How do you continue getting new jobs and clients? This is an issue I am struggling with. Do you have any suggestions for me to get clients, jobs, etc?
I was thinking about your question for quite a while. If I needed to start over again, what worked, and what didn’t. There really aren’t any overnight answers. Honestly, it all comes down to "who you know". The best advice I could give you, is that you need to be where the work is. I could also add that it comes down to going out of your way to be noticed. You can not just wait in your studio for work to knock on your door when you are just starting out. The following is what worked for getting my own studio noticed.
Forget Upwork freelance type of sites. If you do not find the rates on there to be a fair market value, then you will always be under bid, so don’t waste your time. For all the jobs I ever bid on, I only received two, and at the same generic rate that you saw. One was a race car, and I just wanted to do it as something different. I never heard from them again.
The other turned out to be a longer term job, and I worked well with the company owner for a unique product. However, when I said I could not continue at the low rates, and he could not pay the high rates, we needed to part ways. The lesson there, is that people who use low paying services like that, are simply are not able to pay what you want. Even after they see your great work. It just is not in the budget.
One Good Client
You do not need 30 Top Tier clients. You only need 1 or 2 who are able to provide regular work. The rest of your clients can be once or twice per year accounts. The trick is to get your name out there, and be known in a relatively small group as "The Retouching Guy". That small group will become your referral base. And other than the regular work, do not bring down your rates. If you are good, charge for it.
The trick, is to get that first client. It can be as simple as signing up to Meetup.com and just go to a few local photography meetings. If you live near a big city, this is easy.
It all comes down to networking, and who you know. You need to find someone who trusts your work, and is willing to give you one or two people who may also like your work. You then need to reach out to those contacts, and mention who sent you. Quickly explain who you are, and what you are looking for. If they have any work in the future, keep you in mind. Then, as an "oh, by the way", you ask them for another name or two. In theory, you can go to a trade show, and start name dropping. Also keep in mind, that for something to stick, people seem to need to see your name several times, before they act.
Business is networking, and meeting people. It only takes one person at a time, and a ton of patience. If your work is solid, people will remember you. It also helps to have an easy to remember name, or business name. Something catchy.
Most recently, I was called about my Photoshop Course Schedule. She said she was really excited to get started, as she heard about how good the classes were. Where did she hear about them? From other local photographers who already took the course. This is a case where I didn’t need to advertise anything, other people recommended me on their own, based on the service I already provided. It may take a while to build up that trust, but it’s worth the effort.
At first it seemed kind of silly, but now I am "The Retouching Guy" to hundreds of different local photographers. My name now precedes me. People who never met me, seem to know who I am when I mention my name. I did all of these things to get to that point. I would say it took me about 3 years of focusing on what I wanted. It only took 3 years because of the various points of focus. While I was doing well on multiple fronts, I was still being slowed down by meeting people, creating Photoshop Courses, developing the website, creating videos, creating a podcast, etc. It was just many different things, on top of doing regular retouching work for clients.
I joined Meetup.com a few years ago, and went to several Photography Sessions of interest. This method worked out fairly well for me over the past year and a half. Simply going to photography group meetings, and letting them know that I was a retoucher, not photographer instantly separated me from "competition", and rather recognized as a "compliment" to what they were already doing. I did take it step further, and started my own retouching group. I have done guest speaking for other meetups, and have taught many classes to many students. You may not want to get that involved, but I only mention what worked for me.
Every few weeks I post on Craigslist.org to mention I teach photoshop classes. One professional photographer in particular was looking, and now I am involved with a modeling agency, who also handles many (you can guess it) photographers and professional shoots. Don’t forget, every model needs headshots to be retouched. Who decides who does the retouching? The agency. But back to CraigsList, I have received dozens of profitable random phone calls over the past few years from ads on CraigsList. Who would have guessed? I would suggest getting a secondary phone number though a company like Vumber.com though. Something that can either be kept, sent direct to voicemail, or simply turned off. I’ve also attracted many strange or otherwise useless calls as well.
Take the time to enter your information into the Photography section of Google Local. You never know who may be looking in your area. Another suggestion would be to add yourself to Yelp.com because Google picks up information from there as well, for local searches. Again, every little bit helps.
Go to a Photography Expo, and take the time to meet some people. I mean, who is there? Photographers, and companies whose clients are photographers. I know many people who work in various companies. It helps that I have a website that can receive the pitch for their products. I generally do not, but it all comes down to the packaging of "you". Consider that you need to sell a product. The product is not your retouching. The product is "you". I am definitely not an outgoing type of person, but I know it is my personality that makes people comfortable. Who gets more return work? The plumber who knows everything, and acts that way; or the plumber who knows many things, but takes the time to ask about your kids? Why, just yesterday I had a waitress that took the extra few seconds to talk to my child, and treat him like any other customer. Believe me, I notice those little things. It’s that good faith that goes a long way.
Because of the website, I teach students internationally. While not for everyone, it has worked pretty well for me. After several years of helping people with free tutorials, gives me the luxury of at least being heard of. I mean, you heard of me, right?
Also, if you are going to post your images on the internet, do not post 10 images, if you have 10 images. You get to choose one. Maybe 2, if it rocks your world. Otherwise, get back to practicing. My portfolio was created a few years ago, and I haven’t updated it. I also have the copyright issue where I can post very little of what I actually work on. My other defense is that I am not actually looking for new clients. So, yeah, I am just lazy.
But the point here is, if you are looking for work, and going to show me 10, they better be the 10 best things you have ever done. Personally, I am working on those portfolio worthy images right now. Of course, it just adds to my already busy schedule, so it takes time.
Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest
Facebook.com or Twitter.com may work for you, but definitely does not work for me. I am not the only one, either. For photography and retouching, twitter doesn’t even make sense. We deal with a visual medium, so Pintrest.com may be your best bet. I mean, I have no way to really track it, I just know that if I am going to get someones attention, I will have better luck with a nice photograph. And lets be honest, if you repin a photographers work, they will be notified, and may seek you out. When they do go and find your website, be sure it’s written clearly. Broken English is a big turn-off. Hire a writer from Fiverr.com to clean up any important text.
Focus on a Niche
Too many people think the only retouching work is in beauty, fashion, or wedding. They are sadly wrong. 98% of my work comes from other sources.
They are high paying, and low competition. It only took the right person, and now many key people all know who I am. It was a month ago, and I woke up with nothing to do. By noon, I had 36 images requested from various clients.
Finding work is easy, when the work knows where to find you.
If you would like to learn more about my progression as a freelancer physically, professionally, and emotionally, you can listen to my Podcasts about starting my career as a freelancer. They document my journey from a day job, to working from home as a professional retoucher. Maybe they can help you, too.