The gig economy: what it means for photographers


Careers simply aren’t what they used to be. The idea of “secure employment” no longer necessarily means a corporate position where a ladder is placed in front of you to climb. The global workforce is embracing the Gig Economy. By definition, this economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common, and organizations contract independent workers for short-term engagements. Sound familiar? Well, that’s precisely what we do at Shutterstock Custom. But the question is- why is this idea of work so appealing?

Freelancing is often a huge leap, a leave from a “secure” 9-to-5 position for a dramatic career reinvention with a specific thought in mind- passion. The idea of contract work is to provide people who are looking for purpose in their work with a newfound opportunity, using passion and skills to pay bills. In a study led by Intuit, it was revealed that by 2020, it’s projected that over 40% of the American workforce will be contractors.

There are a few primary motivations in the idea of contract work:

  • Choosing your own hours, potentially working from home.
  • To travel the world while earning a living, to make a home on the road.
  • Becoming your own boss and forging your own future.
  • Investing your time and emotion into your work, making it meaningful through ownership.

Shutterstock Custom works with contractors around the world on projects with a multitude of brands and one of the biggest value props we hear that our contributors love is that every project is different. With an ability to accept projects based on what they want to shoot, every project has the potential to be different than last and bring a newfound experience to their work.

Something that is often nerve racking about entering this economy, is a lack of safety nets. While being responsible for your own career is empowering, it can also be intimidating. You are now responsible for not just your creative work, but the business behind it.

Here are a few key tips if you’re looking to succeed as a freelance creative:

  1. Network, network, network.
    Attend networking events, and meet people! Work from coffee shops, and always carry business cards. You can’t rely solely on emails and social media to form meaningful connections.

  2. Brand yourself professionally
    When you are speaking on behalf of your company, keep it professional and responsive. Freelancers often become their own brand. So make sure your website, email signatures, and social media profiles are aligned and professionals.

  3. Foster relationships with the community
    Maintain all of your relationships with clients and connections. Connections often lead to new leads on business, while past clients can often become repeat clients if they are maintained. Reach out on social media to like minded individuals that share your career interests.

  4. Be patient and endure
    Sometimes it takes a bit of traction and time before you reach your goals. You're creating a business from scratch, and making a huge leap into freelance. Be consistent and persistent in everything you do, remembering that it won’t all come at once.

There are many ways that you can leverage your skills to land awesome contract work, even if you're just starting as a side gig on top of your day job. There’s been a profound change in how people value life and work, including employees that traditionally thought full-time corporate careers were the only option. In Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study it was found that the majority of full-time employees (77%) said they would consider working on a contingent or contract basis.

Learning how to balance a successful freelance career is a trick that’s best learnt through experience. But the coolest thing- there’s never been more opportunities and information for freelancers to start earning money doing what they love.

We’re constantly on the lookout for new creatives  to join the Shutterstock Custom Contributor Community! Are you a photographer or videographer interested in working with us? Apply to start creating stunning visuals for the world's top brands!

Stay creative!
- The Shutterstock Custom Contributor Community Team