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Staff to Freelance
Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 1:48 PM on 10.04.11
->> Are you a former staff photographer who transitioned to freelance? What sort of preparations did you make to start running your own business?

Answers will be on-the-record and may be used in NPPA business practices educational material.

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Derek Montgomery, Photographer
Duluth | MN | USA | Posted: 2:25 PM on 10.04.11
->> Hey Mark. I'm one of those people. I saved a little money from each paycheck to pay for equipment, but the biggest thing I did before I became freelance was to invest in a quality website and blog. As much as you need equipment, none of that is any good if people can't find you. In this age, 95% of my clients find me via the web and the rest usually through word of mouth. A lot of the times that word of mouth is generated via assignments or events I shot from someone who found me on the web. So in a way, it's a giant circle, but having a great website and blog to increase your search engine visibility has been one of my biggest assets as a freelancer.
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Neil Turner, Photographer
Bournemouth | UK | United Kingdom | Posted: 10:08 AM on 10.05.11
->> Hi Mark

If you would like an overseas perspective (UK) I would be happy to contribute. I had just over three weeks between being told that my job was going and actually being available for work. My employer gave me paid leave for those three weeks which gave me time to get everything organised (or so I thought).

In essence I had been self-employed before taking a staff job so I wasn't completely in the dark about how things work. The UK equivalent of the IRS - HMRC - are very helpful and run some free one-day workshops to give you some of the basics about record keeping and your duties and options under tax law. I did all three of the basic ones and I would do more if they were on offer.

I established bank accounts and business VAT registration so that I was ready to work on day one. I made sure that my contacts book was backed up and that I had the equipment (bought from my former employer) that I needed and that it was all serviced and cleaned. I sorted out insurance for my gear, my car, my computers and for Public Liabilities (highly recommended over here). I also made sure that my on-line portfolio was ready to go on the first day and that I had some cool business cards ready printed.

My next move was to make a check list of who I wanted to see with my folio and researched which freelance search sites I wanted to be on. As the first day approached I wrote and re-wrote an introductory email that I planned to send to existing contacts. The UK is a relatively small market and word got around that I was available and on day one I booked three days of work. The first three months were good and I picked up work - mostly in London, which was not a central part of my plan.

To be honest the rest of the three years that has passed has seen me reacting to stuff rather than making things happen. I don't work as much as I would like but I am paying my bills and keeping a roof over our heads. I left the job with a decent settlement and I have spent some of it, invested some more and used some to pay bills. I have worked hard to cut costs and the last few months have seen a small but noticeable increase in turnover.

I had planned to do some teaching and some writing about photography and both of those things have helped enormously. I am now committed to teaching a six month fast-track photojournalism NCTJ course one day a week which pays reasonably well.

The basics must be the same the world over: know the market, work with your existing contacts and try hard to make and maintain new ones. Be sensible with money and don't buy kit if it will not pay for itself over time.

My other note is about social media. We cannot ignore it and it takes a lot of effort to get it right. So far only LinkedIn has given me work that I have made money from but Twitter and Facebook are proving useful tools for meeting people and for picking up feature story ideas.

I'm now based in Dorset - about 100 miles from central London. 70% of my work comes from London, which is still not what my check-list business plan called for but we are in a tough economic situation and I am following the money rather than my dreams.
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 12:15 AM on 10.06.11
->> Derek and Neil, Thanks for the feedback.

Anybody else?

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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 12:20 AM on 10.06.11
->> Mark,

does it have to be a recent change from staff to freelance? I went from staff to freelance a decade ago and packed up and moved to start over again (and it was the BEST thing I ever did)
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Chad Ryan, Photographer
Fort Wayne | IN | USA | Posted: 12:54 AM on 10.06.11
->> I am currently involved in this process. My transition will be complete with my last day of employment being set for Nov. 6. The main preparations I've made so far have been to lay out my plan to both my accountant and attorney. They both had great advice on how to proceed in various areas of starting my business such as which type of business is best for me to start. They explained in detail how starting either an S Corp, LLC or sole proprietorship would most benefit me. I also got great advice on what I need to do with bookkeeping right from the start to save myself headaches later.

I didn't need to purchase much in the way of equipment since I had already owned a full kit. I did, however, purchase an additional camera body so I would have a backup of a backup, and I upgraded my long lens. I also bought a new, faster editing laptop and licenses for software titles I generally use.

I am now moving toward creating marketing materials, generating lists of potential clients, updating my website and generally spreading the word that there is yet another available photographer jumping into the mix.
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 10:32 AM on 10.06.11
->> Debra, Nope, I'd love to hear your story.

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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 11:03 AM on 10.06.11
->> PM, or here?

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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 6:57 PM on 10.06.11
->> Debra, Whichever you prefer. Do you have my email address?

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Scott MacDonald, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 11:09 AM on 10.07.11
->> Mark, after a 15-year newspaper career, my last day as a staffer was August 11 of this year. I wrote about it in a blog post on my website:

The main thing I did to prepare for the transition was to book enough weddings to pay me the salary I would have made through the end of the year had I stayed at the paper. I did that by rebuilding my websites, working on my marketing efforts, advertising on Google and Facebook, and getting a booth at a wedding fair. The last one gave me the most work.

Before I left my job, I bought all my own gear. Paid off all my debt. Built up a savings account to get me through slow times. Made a business plan. Met with a business consultant. Read John Harrington's book, and the ASMP business book (most of them, anyway). Started learning about SEO and archiving and workflow and all the other little things I do these days.

Since I quit I've been busy with my wedding work ( I've been trying to shoot some kind of personal assignment once a week. And in about five minutes, I'm going to walk to the NPPA Business Blitz seminar and continue learning.

Maybe I'll see you there.
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Thread Title: Staff to Freelance
Thread Started By: Mark Loundy
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