The effect of the pandemic on the freelance industry has been twofold over the past year.
The effect of the pandemic on the freelance industry has been twofold over the past year.
On one hand, many freelancers such as photographers, videographers, makeup artists and hairstylists were forced out of regular work.
On the flip side, companies who were forced to make full-time staff redundant began hiring freelancers like UI and UX designers, web developers and graphic designers to fill skill gaps.
The common thread between both sets of freelancers?
At various stages throughout this turbulent period, they both relied on the tight freelance community here at Freelancer Club for freelancing advice, guidance and support.
The pandemic has shown that regular connection with fellow freelancers remains crucial to their wellbeing.
Renowned portrait photographer Ivan Weiss, is no exception and in this article, he explains why he’s leaned on Freelancer Club throughout his career and particularly during Covid.
From creating additional income streams to refocusing his marketing strategies, Ivan also shares some really interesting insights on how he used the successive lockdowns to diversify and develop his business.
1.How has your business been affected over the course of the pandemic?
It’s been kind of weird. The first lockdown was really, really difficult initially. The start of the lockdown was so sudden and unexpected. We should have expected it, but even in the last few days before the lockdown started, I couldn’t quite imagine that we were going to have a full lockdown. Then overnight all of a sudden, I had to stop trading.
I wasn’t allowed to have anyone in the studio, I wasn’t allowed to go to any location to take pictures and I couldn’t be within 2 metres of anybody. So, the initial three weeks, maybe four weeks of the first lockdown was really tough mentally. I didn’t know how I was going to earn any money or what I could do. As it went on, I got into a healthier place mentally and just started getting on with the stuff that I could do.
I started doing lots of marketing and I found as many opportunities as possible to be part of Zoom calls with other photographers and other people in creative industries. I also got invited to speak on a few things, made a video tutorial and shot some self-portraits. Even though some of these things were not direct revenue generation, they helped to keep me busy and they kept me being creative. They also helped in the long run with exposure for my brand and made me feel part of a community as I was connecting with people who were going through the same thing as I was.
2. In what way has Freelancer Club supported you over the past year?
With regards to Freelancer Club, its main value for me is that community. I know it’s international but there are a lot of people who are London based on the platform.
Over the past year, I attended some events, I hosted a few Ask Me Anything Sessions and really, they were just opportunities to speak to other people who were in the same situation as me - freelancers who had to stop their normal day to day activities.
I made a bunch of new contacts through Freelancer Club and followed their advice and guidance on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and various bits and pieces on campaigning to get proper assistance for lots of freelancers who missed out on the criteria that were proposed initially.
Personally, I didn’t qualify for any of it at any point, but just seeing that there was a concerted effort to campaign, to lobby, to get things changed, that was beneficial. But really the most important thing for me was the community aspect – having a place to connect with and speak to other freelancers who were going through the same thing at the same time as me.
3. What Freelancer Club features and resources do you think you would have benefited from when you were starting your freelance career?
I actually started my freelance career when I joined Freelancer Club. I was doing photography as a paid hobby for a very long time but I never considered quitting the security and safety of my day job. A photographer friend of mine recommended I check out Freelancer Club, and that really was where I started my freelance career.
I knew I needed to build a more coherent portfolio and I think the first-ever test shoot (collaboration) I did was through Freelancer Club (if not the very first, then within the first two or three).
I worked with a makeup artist who to this day, is still the person that I work with the most. We were both in similar positions in having had other careers and deciding a little later in life to go full-on with the freelance career. We did a whole series of test shoots together over the period of about a year, very often with models, actors, dancers that were sourced through Freelancer Club.
I also used Freelancer Club as a way of getting feedback on my work. I’d post all the pictures and see what got the best reactions. Things have developed a lot since then on Freelancer Club. While it would have been nice to have had all of the features and resources that are available now back then, it worked for me as it was.
One thing that has consistently come up as a question when people are asking me about Freelancer Club is the topic of paid work, but I really don’t consider that to be the main value of the club. I mean I understand that you need to have paid work opportunities on the site, but yeah it’s much more about being able to connect with other people in the industry and again, the community. The people that I met on Freelancer Club are people that I continue to work with and continue to be in contact with several years later.
4. As someone who is well established in the industry, in what ways do you think Freelancer Club can help experienced freelancers?
Just because you’re established and experienced doesn’t mean that you have any less need for the community aspect of things, so I suppose the only real change in my attitude to Freelancer Club and what I expect it to be able to do for me is that I now have no requirement whatsoever for Freelancer Club to be a source of jobs for me.
Throughout the last year, when I’d see jobs starting to be posted again it was a sign that there was a general ‘recovery’ starting to happen - it’s a temperature gauge of the wider industry I suppose. Aside from the paid jobs, even seeing people posting test shoots, it was a sign that people were getting ready to get moving again and preparing for the end of lockdown – obviously, that happened at the end of the first lockdown and the end of the third lockdown, so yeah it was a good way to stay in touch with what’s happening.
The blog posts and social media posts on things like legal issues, the SEISS, the #nofreework campaign, all of those things are just as relevant to experienced freelancers as they are to inexperienced freelancers, so I stay up to date with all of those things.
From a publicity point of view or marketing point of view for my business, it’s great that I’m visible on there, it sort of signals my standing in the freelance community in London or within freelancer photographers in London at least – it shows that I’m active and participating on Freelancer Club.
5. How did you adapt your service during the pandemic?
Initially, I really didn’t know what I would do. I’m quite single minded. There are many things that you can do – lots of photographer friends switched to shooting product photography where the products would be couriered to them and that way they didn’t have to have anybody come into the studio. They’d shoot the products and send them back.
People were doing remote portrait sessions too – all of these inventive things to find ways to keep busy. But I found that all of those ideas were really contrary to what I do, which is to spend time with a person and actually get to know them and be quite close physically to them with the camera.
While it wasn’t really planned, I actually spent time developing a bit more of the education side of my business. I’d always done a fair bit of teaching but ramped that up and I now do a regular weekly thing. I took one on one mentoring sessions as they came up, so that side of my business increased, not to the point where it was sufficient to replace my photography income, but it became probably as beneficially mentally as it was financially. It kept me doing stuff, it kept me thinking about photography and talking about photography and talking to photographers - so that was really useful.
I made a few video tutorials which is something that I had not really wanted to do before, probably because it takes so much time. All of a sudden though, I had the time so I did that which led to other things, so that was really beneficial.
I also created a product for photographers, a digital download product for colour gradings, which was something that I had toyed with as an idea previously but never set aside the time to get it going. Being in lockdown meant that time wasn’t an issue so I did that.
During the first lockdown everyone was saying that freelancers needed to have multiple revenue streams and I’ve now essentially developed three separate revenue streams.
Before the pandemic, I didn’t have multiple streams of income and inventing them on the fly was not really an option. However, over the course of the year I’ve been able to create additional streams of income – my main one which is taking pictures. If there is another lockdown then that will have to be temporarily suspended again but the other two, as they stand, are both lockdown proof and should combine to give me just about enough income to live on if we have another lockdown for a few months.
I think that’s probably a healthy thing for my business anyway, even if we don’t have another lockdown, that I’ve got some additional revenue streams. One of them is purely residual so the next time I go on holiday (I can’t imagine when that’s going to be!), for the first time, I’ll still actually be earning some money from my residual income while I’m away, so that’s a nice positive outcome from the pandemic year for me.
6. Will you make any changes to your service moving forward?
I already have in a certain sense. During the first lockdown having a lot of time to think and reflect and concentrate on what was the thing that I missed the most, I decided really to double down on the more creative aspect of my work and not to chase after corporate work as much as I was doing before.
As we came out of the first lockdown, so as we were in late summer, autumn of last year, I changed up all of my advertising, changed my website, changed a lot of wording, changed some of my strategies on social media and really focused more on working with creatives particularly actors and performers rather than looking to corporate work as a way to increase revenue.
That’s really paid off I think and the funny outcome of it is I’m getting more requests for corporate work that ever but I’m not having to advertise for it, so my advertising budget and marketing efforts go into promoting the work that I most enjoy and really want to do, and the less artistically satisfying work seems to come in anyway, so that’s been a bit of an eye opener and the lesson for me is to really just concentrate on going after the stuff that I really want to do and making sure that my portfolio is really pointing towards the work that I really want to get hired for and if other work comes along, if it fits in and their happy to pay my rates of course I’m more than happy to go and shoot other stuff as well, but I’m not spending time and effort on chasing that work down which is it’s a nice feeling.
In terms of the actual work that I’m offering, that’s a continued evolution and that’s the nature of it, so no big sudden changes, there’s just a commitment to concentrate more on the creative stuff that I enjoy the most.
Whether you’re a newbie to the freelance industry or you’ve been building your portfolio and profile for years, Freelancer Club provides freelancers with something that can’t be found elsewhere – a strong, supportive freelance community.
Instead of wasting time scrolling through online blogs for answers to specific questions, freelancers can post questions or concerns directly to our discussion board, where experienced freelancers offer them invaluable freelancing advice, support and guidance.
As Ivan Weiss highlighted above, starting out as a freelancer can be daunting and difficult at times. We therefore give freelancers a leg up by providing them with opportunities to connect with fellow freelancers and collaborate with them to create work for their portfolios which they can host free of charge on our site.
Freelancer Club was born out of a desire to advocate for freelancers and provide them with essential information to ensure that they can develop and profit from their creative careers.
You have nothing to lose by joining the club, just an incredibly supportive community to gain.
Browse Ivan's full portfolio here on his website.
We have loads of helpful resources for freelancers. Check out Freelancer Club: An Online Community for Freelancers and Top Tips For Freelancers in 2021.