Are you a hobby photographer looking to turn your passion into a business? One of the best ways to get started (and to earn as you learn, so to speak) is to become a freelance photographer until you can afford your own studio and staff. While it can be challenging in the beginning to drum up your first few customers, travel on a budget, and learn the ropes of smooth customer service, freelance photography is a great way to get professional photography experience fast while collecting some income while you gain real-world experience. This lifestyle can be grueling at first, but before you know it, you’ll see how natural associating with your peers can become, especially when looking out for a supportive national association of freelance photographers like the International Freelance Photographers Organization (IFPO)!
But what is a freelance photography association, and what are the benefits of joining one? Can you make a career out of freelance photography? And do freelancers get paid to travel? What are the benefits of joining a group like a national association of freelance photographers—and is it worth the cost to join? Is freelance photography worth it? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more!
Especially if you’re just starting out in the industry, you’ll want all the support you can get—particularly from other industry professionals and shoulder niche industries, like weddings, real estate or corporate headshots, family portraits, senior photos, and more. There are several different national groups for photographers—though there are plenty of unique ways to work as a photographer, and there is no one-size-fits-all group. While journalists might opt to join a National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), freelance photographers who work from a different angle are free to join groups like the IFPO, or International Freelance Photographers Organization that offers a broader range of participants. We’ll get into more of what the benefits are of joining a national association of freelance photographers later on in the article.
It’s important to note that press cards in this country are not issued by government agencies (First Amendment) except where a local law enforcement agency may issue a press pass to prescreened members of the media who are on legitimate assignment for a recognized publication or broadcast news outlet.
The short answer is “yes!” Whether you’re planning on freelancing until you catch the eye of an established studio looking to add to their team or are interested in building your own business someday, you can absolutely make a career out of freelance photography! The hardest part for many people is learning how to market themselves and managing the aspects of the job unrelated to photography skills, such as money and time management, customer service, booking, travel accommodations, and more.
The range most freelance photographers make per year usually falls between $38,000 and $51,000 per year—though the average was roughly $44,000 as of 2022. Especially if you are looking to build a business or lease a brick-and-mortar studio, many find this annual sum to be sufficient in establishing their roots.
While some freelance photographers may charge a reimbursement fee for the cost of traveling for the sake of a client, most charge $0.55 cents per mile, which is the federal rate for traveling costs. However, this rate obviously should depend upon the mode of transport, the cost of gas, and the distance journeyed. Of course, any travel required is something you will have to think about in advance when it comes to pricing your freelance services. Will you need to buy a fuel-efficient car or van capable of hauling your equipment? Are you willing to fly to clients, whether across the nation or internationally? If so, how will you be compensated and how will this affect your rates?
If you’re looking to find a supportive base of likeminded creatives and entrepreneurs, consider joining a freelance photography association like the International Freelance Photographers Organization (IFPO). While there is a cost associated with joining an elite group like this, there are also certain benefits that come with it, including:
- Additional credentials for your resume
- The support that comes with community
- Learning from other photographers and catching good ideas for your own business
- Grow your portfolio with increased opportunities
- Gain experience
- Get published easier
- Start making better money faster
- International exposure to exclusive clients
- Your records and portfolio will be managed by a fully staffed headquarters in North Carolina, available by phone five days a week
This is the question many photographers must ask themselves before they start out on the journey that is freelance work. It takes a leap of faith in the initial stages—from finding the first few customers willing to take a chance on you and recommend you to others to working your way towards larger goals, like raising your rates or getting paid to travel internationally for your work. It takes some courage to step off the path and pursue your craft rather than lock down a comfortable desk job—and many freelancers find that continuing to hone their craft, meeting fellow photographers, learning human stories from their inspiring subjects, traveling, and eventually making a comfortable living in a way they dreamed they would is worth the initial toil and trouble of stepping outside their comfort zone—even if this means picking up an additional side gig to help make ends meet.
Ultimately, only you can decide if the initial struggle and sacrifice are worth the blood, sweat, and tears—and it can be good form to pick up a mindless side gig that will bring in some additional cash flow without taking too much of your energy.
If you’re thinking about transitioning into freelance photography but aren’t quite sure where to start, consider joining a national association of freelance photographers like the International Freelance Photographers Organization (IFPO) to jumpstart your dream career. For only a small, one-time fee of only $79, you can join the thousands of international freelance photographers who have used IFPO to associate with other professionals, get noticed, and add more experience to their resumes. All told, this is less than most freelance photographers make in an hour—so what are you waiting for?
Join the International Freelance Photographers Organization (IFPO) today!