Buckle Up, We're Going Freelance!
We sat down with London based photographer Filmawi, to learn about the journey of becoming a freelancer in the craft that you love
There are so many questions that spring to mind with this topic! But I know for me personally, being a freelancer is an idea that always lurks in the back of my mind.
I think it’s fair to remove the assumption away from everyone’s heads that being freelance means having a lie-in whenever you please?
Well you can, but you will be broke as hell lol. Being a freelancer is not easy, you are your own boss, you have to wake up every morning and start grinding, meetings, treatments, budgeting, scheduling, planning, and the list goes on. As scary as it may sound, it does teach you a lot of discipline, plus every day is a new day you are not following a routine like you would with a 9-5 job, so I find that exciting and refreshing.
To leave the world that school, university and maybe your parents have been training you up for, to decide that, actually, no, I’m going to do things on my ‘own’; if anything, leaving that secure, well trained for traditional bubble is a very scary thought.
How do you know when you’re ready to take that leap?
Personally, it’s a feeling, you will know when the time is right. I do recommend when you are starting off to get a 9-5 job because the one thing we all worry the most about is money and that’s the last thing you want to think about when you are trying to create your art.
While you work on your 9-5, use the money and the rest of the time you have to build your portfolio (this is where you will need a LOT of patience as nothing comes easy or fast), then once you are ready for the world, go face it.
And in terms of skill set, how did you decide that you’re understanding and skillset in photography is good enough that people would trust you enough to book you?
First and foremost, YOU have to trust and believe in yourself. You have to be honest with your work whatever that is. Don’t try copy what someone else is doing, find your voice and stay true to it. By doing so, you will build a portfolio that will represent who you are and it will be strong enough for clients to book you.
So, I’ve left my job, I’ve got my skill and I’m ready to go freelance! What happens next?
This is where it will feel like you are jumping into a black hole, not knowing what’s on the other side. But that’s the most exciting thing about going freelance. You can do whatever you like! I do recommend you breakdown what it is you are trying to achieve. So, if you want to shoot for a magazine, find the photo editors and email them your work.
Financially (without getting all up into your personal business), in comparison to a day to day job where some may argue that it’s more financially stable
1. Is this a statement you agree with?
Nah defo not. Being a freelancer you can earn a lot more than a 9-5 job as long as you’re grinding and focused. I personally have done one job before where the amount I received for it meant I didn’t need to work for 6months after. But that doesn’t mean I should sit on my ass because being a freelancer, you don’t know when the next job like that will come in, so that’s where you have to be smart with your money.
2. What methods do you use to ensure that financially, you’re OK?
Save. Everyone has different way of doing that, Personally I have three main accounts; one is for normal day to day use, second one is for business and third is for saving. With every pay I receive, I always divide them between those three accounts.
Currently, what’s great is I think people are a lot more aware of their own personal talents and are finding new avenues where they can develop their passions and skills into a career. Do you think the ‘[Instagram] influencer’ role has had an impact on this, in terms of highlighting maybe more ‘non-traditional’ career path?
Yeah, I think Instagram has defiantly opened more doors, it has become the new creative hub. People want your insta more than your site. BUT I do have to say, sometimes clients look at the amount of followers someone has instead of their talent. I know a bunch of photographers that have around 1K followers who are super talented, but don’t get the same recognition or opportunity as those with a higher following which is sad.
For me personally, it’s great working on a project that I know I’ve done so much groundwork for and it’s what I love, but at times, having to juggle the task in hand, and think of upcoming jobs (and trying to remain creative, and financially savvy), it’s a lot! Do you relate to this?
Yeah, for sure but it will become a lot easier with time/growth. It’s literally like learning how to juggle. You will drop the balls at first, but if you keep practicing, you will get better at it and eventually you'll be able to do that shit with your eyes closed.
And in terms of getting jobs, how do you go about that? Do you showcase clients a portfolio of work, use platform like The Dots and Linkedin etc., or is it the classic ‘who you know, not all what you know’ method?
It’s 50/50. Sometimes it’s through people I know or clients will hit me up through my insta or email.
But I do recommend going for meetings, avoid just hitting up people through email and asking for work. Ask them to grab a coffee first because as much as your work might be great, it will come down to your chemistry. Whoever you are talking to, if you two click, it’s more likely they will keep coming back to you.
It must be tough at times, and sometimes working so hard can lead to over-working which, mentally, emotionally and physically, takes a toll. Have you personally found a strategy/have any advice to give those who may sometimes find themselves in a difficult [mental] place?
Yes. Logout from the matrix (social media) and just enjoy few days doing what you want to do. I sometimes turn my phone off for few hours and go to an exhibition or cinema by myself, grab a popcorn and a drink and just enjoy some “me” time. Some people find that weird or sad that I do that. “You go to the cinema by yourself ?” “….yeah, and?”.
Being alone and being lonely is not the same thing.
Learn to embrace in being alone it will help you find inner peace. Time alone gave me access to the root cause of my pain and frustration. It allowed me to create peace in my life. I personally think until you can find peace with yourself, you cannot find peace in the world. Once you reach a place where you are content in your own company, you will discover that a relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have.
Knowing that it’s not a 9-5, there’s no actual ‘switch off’ time, and you don’t want to miss out on potential opportunities. How do you balance your work life, and ‘you’ time?
Just know your limit, there will always be opportunities so do take your holiday, clear your mind and come back into the game again.
Work better in the day or night?
I’m so much more creative at night! And for me so many of my ideas come to me when I’m on the tube! Do you have a certain ‘go-to’ when you need some inspiration?
I wouldn’t say I have a ‘go-to’, I get inspiration from just doing random stuff. Sometimes, I’ll be washing the dishes and I’ll have an idea.
What’s one of the most rewarding things you’ve experienced/achieved?
A few months back, I had the pleasure of documenting Luol Deng’s trip to Ghana to meet up with Fuse ODG. We visited the school Fuse built and I got to take portraits of all the students and teachers. I’ve never seen kids with so much energy and happiness and photography allowed me to freeze those moments for the rest of the world to see. The images were then exhibited at a Panafrolink event in the Kachette venue. It brought back a lot of memories and was a very special night.
With becoming freelance, what’s one of the hardest things do you think you’ve had to face?
Not sure if this is one, but saying no to projects that weren’t my style, even though I was offered a lot of money. I think it just goes back to what it is you want to make, and know where you want to spend your energy.
For those who ‘freelancer life’ lurks in the back of their mind, what advice would you give them?
Click here to see more of Filmawi’s work