How to live better as a freelancer: Part One

What have I learnt after five years in the industry?

Welcome back! Enjoying January, are we? Officially the most depressing month of the year, and for good reason. Waking up seems 10x harder than normal, as does leaving the house. Even my office is a dull place to be, which is why I chose to drop tools early today and head home to write this journal entry.

Like many of you I can’t help but reflect on the last 12 months at this time of year. In fact, I’d go one step further and say I’ve been reflecting heavily on the past five years, which is the length of time my photography business has been going.

One day, back in May 2013, I coincidentally bumped in to a fellow sports photographer in Copenhagen, and his face rang a bell. We figured it out eventually: he was from my neck of the woods in the UK and our paths had crossed once or twice during running events held in the city of Derby where I worked.

Mick, as he was called, gave me some solid advice which I’ve never forgotten. He said, “On average it takes five years to build a network, so hang on in there and don’t give up too easily.”

A sense of not knowing

After the first 12 months of being a freelancer things started to pick up. I’d already started working for NIKE, had shot assignments for Deloitte, and made some great connections that would see me through for the foreseeable future. But throughout it all there was always a sense of not knowing. To be honest, there still is. It’s a strange feeling that leaves you always on edge, wondering when the next big client will turn up or how to best market the business.

It may be hard for most people to understand, but despite the daily “unease”, the thought of going back to work for someone else seems even worse. I can’t remember the last time I worked on a CV or Cover Letter, let alone went along to a job interview. Instead I’ve learnt to accept, that chasing copious amounts of money and financial security is far less important than taking the time to stop and smell the roses.

A healthy mix of music photography, portraits, weddings and sport

Putting together this year’s “Best of…” portfolio has helped me to realise this more than ever. The final edit contained a healthy mix of music photography, portraits, weddings and sport, but seemed to be lacking travel images and projects I shot purely for my own entertainment. Instead, this year’s video contained more paid assignments, such as food photography and corporate headshots.

”But didn’t you say you AREN’T chasing copious amounts of money?” I hear you cry. Well, that’s just the thing – I’m not. 2017 was by far the best year I’ve had financially, but in between assignments I’d chosen to do more personal things that had nothing to do with photography. For instance, in spring I reduced my working week to just four days instead of the usual five, and I also started working from home once a week. This allowed me to spend more time getting chores done around the house so I could spend the weekends with my family.

I also signed up for a Half Marathon over the Great Belt bridge between the Danish islands of Fyn and Sjælland. This meant some regular training sessions throughout the week, which gradually took up more and more of my time as the runs became longer.

Speaking of fitness, a friend of mine challenged me to take part in a swimming race in 2018, which requires me to have a few swimming lessons and go regularly to the pool during these winter months. As it stands I’m a much more confident swimmer and now the race seems within my limits. It certainly should be by August.

Getting back on the language learning scene has been playing a large role in my life for the last couple of months too, and I now find time each and every day to learn and improve my Danish skills. For me this has been one of THE biggest issues in my life, and it feels good to be doing something about it once again.

Something that’s enjoyable and not work related

I could go on and on and make myself sound like a boasting bighead, but the point I’m trying to make is simple: less is more. More time with the kids, more time improving one’s physical and mental abilities, more time relaxing, or simply doing something that’s enjoyable and not work related.

So now I’m looking ahead to 2018 and wondering what it has in store for me (aren’t we all!). But I think I can say with all honesty, that chasing after as many assignments as possible is far from my mind. My goal in 2018 is to continue along this path of enlightenment and become a better person in as many ways as possible.

In Part Two I’m going to share with you some of the secrets and actions I took to get to this point in my everyday life, as well as delve in to some of the ups and downs of the past 12 months and an event that shook the business to its very core.