If you asked a group of photographers one thing they don’t like about their job, what do you suppose they’d say? My bet is that it would have something to do with the unreliability of income.
By that I mean, there are times when it seems like every day is booked solid with clients. And then there are days or weeks where things slow way down. The key to protecting yourself from those kinds of ebbs and flows is to diversify your income stream.
But how does one do that?
We’ve put together eight ideas that are easy to implement, but just might help you ease the pressure when your primary photography business slows down.
Expand Outside Your Niche
If you’re a wedding photographer, why not offer portrait services in the off-season?
If you specialize in sports photography, why not venture into wildlife photography?
The point here is that it’s great to specialize in a niche and build a reputation as a phenomenal photographer in that area. But adding another niche to your repertoire will help you deal with the changing demand of your primary type of photography.
In that same vein, there is money to be made by expanding the products and services you offer as well.
Think about this: If you’re a wedding photographer, add engagement shoots, maternity, and newborn photography to your list of services. Doing so gives you an opportunity to get repeat business from your wedding clients, and it also opens you up to getting new clients that might just need one of those types of photos.
Quick Tip: When expanding your niche, products, or services, be purposeful about what you offer. You don’t want to give clients so much choice that you’re spread too thin or that the quality of your work suffers.
Get Into Stock Photography
Sure, stock photography isn’t going to be a huge breadwinner for you, but it could turn into some nice side income.
With stock photography, all the work is upfront. You obviously have to take the photos and edit them, but then you need to upload them, tag them, and describe them such that they can be easily found by consumers.
The nice thing about stock photography is that you can photograph just about anything you want – plants, dogs, food, landscapes, people – you name it. These are all popular subjects, and things that you can photograph when you have a spare 10 or 20 minutes.
After that, assuming you’ve nailed the keywording and your image is spot on, you can get repeated income from your images for months or years to come!
Quick Tip: Do some research regarding what types of stock photos are hot right now. If “American flag” is popular, find ways to take interesting photos of the American flag to capitalize on its popularity. Mix trending needs in with old standards (i.e. landscapes and portraits) so your stock collection has good variety.
Work With Local Businesses to Photograph Their Products or Services
A great source of income for photographers rests in other local businesses that require occasional photography work.
Often, small business owners need a photo of their storefront, their employees, or a few products, but don’t have the photography skills to do it themselves and don’t want to hire a professional product photographer because of the cost associated with those services.
But since you’re a master with the camera, you can enter this niche and offer professional services for a reduced price.
What’s more, if you work efficiently, you can build a reputation amongst local businesses that sing your praises for the quality of your work and the quickness with which you complete each job.
Another attractive feature of this type of side gig is that you get your name and face out there in the community. Taking photos of the new facade a the downtown theatre and the new coffee blends at the local coffee shop could get you additional work through word of mouth.
Plus, if your name is on the photos, you get free advertising too!
Quick Tip: Try to schedule your shoots with local businesses during times of day when you typically have down time, like the lunch hour or after 5 pm. That way the work doesn’t interfere with your regular schedule. Also try to schedule these shoots back-to-back so you can minimize the time spent travelling to and from the locations.
Work as a Second Shooter
If you find that you have some free time on the weekends, why not offer your services as a second shooter for wedding and event photographers?
Many photographers are looking for high-quality second shooters, and if you’ve got the skills already, they might be willing to pay a premium for not having to train you or worry about the quality of the photos you’ll take.
Better still, if you’re a photographer that keeps more traditional working hours, taking a gig now and then on the weekend won’t interfere with your normal work schedule. That means you can add additional income to your monthly ledger without sacrificing time you need to tackle your own work.
Sometimes people have all the photos they need, but they just need those photos to be processed or retouched.
That’s where you can come in!
Businesses, individuals, heck, even other photographers hire photo-editing experts to take care of post-processing or adapting images to their end user’s needs. If you’ve got the chops to edit photos with precision and efficiency, there could be plenty of opportunities for you to earn some side cash as a photo editor.
Better still, you might well find that a photo editing relationship turns into a long-term gig. For example, if you take on a job doing some light editing of real estate photos, you could turn that into a niche market and offer those specific services to realtors in your area.
You might even go full-on freelance with a side gig like this and use services like Freelancer, Upwork, or Fiverrr to find ongoing jobs.
Quick Tip: When pricing your services, try to balance setting the price low enough to attract attention while being high enough to be worthy of your time. Also think about the time you’ll spend outside of the task – checking emails, writing job proposals, fielding phone calls, etc. – that will take up time in your day. You’ll need to account for that time in your pricing strategy.
Partner With Insurance Companies
Ok, so taking photos for insurance companies isn’t the sexiest or most exciting job.
However, it’s a simple gig that pays well (and gets you out of the house!).
The procedure is simple: you contract with a large insurance company to work as an inspector. After some training (which is usually paid) you get a list of assignments in your geographic area. You simply go to the assigned locations, take the required photos, fill out a little bit of paperwork, then submit your work to your employer.
The advantage of doing this kind of work is that you have to go to various locations in your area. That means that you can tackle other types of photography while you’re out. If you see a gorgeous landscape on your way to photographing a property, just hop out of the car and take a few photos!
If you’re highly organized, you might even be able to schedule a gig for an insurance company before or after a shoot with a regular client, making it an even more lucrative venture.
Quick Tip: Consider working with local insurance agencies as a photographer as well. Often, small offices require their agents to go out and photograph properties or vehicles, but if your price is right, they might contract with you instead.
Photograph Local Events
From the county fair to Fourth of July celebrations, carnivals to church events, just about every community has a wealth of activities that provide photographers with opportunities for extra income.
Documenting these events shouldn’t just be left to the local newspaper photographer. If you offer your services, anyone from businesses that sponsor or take part in the event to individual event-goers could take you up on purchasing a print or two (or even just a digital file).
In fact, just like photographing local businesses, photographing local events like those outlined above is a great way to connect with people in the community and increase your visibility. In that regard, taking photos of local events could lead to other side gigs, or even score you a few clients for your primary photography business.
Quick Tip: If you’re hired to document a local event, don’t spend your time tooting your own horn and schmoozing the crowd by handing out business cards. Do the job you’ve been hired to do, and if you do it well, word of mouth marketing will pay dividends!
In terms of the time involved, this one is probably the most time-consuming of the bunch. However, teaching others how to take photos can be a lucrative business if you do it right.
There are plenty of ways that you can teach photography and make a nice supplemental income. The easiest is likely blogging or creating YouTube videos, from which you can generate income from advertisements. On top of that, blogs get your name (and your photos) out there and can turn into a great source of ongoing business through referrals.
In the video below, get some great practical tips for getting into teaching photography with Eric Kim, a professional photographer and teacher and explore how you can develop your teaching style to facilitate the learning of others.
You might also check into the possibility of offering workshops in your community for photography enthusiasts. From one-off gigs for brand new photographers to a series of lessons aimed at more skilled artists, there is opportunity at every turn to utilize your know-how to help others pursue their artistic dreams. Just invite people to sign up and host the gatherings in your studio or office space.
In fact, you might even be able to partner with a local school, college, or community program to lead photography classes. Naturally, these types of gigs are more formal in nature and you’ll be paid from the institution rather than the participants, but it’s nevertheless an option for photographers that have a knack for teaching others.
Quick Tip: If you have portrait photography skills, consider approaching local schools to serve as their school picture photographer. It’s a gig that only lasts a few weeks in the fall and can supplement your income nicely.