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Photo by Justin Bettman

surviving as a freelancer

I’ve been working surviving as a freelance artist since 2010.

I attended Kutztown University and was enrolled in their Electronic Media program. Going into my final semester at Kutztown, with 12.5 credits remaining to graduate, I had (what I thought was) my ‘golden ticket’ to becoming a true freelancer.

I can remember the night like it was yesterday. I was in upstate New York filming a live concert for a singer-rapper duet on my winter break. I got a phone call from one of the artist’s managers who was also a film director/producer in Texas. He offered me an opportunity to direct/film a behind-the-scenes documentary that was going into production that April, which happened to overlap with finals at school. After returning from New York, I approached my professors about the opportunity and they insisted that I should take a leave of absence from the university to pursue my dreams.

At 21, getting my professors approval to just leave school and being offered $15,000 to shoot a documentary without a degree, gave me this overwhelming sense of entitlement. Not good, considering my work at the time didn’t show that kind of value.

That was the death of my life as a college student.

After filling out the paperwork to take my leave of absence, it became a waiting game. The waiting game then became a game of cold calls and being ghosted by the producer that was offering me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

This was single handedly the best lesson I learned as a freelance artist. Sometimes, the only person you can trust is yourself.

The film never ended up going into production.

I spent the following year refusing to go back to school, but instead trying to make a way for myself, and ‘survive as a freelancer’ without a typical day job. I did a lot of free work that year, slept in my car and on a lot of my friend’s couches. It was not glamorous.

SWADE – Highway 27 // Music Video (contains strong language)

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Behind the scenes of SWADE “Highway 27” video

When you’re first getting started, sometimes you need to do free work just to get your name out there and let people know that you exist. There is a time and place for everything. It would be foolish to expect $15,000 without a single completed project to your name. Do you see where I’m going with this? I played the fool. I played the fool and learned a lot from it. So instead, I made it a point to get as much work under my belt as possible to a point where I could put a demo reel together and give people a reason to pay me to do work for them.

During that time, with the evolution of DSLR cameras, I was able to shoot both videos and photos. So I thought it would be wise to really attack both fields with full force. I would offer to shoot wedding videos, wedding photos, music videos, band promotional photos, concerts, senior portraits, commercials, and just about anything and everything that could be done with a camera. I didn’t consider myself a specialist in one particular field or another, in actuality; I was quite mediocre at all of them.

Exactly one year after I left school, I was approached by an agency that wanted to hire me for a freelance job in Indonesia. That opportunity is what truly got me started as a “freelancer.” The company I was hired to do work for was Mars Chocolate (M&M’s – Snickers – Twix – Skittles), and this gig in particular was a 9-day job; with 6 days of flying, 3 days on the ground filming.

Regardless how qualified or unqualified you think you may be, if people are approaching you to do work for them, you’re qualified.

After a successful trip to Indonesia, I continued to do freelance work for Mars for another year and a half, and I learned so many invaluable lessons during my time with them.

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Stills from upcoming BROTHER CEPHUS “New York” music video

A common belief in freelancing is that there are rainy seasons and dry seasons. I don’t believe in the latter, in fact, as a freelance artist, the second there is a “dry season” – I think you’ve given up on yourself. There is and always will be opportunities out there for you, and they can be paid or unpaid. Unpaid doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it. Those unpaid jobs will likely give you opportunities to show your value, open other doors, and give you the chance to network. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Give value. Give value. Give value. And then ask for business.”

The work with Mars slowed down, but I refused to let that slow me down. If there is one piece of advice that I could give to any aspiring freelancer/freelancer, it would be to have some stability in your life. By stability, I mean financial stability.

It is extremely uncommon for someone that’s just breaking into the freelance market to be able to make a living and survive as a freelancer, myself included. What I’ve seen work best is to have and maintain a stable 9 to 5 job in a field that you love and that you’re passionate about, and pick up freelance jobs outside of that. The goal, if things go well, is that you will be able to transition into being a full-time freelancer. One thing you have to understand is that it won’t happen overnight.

Sacrilege right? Working a full-time desk job in order to do freelance work? Well, that’s exactly what I did, and it’s one of the best career decisions I’ve made.

LIMBS – Behind The Scenes // Photo & Video

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Behind the scenes on set of upcoming LIMBS music video

I moved from Pennsylvania to Michigan and started working full time at the University of Michigan as a videographer, photographer, and editor. That job afforded me the stability I needed to pay for my everyday expenses, like rent, electric, phone bills, and groceries. Consequently, I was able to be selective with the clients I was choosing to work with and it also gave me the headspace to be a little more creative with the projects I was working on.

I was no longer stressed about getting a gig, finding new clients, or even surviving. Without the life or death pressure, it allowed my freelance business to grow more organically. Client’s were finding me and approaching me, instead of me searching for jobs in desperation. You can stop chasing the money, but instead focus on following your heart and the things you WANT to create.

After years of freelancing, I’m still working a 9 to 5, but now in Tampa, Florida. I moved here blindly, not knowing much about the area or the people here. I did everything I could to dive into the community and into the culture here in hopes that I could create a name for myself, and my work.

It may sound silly, but one thing I chose to do was to challenge myself to post at least 1 photo a day to my Instagram account for 365 days starting December 23, 2015. This was one way I was hoping to get connected with the community and start networking. By taking and posting photos each day, I was able to curate a lot of photos from the St. Pete/Tampa area and turn around and sell them at a local market in Tampa. By selling prints and canvases at the market, it allowed me to network and create relationships with a lot of makers and doers in the area.

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Stills from upcoming commercial “UNDER” for an eyewear company

As a freelancer, networking is everything.­­­ So many doors opened from that single action of putting my work out there. Challenge yourself, take some risks, and let people know you exist.

You can see more of Dan’s stills and motion work on his website and YouTube channel, and follow him on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

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I shared this a few weeks ago over on my daily Lightroom tips blog (LightroomKillerTips.com) and I thought you guys over here might find them useful as well. It’s three of my favorite, quick little Lightroom shortcuts. Nothing really earth-shaking here, but just really useful bread-and-butter stuff worth knowing.

Here’s what they are, and why I think they’re so handy:

https://youtu.be/2pi__Nu89Kw

Hope you find that helpful.

Best,

-Scott

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(Above: There’s more here than first meets the eye).

Mornin’ everybody! I’ve been getting a ton of really great feedback on my “From Flat to Fabulous in Photoshop” course on KelbyOne, so to celebrate, I recorded a new segment just for you to give you an idea of what the class is all about.

Download The Practice File
Plus, you can download the RAW file and follow right along with me (that’s the link, right below). BTW: in the online course, I make all the files available for download so you can do the same thing with every single project.

Download Practice File

Now Watch The Video and Follow Along
There’s lots of really useful Photoshop stuff in this short video, including a bunch of little tips and timesavers, which is what I love about teaching these types of projects.

Also, I don’t use any plug-ins, presets or actions in this tutorial. Just all stuff that’s already in Photoshop. OK, let’s get to it:

https://youtu.be/pzLaehP-6E4

I hope following along with that made you interested in learning more, and taking my course (you can sign up for the free 10-day trial and watch the entire course right now). Here’s the link to my full “From Flat to Fabulous in Photoshop” course.

Here’s wishing you a great Monday, an awesome week, and starting off August on a high note!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Here’s the official trailer for my “From Flat to Fabulous in Photoshop” course (below), ya know…just in case. :)

https://youtu.be/Qk9HCz-blBw

 

First, here’s a really cool Photoshop drop shadow trick, but beyond that, there’s a technique in here that I promise you will help you in your everyday Photoshop work. This is good stuff!

https://youtu.be/B3HR4vyV03s

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Nashville and Indianapolis, Here I Come (well, in a coupla weeks anyway)
That’s right — I’m back with my all new “Part 2” seminar in Nashville on Monday, August 15th, and in Indy on Thursday, August 25th. I hope you can come out and join me. Here’s the link with details.

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Lightroom for Apple TV is here…
…and I’ve got the whole scoop (how to install it, what it will and won’t do, and a quick Q&A all about it), over at LightroomKillerTips.com. If you’ve got a sec, check it out (it’s pretty cool, and the app is free!).

Hope you guys have a super great Friday, and an awesome weekend!
We’ll see ya back here next week. :)

Best,

-Scott

10TipsLandscapePOST

10 Essential Post Processing Techniques Every Landscape Photographer Needs to Know with Scott Kelby
Building on his previous landscape photography class, Scott Kelby uses the photos he captured at Cannon Beach to teach you 10 essential post processing techniques every landscape photographer should know. Starting from a simple example to get oriented to the tools, Scott takes you step-by-step through his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow to learn increasingly more advanced techniques. In this class you’ll learn how to evaluate each photo before processing, different ways to boost contrast, how to stitch multiple frames into a panorama, how to process realistic looking HDR images, how to sharpen to bring out detail, how to enhance washed out skies, and so much more! Be sure to watch the landscape photography class first so that you can see the process through from capture to finish!

In Case You Missed It
Learn how to harness your software to process your landscape photos the way you felt in your heart when you took the photo. Join Moose Peterson as he shares his favorite techniques, tips, and ways of thinking, to help you get the most out of your post processing workflow. Using primarily Photoshop and Camera Raw, with the occasional trip through Nik plug-ins, Moose helps you understand the connection between your camera, your software, and light, so that you are in control from the moment the shutter clicks to when you move software sliders later on. From bringing out the best in dramatic skies to making black and white photos with impact, Moose focuses on both the technical and the inspirational components you need to address to not only make your photos look great, but to infuse them with passion and romance. By the end of the class you’ll be thinking more about how you capture photos with your post processing workflow in mind.

Mouldy Plum Cake

Today, I would like to invite you to a journey through the surreal photomontages I create to confuse people…

Buy Your Tickets Now

Terrace Guilt

Teach Doctors

Behind The Scenes

All the photos I use in my compositions are from my own portfolio (holidays, trips, family, friends, myself), except from a few space images I took from Google (like planet Earth and galaxies). My method of work is quite random; I have all these pictures I took and I try to combine them in a cool, surreal way. I especially love creating images that distort the actual sizes of things, for instance my miniature mum waterskiing in a coffee cup…

Slide To Unlock

…and my cousin skateboarding on a miniature Switzerland (where I’m from).

Circling Anchor

 I also love playing with the materiality of things, i.e. my white towel becomes the foamy waves of a seashore…

Department Of Radiology

The real world appears finite to me, whereas the surreal world is infinite, has so much more potential, is so much more fascinating!

Stale Sheep

Empty The Bins

My ultimate aim is to create the perfect optical illusion. I have to say I would not be able to do it without Adobe Photoshop, which I have been learning how to use throughout the years.

Thumbnail Office

The 8th Extinction

In the process of creating my photomontages, I have absolutely no idea how the final composition will be read. My work is open to all interpretations. Like I said before, I almost randomly juxtapose images; and my aim is to create an illusion, not necessarily a feeling. But I love how people feel something different for each image. I am often asked why I choose such random titles for my artworks; and the answer is to confuse people even more. I believe it doesn’t make sense to give a descriptive title to a surreal artwork, because the latter means something different for every single person.

Irreducible Markov Chain

Customs Regulations

Godfather's Candle

You can see more of Monica’s work at MofArt.wordpress.com, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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