Three years ago Dave Wheeler stepped out from his full-time job in the media to pursue photography as a full-time freelancer. Since then he’s earned himself numerous large-scale campaigns for huge brands such as Vogue, Belle Magazine and more, while becoming one of Australia’s go-to guys for fashion photography.
As part of our ongoing series with AustralianSuper, today Dave takes us through the things he’s learnt after stepping out solo and how you too can successfully make it, as a freelance.
I won’t lie, stepping out from a comfortable full-time position scared the hell out of me. I had a salary, super, guaranteed work, 9-5 hours and holiday pay. When a few things in life fell into place, I decided to take the plunge and leave my comfort zone to set myself up as a freelance photographer.
It definitely wasn’t easy – the first year took skill, persistence, marketing, and more persistence. I almost considering giving up, but with a little bit of luck and by focusing on honing my skills I’ve made it work. I couldn’t have done it alone but two and a half years down the track I’ve never looked back. Here are a few things I learnt along the way:
The first thing I found is that I went from working five to six days a week, to maybe one. I had been saving up a bit of money prior to resigning and I used that money to buy a camera, some lenses, a camera bag and a few other essentials.
To keep costs low I would borrow things from friends who were also photographers, or hire gear from studios as I couldn’t afford to buy things outright. Sadly, nothing in this job is cheap, and you never know when you next get paid. As time progressed I slowly built up all the equipment I needed.
Treat your week like a full time job
You’ll have a lot of time on your hands and that’s time well spent shooting, planning and being proactive. If you sit around and wait for things to come to you, you’ll be waiting a long time.
Have a strong support network
I am lucky to have several friends who are also photographers. Friends I can discuss the business with, bounce shoot ideas off, discuss rates and invoicing and who are willing to hear me whinge.
You don’t need to have photographer friends but you’ll need people around you who are supportive because it will be a very hard start.
Work on your marketing skills
The next thing I found was that this job is just as much about marketing as it is shooting. It’s important to stay on top of marketing yourself and keeping your work in sight. Instagram is a brilliant free marketing tool so make the most of it. Make sure you shoot tests and personal work to show people what you can do.
Finally, don’t stress
As the saying goes, nothing good comes from being stressed. Keep calm, rational and focused and with a lot of hard work you’ll get there.
It’s incredibly rewarding knowing the more you put in, the more your business grows, and seeing how much you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.
Dave Wheeler is a freelance fashion photographer based in Sydney. You can find out more about him on his website.
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