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Filmmaking | 10 Learnings

How to make Money with your Camera Gear

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How to make Money with your Camera Gear

Now .. let’s face it – do you know how much money you spent for your camera gear in the past year?

Well, I just went through all my orders of the past year and I was quite shocked, how much money I spent on camera Gear. In total it was 8954,87 € !!!

But … one thing changed compared to the years before! I didn’t pay for the Gear – my clients did.

Don’t get me wrong – spending thousands of euros for your hobby and the only thing you get in return is this satisfying feeling, being good at what you do is I guess basically the definition of a hobby.

BUT don’t underestimate the Value you’re holding with all your camera gear and being able to handle it. You have years of experience, thousands of hours watching tutorials on youtube and you’ve been training your eyes and your mind to always find the best shot, wherever you go. That’s not something someone can learn in one day. To put it in the words of Ash Ali & Hasan Kubba: “It’s your unfair advantage”. You have everything you need in a world, where digital media has a huge Impact on the success of a company. Every business – even the smallest ones – need professional photos and videos to attract new customers via their website and social media channels. It’s a huge playground with unlimited possibilities for your creativity and the best thing: You can use it everywhere in the world.

Let me share with you my 10 learnings which made me almost 20.000€ in my first year as a freelancer next to my full time job as a pilot.

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How to make money with your camera gear

#1 Write down your goals:

Now this might sound unnecessary. But it might have the biggest influence on your success. Remember, that all your motivation of being a freelancer has to come from yourself. No One will tell you what to do and when to do it. Especially freelancing next to your full time job requires a huge amount of internal motivation, as you don’t really need the extra money. Not having a clear mindset of your goals, easily puts you back into autopilot mode, sticking to what you’re used to do. Outlining your goals on paper will help you to give yourself a commitment and makes it difficult to step back into your old ways. As Robin Sharma writes in his book “the monk, who sold his ferarri”:  “A goal that is not committed to paper is no goal at all”

But don’t just write down your goals – be specific about it.

If your goal is to make 10.000 € out of your freelance job in your first year, write down the steps you need to do for that goal. 

For example:

  • Create a portfolio or website online
  • Write at least 50 cold emails to potential customers
  • Post at least once per week on social media about your work
  • Attend three workshops to upgrade your skillsAand so on

 

You can divide those subgoals even further into smaller subgoals to make them more approachable. Starting as a freelancer is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. So keep your steps easy and clear and you’ll find your way to the finish line.

#2 Fake it till you make it.

It sounds like a stupid phrase, but there’s so much truth to it! Getting Clients without having ever worked for clients is almost impossible. Noone is willing to give you money, if you’re telling, that you’ve never done client work, unless you do it for free. I’m not saying you should lie, just adjust the truth a little bit, to make it more attractive. If you already did some Portraits of your friends just for fun, talk about it, as if it were client projects. If you’re 30 and you received your first camera at the age of 14, then you have more than 15 years of experience in photography or filmmaking.

If a client asks you, if you’re able to do something, which you’ve never done before, your answer should always be yes! Rather think “What’s the worst thing that can happen” , than “I can’t do it, because I’ve never done it before”.

A few weeks ago a client for whom I did some drone videos asked me if I could do a long term Timelapse of a construction site. I immediately said yes, even though I had no Idea, how to pull it off. Youtube once again was my biggest friend. I upgraded my skill set and had some extra revenue.

How to make money with your camera
How to make money with your camera

#3 Use as many Resources as possible

That goes in the same direction as my previous point. Just because you can’t do something for a client, doesn’t mean there aren’t resources online, which can help you to achieve it anyway.

Use stock markets like envato elements to upgrade your projects and make them look more professional. They have an extensive library of music, sound effects, title animations, video transitions, logo animations and graphics. It’s 16,99€/ month and it has helped me with every client project so far.

If you don’t find a solution there, go to platforms like fiverr and see if other freelancers can help you. For example, if a client needs a Logo! It’s more expensive, but you can charge your client with a little bonus for yourself.

#4 Don’t sell yourself below value

In the beginning I was thinking, I can’t charge such a high hourly rate. I never learnt photography and videography professionally. It’s just a hobby, I don’t have the skills to charge a high price. 

But after talking to several freelancers I completely changed my mindset. 

You’re helping your client to sell their product or service for the next few weeks, maybe even months or years. Their return on investment is super fast and they can even deduct the costs from their taxes.

On the other hand you’ll have to pay taxes as well and also have to invest in new equipment. If you charge too little, there won’t be much left of the money.

There’s one little trick to justify your price tag – especially in the beginning: Offer a 100% Satisfaction guarantee! If the customer isn’t satisfied with your work he doesn’t have to pay for it. Just make sure to watermark your work. It’s a little risk for you, but increases the possibility of getting the hourly rate you want.

How to make money with your camera
How to make money with your camera gear

#5 Do work for free – under one condition

What? Didn’t you just say “Don’t sell yourself below value”? You’re right, but let me give you an example under which condition I’d do work for free.

A few months ago my friend Marc asked me if I could do some portraits of him for his website and social media. Marc is a founder of a food start up and he has a huge network of entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses, which is my target audience. I told him to do it for free, if he’ll promote my work in his network. He agreed. In the end it took 5-6 hours of my time to shoot and edit the photos, but in return I received 4 new clients. One of them even with recurrent projects.

So – if you do work for free – choose wisely for whom you do it!

#6 Learn and understand accounting

Now this is one of the pain points of freelancing. In the beginning it might not be worth it to hire a tax accountant and all the tax rules and accounting might be overwhelming.

Here I’m returning to my previous point: Use as many resources as possible. There are a lot of smart brains out there, which try to make accounting easier for you in the form of apps and software. Of course it will cost you a little bit of money, but think about the time it’ll cost you to do it all by yourself. You can use the saved time for client work and your return of investment is very fast.

If you’re living in Germany I can only recommend using the combination of a Bank account at Kontist and the accounting software from lexoffice. They work perfectly together, it’s easy to use and the best thing is: It shows you how much taxes you’ll have to pay at the end of the year. So there won’t be any bad surprises

How to make money with your camera
how to make money with your camera

#7 Learn how to built websites

This might add the biggest value to your skillset.

Most businesses, which are just starting usually need 2 things: A simple website and pictures for the website. It’s their online business card and most of the time the first point of contact with their clients. So it’s very important to make a professional entrance for them.

If you can offer not only the pictures, but also the Website you’re upgrading your value for the client by a huge amount.

Building professional looking websites is no rocket science anymore. There are tons of tutorials on youtube and super easy to use software. I’m using wordpress and the website builder elementor pro. One weekend will be enough to get a basic understanding of everything. There are no coding skills required and Elementor itself offers a huge library of website kits, which are a good starting point to create a unique homepage.

If you want to learn more about WordPress and elementor I can recommend the youtuber “living with pixels”, who has a lot of valuable tutorials.

Bonus point: You’re able to build yourself a nice website for your portfolio.

#8 Calculate more time, than you think you need

One of the mistakes I made several times. Being too optimistic with your calculated time needed to finish the project will cost you a lot of money and motivation. No client is willing to pay more, if you tell him “I miscalculated my time, I’ll need to charge 30% more”. It’s unprofessional and the client won’t be willing to work with you again, if he can’t thrust your predictions.

Better do it the other way round. Calculate how much time you think you’ll need and add another 30%. If you don’t need the time – even better! Give your client a little discount and he will be super happy.

Also limit the amount of revisions, which are for free. If you limit the amount to 2 revisions, the client will be looking a lot more closely for changes and you’ll save a lot of time in the end.

How to make money with your camera
how to make money with your camera

#9 Show your work

For some of you  this might be another Painpoint. Post your work regularly on Social Media. I know it’s a time killer but it’s the best way to spread the word about what you’re doing to a lot of people for free. I try to keep the time on social media as short as possible by planning what to post and write before I open my social media apps.

But don’t just show your work – show a story behind your work. I already talked about it in one of my previous Videos: Learning how to tell a good story behind your work adds a massive value to what you create. People want to know where things come from, how they are made and who made them. 

Via Social Media you have the chance to show potential Clients your personality. 

Imagine there are 2 Freelancers, both with the same product and the same pricing. Only one of them is posting about his work on social media. He shows the process of his work, writes some personal words, maybe even speaks to the camera.

Guess, what will be the decision of the Client? Noone wants to buy the pig in the poke!

#10 Don’t only spend your money on gear, spend it on upgrading your skills!

I know in times of youtube you might think “Why spending thousands of euros for webinars and workshops, when there are so many tutorials for free”. And you’re absolutely right. You can learn everything you need for free on youtube. 

But again – think about time and motivation.

The structure of a well made webinar safes you so much time and tells you exactly what you need. No ads, no talking about sponsors, no suggested videos on the side, which will distract you.

Also spending an amount of money, gives yourself a commitment to finish the course and to follow along.

But simply the best way to learn new skills is to have a face to face mentor, or attending a workshop. There you’ll have accountability partners and the direct possibility to turn the theoretical knowledge into practice and work on your weaknesses under the eyes of a coach. And just think about the motivation boost working with people, who love doing the same thing as you!

Upgrading your skills is worth a lot more compared to upgrading your gear. You’ll be able to increase your hourly rate and in return earn more money for your time.

How to make money with your camera

That’s it – my 10 biggest learnings in my first year as a freelancer. I hope you could learn something or feel motivated to follow the path along.

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