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Should I work for free to build a portfolio?

Mar 6, 2020

I was trying to think of careers where people work for free and not many came to mind. I know models who will work for trade, but can’t quite think of many others where it’s equally beneficial to spend your time and resources and not get paid for it.

Experience is a beautiful thing, yes, but at what point do you know enough that you should be compensated? Should you work for free to build a portfolio? To the sweet girl who asked me this question last week, the answer is “no.” I want to share what I told her with you because maybe it’s something you’ve been thinking about. I know a lot of photographers read my blog, and I want to share as much as I can with all of you.

My First Wedding

I photographed my very first wedding in 2007, 13 years ago. I charged $2000 to shoot that wedding with zero wedding experience. Not having experience didn’t mean I was reckless about it though, I had all the equipment I needed, and backups for all my equipment, I had a plan, and I felt ready and comfortable doing it. I also spent 12 hours on my feet, because I didn’t have a proper timeline and didn’t have the experience needed to run a day from a photography point of view. The point of sharing this is that I charged for my time.

I will also say, there were quite a few times when people asked me for a discount, saying in the future (whey they could afford it) they would pay my regular rate. Those people have NEVER come back. Not one. I also have clients who save ALL YEAR LONG so they can afford my services. 

Why You Should Charge

When you are out taking pictures, you are NOT at home, NOT with your family, and you’re also not done. You still need to go home and edit those photos, which means more time away from your normal, day-to-day tasks/life. So please charge for your time! Everybody loves free, but people who really believe in you, and think you are talented, will pay for it.

XOXO,

Poly

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