Freelance Advice: Easier to get a job with a job

I had to share these photos of the eight point buck that was in our backyard in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, & 1/2000]

The old cliché “It is easier to get a job when you have a job” is like the other cliché “It is easier to get a loan when you don’t need one.”

If you are unhappy in a job there is a good chance that those around you and even your boss will notice this attitude. Once you assess your situation and eliminate the unpleasant requirements of almost any job, you may need to find a new job or even career.

Many people will plan their exit strategy. If it is a career change you may need to go to school and maybe you can do this nights or even online. If it is just the wrong workplace and not a career change then you can start right away.

[Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, & 1/2000]

It is better to be proactive than to be fired, because explaining the reason you need a job to a new employer because you lost your job is a red flag.

If you see the business struggling it is better to get out of there before you are laid off for similar reason.

The freelancer also needs to be aware that showing current project work is equivalent to having a job.

Another reason people leave companies is to increase their income. Other companies would love to hire someone away from another company that helped improve the company’s bottom line. Come and help us do what you did for your previous employer. Often this will be for better pay.

After helping the new company you may pick up a few more skills that another company will again lure you to them because of your high performance.

The Citadel playing North Georgia College in Rugby. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, & 1/2000]


The freelancer’s best way to get a great gig is through the self-assignment. Just like it is easier to get a job with a job.

If you are a truly creative person you will have many ideas that you cannot get companies to buy into.

I have a theory about this problem of good idea and no companies wanting to do it. The lack of an example is why most companies do not take on these great ideas.

The self-assignment allows you the flexibility to do a job the best way you know how. To execute that idea as best you can without interference from a client. This way you have the best example possible.

Roswell Presbyterian Church middle school mission trip to Chattanooga, TN where they are helping widows with their homes. [Nikon D3s, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/3.2, 1/1250]

I have done self-assignments for my church and denomination.  One of the first things I needed for my proof of concept was access to people and places. I wanted to show that telling people’s stories using still images, video and audio together is one of the most powerful ways to communicate.

I also know that most of the stories I have done in the past for churches had emotional hooks and were not just dry factual events.

Every year I still will take some time and cover something our church is doing. This helps keep my storytelling skills sharp. I enjoy doing it because they are not paying me and therefore no one is really able to tell me what to do. I am pretty much my own client. By giving them the package to use at the end they are thrilled. Next time I show an interest in helping I get even more access and help.

After getting the final package finalized I am now able to shop around with my concept with an example.

You can do a soft sell where you send the package in an email to potential clients. You are sharing it as entertainment.  “Take a look at what my daughter did this summer with her youth group helping widows in Chattanooga,” might be what I say to them. The clients you have to enjoy seeing what you are doing. In the process they may warm up to the concept and hire you to shoot something similar for them.

There are a couple of ways to do self-assignments. You can take on a larger project that you can work on over and over until it is just right or you can take on smaller projects and just do more of them.

Refining process

One of the best things you can do for a self-assignment is to show work that is portfolio worthy. This is where it has a WOW factor. To achieve this level it may be necessary to do like they do in Hollywood for movies—many takes.

You may show up one day to work on your project and just take a point and shoot to make visual notes. You will notice what works and what needs some help. For what I do this may mean realizing the light in the room is better in the morning than the afternoon or that I need to bring some lights to light the room.

I would then take these visual notes and use them to help me storyboard the concept. After talking to people and working with their schedules I would then setup the times to start shooting. After each step I would come back to the storyboard and see how it is going.

Often what the storyboard I started with will in no way resemble the end product. I will have discovered a better storyline than what I started with and therefore I make adjustments and let the story lead me rather than me forcing my concept on the situation. [This is very important to me when I later help sell to clients. I tell them what I started with and how I changed it to make it better.]


When I have finished the package and start sharing it, I will also blog about the process.  I may have been blogging all along. I want to tell the behind the scene story because this is what helps clients and potential clients see me as an expert.

Here is an example of a finished project I did for Chick-fil-A where they gave out sandwiches to first responders and victims of Hurricane Sandy.


Take it slow with the self-assignment

Musicians work on difficult passage of music by slowing it down to work on playing the notes and getting the rhythm just right. Once they have that then they work on the interpretation to give it that swing, funk or melodic feel.

The top musicians are paid really well because when they see the music for the first time they do not need to practice it a few times before playing it. The reason for this is they practice for the most part 8 to 10 hours a day working on music of all styles. This means when they see a difficult passage they have already played something similar recently and are able to execute on the fly.

My mentor, Don Rutledge, was always finding stories and going and doing them all by himself. He would: find the story; write the story; and photograph the story and then send it out for syndication. Most other photographers I knew seldom picked up their cameras like Don when they were not on assignment.

One day I asked Don why he did these self-assignments. He explained how he could slow down and take his time when doing them. He could visit longer with the subjects and do everything on his time and not have a deadline speeding him up.

I remember a few times where Don would have started a story and then decide to go back another day to do more work on it.

Don said that slowing down and shooting stories like this on his own made it possible for him to shoot better for his clients when they hired him. Like the studio musicians of Hollywood Don’s self-assignments were his practice times.  One you do something over and over you are able to start to see the nuances and it is the nuances that separate your work from the pack.

Your best and worst client

I believe the best client you could ever work for is yourself. Take on a self-assignment that will get you out of the bed and fired up to do some work today. For me I look for a project that will help an organization improve people’s lives.

The worst client I have is I. I am rarely ever satisfied with my work. I could always do something to make it better. What I still get upset about is something not working out the way I wanted and I am unable to go back and do it the way I wished I had in the first place.  This is why for most everything I do I would love a second chance to do it again and better.  If it were not for deadlines and budgets I am not sure I would finish projects. I am too much of a perfectionist.


Today many of the projects I want to work on require collaboration. I have had people help with voice over work, help get me places and introduce me to people.

Maybe you have a self-assignment that you need some help with. Have you thought of asking me to collaborate? Give me a shout and let me know your passion and maybe I can work with you.

Did I tell you what I love doing the most? I love helping people realize their dreams.