Mentoring – Business Tips for Freelance Photographersby Cradoc Bagshaw
As a professional freelance photographer, what can you do in a down economy or during uncertain times to be sure you stay in business? One proven idea for you – look for a mentor.
Times are strange, but things have been tough before. The freelance photographers who are still doing business are the ones who have taken the time to come up with strategies to manage or maintain their business.
And, in some cases, these photographers have developed opportunities to take advantage of the changes happening in the world around them by changing or adapting their business model. These professional photographers have taken time to reflect and build stronger photography businesses.
Find a MentorIn figuring out what to do, what to focus on in your business, I suggest you look for those experienced photographers who are adapting; photographers who have weathered previous storms. Take a good look to see what they are doing now to maintain and build their businesses, and use their example as a mentor to guide you through the changes that you need to make in your own freelance photography business.
I’ve seen a number of examples online of photographers in different fields who are changing their business to stay engaged. There’s the successful nature and outdoor photographer who switched to aggressive self-marketing, using a combination of a personal website and PhotoSelter to market his work. I’ve read of photojournalists who are going back to school to study multi-media. There are photographers shutting down costly studios and doing more work remotely.
Mentoring is a powerful approach to learning. Looking for a mentor, or becoming one, has been a tradition within the freelance photography community for a long time. It is, in fact, one of the greatest strengths of this industry.
Finding a Mentor Through Online Chats and Forums
There are many ways to find a mentor, especially in this community that welcomes conversation. You can join professional photographer organizations, many of which have forums, webinars and other online events where you can connect with other photographers. Engage in conversation and connect with people you would like to learn more from or about.
There are also a lot of groups for freelance photographers on LinkedIn and Facebook that you can join, and of course, there are freelance photography bloggers to follow. Listen and read to find the people that you would like to connect with to learn more.
To connect with someone you would like as a mentor, send them a note, comment on their article or blog. Reach out to them to begin a conversation.
Here are a couple of our favourite resources:
Working with a MentorWorking with a mentor is a shortcut to gaining the knowledge you desire. You want to find someone who has read all of the books, magazines and articles. Someone who has overcome obstacles and whose business works the way you wish yours does. Someone whose photographs inspire you. You want to find out what they do – and then you mirror them.
You get into their head, you listen to what they say, and you see what feels good to you. You keep what is good for you and discard or change the rest. You develop your own style. You don’t feel guilty about doing this because if you get good at the business of photography, chances are that someday you’ll become a mentor to someone else.
No matter what type of photography you do, the approach other photographers have shared with us about their businesses will be of value to you.
The Business of ImagesThe business that is fueling commerce right now is the business of images, both moving and still. If you take the images out of entertainment and marketing, all that would be left is radio.
As a photographer, what you produce is one of the main ingredients that drives our economy, and you need to believe that your customers are willing to pay for it. They can’t tell their stories or run their businesses without your images.
Value your own work, recognize how it fits into the big picture, develop – with the support of your colleagues and a mentor – a clear and defendable set of business practices and negotiate everything.
The world needs what you do more than ever. And, when you’re a seasoned photographer with a solid business, become a mentor and share your experience. The health of our industry depends greatly on the sharing of good technique and sound business practice.
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