Hard to believe we’re nearly halfway though March already! After compiling my monthly statistics and metrics for February, it was pretty obvious in terms of the numbers that there weren’t huge differences between January and February, other than a pretty big uptick in photo shoots. The beginning of the year is typically the slowest period of time for freelance photographers, which can be good or bad depending on how you choose to spend your time. Since I wasn’t actively tracking my hours for all of last year, I can’t say with certainty that I’ve worked more or less this winter compared to the last, but if we’re judging on emotional states, I definitely feel more drained right now than I have any other winter of my freelance adventure.
February 2016 Stats
Monthly Highlights Series
Photo shoots completed
*7 more than Jan
Business miles driven
*10.2 more than Jan
Hours worked for the month
*2.44 more than Jan
*26.9 more than Jan
*1.2 less than Jan
What Went Well
An uptick in photo shoots
January is one of the scariest times of the year for freelance photographers. Typically the end of the year is padded with holiday parties and plenty of last minute photo shoots to keep you busy. By the time January rolls around everyone is recovering from holiday madness, which means it’s typically a starvation period for photographers. If I don’t keep my mind occupied, it races through the below cycle on a near-daily basis, leading to a ton of mood swings, as my boyfriend will definitely be able to attest to.
Thankfully, February saw a natural uptick in photo shoots including:
- a product announcement with Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson at Nordstrom
- food and cocktail menu photos at Heartwood Provisions restaurant in downtown Seattle
- an intimate evening with rock guitarist Joe Satriani
- photographing AC/DC’s 2016 tour opening concert
- photographing the beautiful interiors of Skillet Regrade restaurant
Diving deeper into website work
One of the reasons why I’m expanding my freelance web design business is to combat the slower times of year when photography services are in less demand. That strategy definitely paid off this year as much of my winter slump downtime was instead filled with working on websites. Interestingly, my web projects this year have already taken a big turn from being basic, simple portfolio websites to websites that demand more thought and actual software engineering and development. As an example, I’ve had to come up with a job application and management system for a franchised restaurant, an online hotel and tour activity system for a tourism company, and an online taxi fare style reservation system for a transportation company.
These were all challenges that I very much underestimated when I first took them on, but thanks to hours of research, trial and error, and use of online forums, I’ve been able to come up with solutions to all of these problems. As a bonus, most of these solutions have had little to no actual coding involved, which attests to how far software solutions have come over the years.
Getting 2015 taxes done early
I write these Monthly Highlights blog posts for two reasons:
- to provide transparency to other active or aspiring freelancers on what the freelance life actually looks like
- to hold myself accountable to do my bookkeeping on a regular basis to keep it from piling up at the end of the year
While I can’t say if my first objective is paying off or not, the second one definitely is! Thanks to making bookkeeping a monthly habit filing my business and personal taxes was breeze this year. By the end of February, I had everything filed and paid for nearly two months early, which is a huge relief considering I’ve had to file for extensions in previous years.
Evaluating and streamlining workflows
Throughout the year, I typically have colleagues recommend products, apps, and services that they swear will make my business run smoother, but the truth is it takes a lot of time to test and evaluate these solutions to see if they will truly be effective. Since January and February offered quite a bit of downtime, I used that time to test out some services. While not all of them worked to my favor, I did end up implementing these:
MileIQ – I’ve recommended this automatic mileage tracking app before, but truthfully was not very disciplined in using it on a regular basis. Thanks to a new update to the app that makes it even easier to use, I now refer to MileIQ on a near daily basis to help me keep track of my business driving miles.
SmugMug – One of the big hurdles of being a photographer who loves to travel is having a tough time accessing my high resolution photo archives without carrying a ton of hard drives with me. After helping a photographer friend revamp his SmugMug website, I realized that SmugMug has made quite a few big improvements since I last used it 5 years ago. With a smooth, modern, and intuitive user interface and a reasonable annual fee, I’ve begun archiving many of my high resolution photos on SmugMug and am planning to make it a big part of my professional photography workflow this year. I’m also planning a more extensive blog post on my SmugMug workflow after I get the kinks hammered out.
17 Hats – Do you still have to physically print, sign and scan contracts and other documents when sealing the deal on a new project? I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s been costing me quite a bit of money since I refuse to buy a printer and have to make the physical journey to a FedEx store to get this done. By now there are a ton of online signature programs out there, but many of them are quite expensive. One solution that is quite reasonably priced is 17 Hats. The program offers a ton of other features to help you manage your online business, but the only feature I really like and use is the ability to manage and sign contracts online.
Focusing on health and fitness
While my stats for February report only 3 miles ran, a new workout app I’ve been testing says I did 64 miles on the elliptical in February, which makes me cringe just thinking about it. While I abhor the elliptical, I dislike Seattle winter weather even more, so outdoor runs will have to wait a few more months. In addition to exercising regularly, I’ve been keeping to a vegetable and protein only diet for several weeks (which becomes easier over time), with the hopes of being beach-ready for my big trip to Asia next month.
What Didn’t Go Well
In previous years, I’ve combatted the annual winter slump by leaving town. Mexico and Belize are typically best experienced in January anyway, so I am typically way down south during the beginning of the year. This time, due to a renewed interest in snowboarding and a burning desire to explore another part of the world, my travels have been on hold until April. In a way, it’s nice to have several months to prepare, since many of the streamlined systems outlined above are meant to make it easier to simultaneously work and travel while abroad, but the anticipation has been tough to handle. With that said, it’s T-minus 20 days until Hong Kong!