But it’s not a simple yes or no question.
Freelance job platforms have their place. They’re a great option for photographers looking for new clients, but you have to go about it strategically.
Don’t Bend Over Backwards
What I’ve found with most of these job platforms is that people are looking for services on the cheap. Whether it be photography or videography, you’re not going to make the big bucks by scrolling through gigs on Thumbtack or Upwork.
This doesn’t mean you should have to bend over backwards for a potential client to meet a budget. Out of all the leads I get on Thumbtack (which is multiple per day), I maybe answer two or three per month on average. And out of those I answer, I maybe get two or three per year that actually hire me.
But it’s not only about budget. I’ve started conversations with some potential clients which have been fizzled out by me. At some point, I realized that I would be compromising what I do as a professional photographer to meet their needs. Red flags I look out for include a request for cheap models, the potential client not appreciating my time, asking for discounts and more.
Stay true to yourself as a photographer. Just because you are finding work online through a freelance job board doesn’t mean you have to change the way you work.
Strictly Categorize Yourself
With Thumbtack, you’re asked to create a profile and select which categories you would like job leads through. For photography, you might have choices like portraiture, weddings, corporate events, etc. It’s important to strictly select these categories, otherwise you’ll be flooded with leads.
While I photograph performances, portraits, corporate events and more, I don’t have all of these categories selected. I strictly stay with corporate photography within the Thumbtack platform. I found out the hard way that with portraiture, most people are actually looking for family or engagement photographers, more than anything else.
Consider Local-Only or Recognizable Clients
It seems like every week I hear a story of a photographer getting scammed out of money. It’s for this reason that I always vet my potential clients before responding to a lead. Do they have an updated website, with accurate information?
There are two things you can do if you’re wary of working with a client. First, ask for a deposit, or full payment up front. Second, only work with local or nationally-recognizable companies.
As a rule, if you’re asked to photograph something for a company you’ve never heard of that is five states away…that’s a big red flag. If worse comes to worse, run the opportunity by other photographers or contacts you trust.
Treat it Like Any Other Potential Job
For me, I have a process with the clients I shoot for. I discuss the shoot details, send an estimate, finalize any extra information and am hired. The same goes for gigs I find online via job boards.
With most job boards, you’re presented with some basic details, where you can either send an estimate or ask for more information. From there, the conversation is started, you can receive any other additional details, and then you’re hired.
After the shoot, send a thank you note. Reach out to the client on a regular basis through e-mail. Ditch the job platform once you have finished the job, and get more personal with the client.
I’ve always been wary of freelance job platforms. At the same time, I’ve gotten some beneficial opportunities through them. If you follow the above rules, it might be worth looking into, especially during the often-slow winter season.
For more on Photography Marketing, see our weekly column.
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