Working as a Creative Photographer

This weeks Blog explores what we need to think about when working as a self-employed creative photographer, looking at the logistics of working for yourself together with creating a brand identity. 

Skills and Knowledge:

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES), conducted a small-scale research study exploring the role skills and training had in the development of self-employment; drawing on data analysis from the Labour Force Survey by the Office of National Statistics, the ONS, and a series of expert interviews. The report was commissioned by the UK Commission of Employment Skills and was conducted in the August of 2011, looking at why people choose to work on a self-employed basis, and as to whether entrepreneurs are born or can be made.

When considering why people choose to work for themselves it was argued could be for several reasons. That they are driven to create a profitable business that they can grow and develop further, or it may be for lifestyle reasons and the balance between work and family. Although, rather interestingly, the report also found that people often looked to become self-employed as they were unable to find work in the employed sector of the workforce.

The report considers whether self-employed entrepreneurs are made, through education and training, or whether they the possess characteristics required for successful self-employment from birth. There is some evidence that characteristics relevant to both entry to, and success in self-employment, may be established in childhood; in particular when there is a family background in self-employment. It was also argued that sons and daughters of self-employed parents were more likely to stay self-employed and make a success of their business; although the report went on to argue that having a self-employed parent may be important simply because it results in the inheritance of financial capital.

As of 2011 the report concluded that the growth in UK self-employment was higher than that of the EU and other developed countries, with major variations in the self-employment rates of different demographic groups, with higher rates among men, older people, disabled people and some minority ethnic groups. The report cites that self-employment is highly concentrated in some sectors, such as agriculture, construction and parts of the service sector, and also in some occupations, particularly skilled manual trades. There are also big regional variations in the rate of self-employment.

Self-employed people work longer hours than the average and are more likely to work at home and the relationship between self-employment and qualifications is complex, but overall self- employed people are slightly less likely than employees to have high level qualifications, and slightly more likely to have no qualifications. They are however much less likely to be currently studying towards a qualification or to have recently received work-related training.

Developing a Self-Defined Marketing Strategy:

What is a ‘Marketing Strategy’? For anything to succeed, be that in business or in any other area of life, a well-defined strategy is imperative. A marketing strategy is a collaboration from many different areas, areas that will differ depending on the industry you work in. Some of the areas that need to be considered are; financial implications; can the business afford the initial outlay? Will the expense pay for itself in increased revenue? Does the company have the right sales and technical expertise to drive the business forward?

A marketing strategy is a process that allows a business to focus on its available resources; not only its strengths, but also on areas that need development. Assessing the business as a whole is the only way to have a clear direction on how to boost sales and be one step ahead of competitors. Firstly, it will be identifying Business Goals, these are long term objectives, such as where will the business sit in the marketplace in five years’ time for example; other elements to consider are Product, Pricing and Promotion. By assessing the marketing mix of goals, competitive pricing, quality products and service, together with targeted promotion, enables being able to successfully create a plan that will boost sales and reach new customers, whilst still retaining the financial integrity of the business.

R L Adams, entrepreneur and founder of, gives some useful tips on marketing a business with limited financial funding:

  • Use social media
  • Create video tutorials
  • Start blogging
  • Understand search engine optimization
  • Use LinkedIn

Lastly, it is vitally important to track marketing measures that have been taken; by successfully obtaining feedback on what works and what doesn’t, allows any future investment into marketing to follow a proven marketing strategy.

Professional Networking:

What is networking? The Oxford Dictionaries says that to network is to ‘interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2020), meaning that networking is a very deliberate and conscious act.

The Open University gives us an insight into successful networking in one of their core Money and Business modules, in which they argue that ‘networking can sometimes have a negative connotation, reflecting suspicion about the motives behind it’. (Open, 2020). Expressions such as ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and ‘the old boys’ network’ are often used erroneously as examples, but serve only feed the doubts that some people have about networking and its role in merely extending privilege. It could be argued that this may very well be the case, but there are many good and important reasons for networking.

Mark McGuinness, poet and creative coach, gives advice on CEO of Zen Media, a best-selling author, and an internationally renowned keynote speaker, tells Forbes readers; 7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand. Shama beings by tell us to start thinking of ourselves as a brand; what impression do you want your name to conquer up? First and foremost, she stresses the importance of having a personal website, with a domain name that identifies your name. If you have a common name, she suggests using a middle initial or middle name to make your brand unique. She sums up personal branding when she argues that:

Every tweet you send, every status update you make, every picture you share, contributes to your personal brand. It is an amalgamation of multiple daily actions. Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand. (Shama Hyder, 2015)

Creating a personal brand can be daunting, but Sharma outlines a few guidelines to consider:

  • Have a Focus: Decide on a key message, try and not be ‘everything to everyone’
  • Be Genuine: An easy way to have an original personal brand, is to be genuine and authentic.
  • Tell a Story: The most effective personal branding strategy is to build a narrative
  • Be Consistent: Ensure that your personal brand promise stays consistent, both online and offline
  • Be Ready to Fail: The very best brands always come from repeated trial and error, mistakes and failures and not from instant perfection.
  • Follow a Successful Example: Pay attention across all social media platforms and not simply focus narrowly on one of them.

Sharma’s approach could be argued as being somewhat corporate for a creative platform, but there are some valuable points to consider. Essentially, it is important to associate yourself with other likeminded brands; other creatives who have a similar ethos. Also, the university alumni is a useful connection; contributing to the alumni newsletter for example. 

However, by far the easiest, and most successful way to build a personal brand identity, is to be genuine and authentic to the person you are and the work that you make.

                          ’Displaced’  - to force something, or someone, out of its usual or original place. 

The above images are part of a project that I completed at the beginning of 2020, just before we had any knowledge of a new and previously unknown virus. This project was shot during the summer of 2019, as I battled with crippling depression.  Shot mostly on my iPhone; I documented the sunlight as it created new and unfamiliar patterns in the small rented house I found myself living in. 

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