – Remember what I said about Freedom and variety? Yeah, well sometimes I had a little too much freedom and found myself with nothing to do. There were months where I said to myself, “Wow, I did really well this month!” The following month, “I don’t have enough money for groceries this week”. Work can be sporadic at the worst times. I had the ability to take a week off, but come the first of the month, I would be begging for gigs. Key here is to keep steady, ongoing clients. It is a tough point to get to, but well worth it.
The key to making a career out of freelance is having balance. If you have a great balance of work, freedom, and can manage your income correctly, freelance can be a viable option. Even with its hardships, I miss it. Looking forward to getting back to it.
Do you work freelance? Do you balance an office job and freelance on the side? Let me know. In the next blog, the dreaded 8-5 is on the table. Be sure to weigh in on what you think.