Let’s take a trip down memory lane – right back, in fact, to the birth of my photography business. Back in 2006, I owned and ran my own graphic design company. And when I say I ran it, I mean I really ran it – everything from setting it up, to teaching myself how to keep a business afloat, to doing all the admin before I finally brought in a team to support me in the trenches.
And you know what? It was great fun, and I was able to work with some wonderful clients on projects I was really excited about, while travelling to some seriously inspiring places around the country.
While I was running my business and working with these clients, I started to offer up my photography skills on the side. For example, if I was building a website for a veterinary client, I’d suggest we schedule in a photoshoot so we could get all the imagery in order – a much easier solution than going external. I’d offer this invaluable service for a small add-on price of £90.
Yep, you read that right – £90. That teeny-tiny price would include a bespoke set of images, with all the editing included, a fast turnaround and, of course, curation on their new website. The dream package for a business, right?! So why was I under-selling myself so drastically? Well, let me explain…
First of all, it wasn’t because I didn’t think my images were worth more. It also wasn’t because I didn’t value my time. Instead, it boiled down to something really simple – I loved photography and so desperately wanted to spend more time doing it, so if someone was willing to let me, my creative vision, and my camera loose with their brand, I was blissfully happy.
I was already being paid to create the client’s website, put together all their branding, and build an online structure, for which I was charging a suitable amount, and one I could live off. Picking up the photography felt like a little treat – a way to gently monetise my down-time, which I’d have spent with a camera in hand anyway. For me, it was a win-win.
Because I’m a self-taught photographer, too, I’m able to look back on those £90 shoots with nothing but positivity. I was able to learn an almost endless number of lessons while making an extra cash injection. For example…
- How to set up and capture product shots
- How to adapt to different coloured backgrounds
- How to use both natural and artificial lighting
- How to edit product images, as opposed to portraits
- How to capture lifestyle images for commercial shoots
- How to figure out exactly what the client’s audience will engage with, and shoot accordingly
- How to maximise ALL my camera’s settings (Manual mode, I’m looking at you!)
- How to make my editing software work for me
- How to resize, sharpen, and export images for the web
- How to create a bank of images for clients to use for touch points
- How to resize and sharpen for print
- How to combine multiple subjects in one shoot
The list really does go on and on, but one thing’s for sure – if I hadn’t diversified my existing business, with its inbuilt financial safety nets, in this way, I wouldn’t have had quite so many immediate opportunities to develop my craft and build a strong portfolio. I would also have had to work for free for a period of time to build up that portfolio!
I’m not saying you should undervalue or undersell your work. Quite the opposite – I’ll always push you to charge more than you think you can, because as creative types, we often make our own businesses unviable by undercharging. But in the very beginning of your career, when learning and building is your modus operandi, it pays to be strategic.
The final thought…
Every day really is a school day, but if you’re always open to networking and creative about seeking opportunities, you can benefit in multiple ways. Build your portfolio, build your client base, and build your confidence – all while building that savings account, paying your web-hosting fees, or investing in a new piece of kit. You’ve got this!