Diversify or die?
MANY freelances - even with decades of experience - have found they have to diversify into unexpected areas to keep earning a living. One such is Pete Jenkins, with 25 years of photographic experience behind him. How does he adapt to changing markets?
Realising back in 2004 that "newspapers were not going to last forever", Pete made a point of widening his remit. "Look at what the marketplace is currently producing and compare it to what you do and what you are capable of", advises Pete. He now writes on the business of photography for specialist magazines. "I have frequently done work with magazines in the past, based on my specialisation - sport. Amateur Photographer was a regular client taking pieces on basketball photography and suchlike.
"I also ended up taking amateurs with me to events and tried some hands-on teaching paid for by the magazine." What kicked off this new avenue of work was the change in editors, and it's worth keeping track of editors moving jobs. "An Associated Press editor went to Professional Photographer and I just happened to notice and got in touch to say hello. One thing led to another and I was able to pitch ideas... This editor then moved to a new magazine and asked me to follow." Pete has had to change his specialisation from news and sport to covering conferences for NGOs: "this was a difficult decision, taking me from my comfort zone."
Pete now does specialist photography work for the local council. This came about through "taking images as I go places and then also looking at the imagery being used. It was clear that Nottingham County Council, although they had a lot of things to promote, weren't really using images properly.
"I sent the marketing manager samples of my work and I got an interview."
He emphasises that it's important to avoid criticising what potential clients are already doing, but instead to suggest how you could augment their product.
Seminars on stock photography for a national chain of photographic dealers are another of Pete's new markets. Pete now also works as a paid-for speaker all over the country, talking about the business of photography. Then there's stock photography. Pete still supplies stock material to a number of agencies as well as "selling my own work directly to clients who want images from my library.
"Some 40 per cent of my income now comes from selling my own work for stock use."
"Every new venture has been the result of hard work," says Pete. "Lots of research, lots of common sense and lots of finding out about potential clients and their needs. No one else can do this hard work for you, you have to do it yourself... don't expect it to be easy or happen overnight."