So You Think You Can Freelance? 5 Photography Essentials (Bonus: List of Expenses)

Aside from the basics: DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, SD cards and a creative eye, there’s really only 5 things you’ll need to embark upon your side hustle journey.

Quick Takeaways for the Impatient:

  1. A quality home for your portfolio
  2. A reliable mansion to backup your files
  3. A fat stack of business cards
  4. A network of some sort
  5. A subscription to Lightroom/Photoshop

Someone, somewhere: “But Haley, what about a business name?!”

If you have one, great. If you don’t, cool beans. Me neither, technically. You can do without it, and when the time comes and the commitment level is there, you’ll know when to make an official business name.

Where to begin, instead? Start with compiling a portfolio of your best pictures.

1. A quality home for your portfolio

My portfolio lives here, on WordPress.

To create a WordPress domain, you would need a website name that cannot be changed later. So technically, my photography business is called “Bad Year to Graduate.” Sexy, right?

Nothing is permanent. Just start somewhere.

I went with WordPress because I was starting a blog, it was affordable (can be free) and I’d seen portfolios live here before. The personal plan offers a considerable amount of storage (6GB) for the purpose it serves. I send potential clients here to check out highlights of my work.

Someday, my portfolio will move. Pixieset and Squarespace are just two of the many user-friendly options that have multiple uses. Not only can you showcase your work on a website built for portfolios, but your clients can also download or buy your files directly from the site.

Consider what you’re willing to spend and your current stage in the process before making this decision! Just make sure all the puzzle pieces fit together.

2. A reliable mansion to backup your files

You need a helluva lot more storage than just 6GB on WordPress or a 15GB Google Drive to fit these big files. I went with this 2TB External Drive and I’m pleased with its efficiency, speed and portability.

I currently upload all edited files onto a Google Drive folder that I’ll share with clients. It’s free and accessible, so that’s good. But it also limits storage, feels unprofessional and isn’t totally efficient for clients to download.

For your external drive, consider a mansion. Nobody skimps on a mansion. When it comes to where you’re storing your RAW and Edited images, think like a mansion hunter.

Believe it or not, I’ll need to buy a backup for the backup, soon. All age-old photographers say you should have all files saved in two equally reliable places, excluding your computer/laptop in case of a crash.

3. A fat stack of business cards

These are necessary in my opinion for a few reasons.

  • Legitimize yourself as a photographer
  • Give a physical keepsake to potential clients
  • Leave past clients with an easy way to reach out again
  • Increase chances for referrals

Here’s what mine look like:

I called my photography business Bad Year to Graduate because that’s the name of this blog. It’s funny, it’s easy to remember and it’s where my portfolio lives.

You could simply use your name and the title: photographer. Bada-bing-bada-boom, they know where to find ya.

You’ll want to get a bunch. It’s cheaper to order in bulk, anyway. This way, you never second guess handing one out.

I designed mine for free on Canva and uploaded the custom design onto Staples. They were printed and in my hands in the same day.

4. A network of some sort

Photography is a referral business. Once you gain the trust of a few, you’ll have a better chance of spreading to the masses.

It’s an oversaturated industry. There’s hundreds of thousands of full-time photographers in the US, not including freelance photographers like me and you.

Start with who you know!

I’m currently running the show from my personal Instagram account and a bit of Facebook. I’ve gotten most of my bookings through Instagram, which isn’t even branded for photography.

You never know who’s in need of photography services! Spread the word often.

Sure, I’ve considered re-branding and creating a separate photography account, but I feel like I’ll know when the time is right. No one seems to mind that I’m posting pretty pictures here and there of featured shoots.

Don’t forget to tag your clients in posts and stories and they are more likely to share!

5. Subscription to Lightroom/Photoshop

Don’t fear Adobe like I did.

I initially assumed the cost of editing software was going to take the place of food on the table, but I was terribly wrong. Not only is Adobe’s Photographer package affordable, but it’s also extremely easy to use.

You’ve got the photographer’s eye – editing will come naturally to you. It’s a skill that is necessary in order to compete in the professional space, but at least we’ve got Adobe tutorials, Youtube and influencers that are all banks of knowledge.

Shoot RAW for the highest quality images and the most flexibility in editing. And DO 👏🏼 NOT 👏🏼 delete photos as you go. The camera screen can be deceiving. Wait until you drag it into Lightroom to see what’s salvageable.

If you’re interested in receiving a list of my first year expenses, subscribe to my blog today and email me directly to request it!

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