Five Rules for Freelancing / by Jon Paciaroni

1.) Make sure you’re financially prepared. Have at least three months worth of salary in the bank for when you’re in between projects. Freelancing can feel like a financial hardship if you’re looking at your business in a short term way. You have to have the stomach for periods of uncertainty in your income and understand how to plan ahead so freelancing can become a long-term play. Your cash reserves are there to be piece of mind at the very least and self-preservation when necessary.

2.) Know that there’s a lot more to being a self-employed photographer is more than just photography. You have to have a diverse skill set that includes marketing, business development, project management, accounting, writing and production. Many of these tasks won’t be your expertise but it’s your responsibility to get good at them or at least good enough so that you can land projects, keep them going and bring home the bacon when they’re over.

3.) Treat yourself like a client. It’s worth it, even in the beginning, to put in the effort position and market yourself. This means, at the very least, being clear on what you do, creating a simple website, having business cards and polishing up your LinkedIn. If you want people to take you seriously, you have let them know who you are, what you do and that you’re open for business.

4.) Be prepared for a lot of ambiguity. I’ve had two week projects turn into six month projects, and I’ve had moments where I’ve gotten really comfortable with what I thought was a long-term consulting gig, only to have it disappear. One way to navigate these choppy waters is by being proactive. Initiate regular dialogue with your existing clients on upcoming workload. When you don’t get a job, which happens to everyone, ask for feedback. If communication drops off with a potential client, it’s ok to send them a polite note to move the conversation along. If you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally and move on.

5.)Hustle. Working for yourself is wonderful but the truth is many of us do this from home…alone…often in your jammy's. You’re not going to get new clients by staying home. Go to industry events. I highly recommend this, because you never know who you are going to meet or what opportunities you may hear about by attending. They are also a great way to stay current with what’s going on in the design industry and a fantastic well to draw from in conversation with potential clients. I also love catching up with friends and colleagues for lunch or coffee. Being an extrovert and being social is a big part of staying top of mind for potential clients.