There’s no such thing as a free(lance) lunch: Becca Lemire
Hi! I’m Becca Lemire and I’m a freelance photographer. I specialize in media coverage, in-house photography and creative photo shoots for clothing lines, bands, and the like. I shoot everything from galas with 800+ in attendance, to intimate restaurant openings with 20 people or less. You would possibly be surprised with what’s going on in Toronto on any given night.
How long have you been freelancing?
For the better part of 5 years.
How did you/What made you start freelancing?
I’ve always been obsessed with photography and the creative arts, and started shooting with film cameras when I would travel. I’ve always been drawn to the creative arts and have wanted to make a living doing something creative. It sounds weird, but where I’m at right now has just kind of happened.
How did you sell your first piece/pitch your first job?
I saw an ad posted by a women’s blog on a job-hunting website, seeking a new street style intern for Shedoesthecity.com. I was fairly unfamiliar with blogging and social media at that time, but I knew I loved fashion and was always out and about with my camera. I sent them an email and soon after went to my first staff meeting to start the internship. I remember it was raining, and I biked over to the EIC Jen McNeely’s house. I was wearing a vintage rainhat that was made of clear plastic with white polkadots when I knocked on the door. And the rest, as they say, is history.
What are the pros?
Being in control of your own schedule (to some extent), freedom, creativity, doing something different everyday.
What are the cons?
No paid vacation time! Ha.
Let’s talk networking. Some people think of it as a dirty word. What do you think about networking and how do you do it?
I don’t think of networking as a dirty word! I guess for me, the best networking has come out of natural circumstances. Just relax, be yourself and it will happen. One of the most anxious networking experiences I’ve had was at the end of a workshop I was taking awhile back. The lights were dim as the instructor was using a projector. At the end, he announced 15-30 minutes of networking time would begin, the lights flicked on and there was a table with beer and snacks. For some reason this made me want to die with uncomfortableness and I just couldn’t chat with people in this setting. It felt too forced. I got up and left immediately, practically dry heaving with anxiety. But I’ve had many great networking experiences when there was no agenda for us to network. If I ever feel nervous about networking with someone, I look back on the anatomy of that forced-networking situation, and wait for a natural moment to chat them up, so I’m not nervous.
I think the benefits of having a strong social network can be huge. No one can succeed in a bubble. Especially because as a photographer, I spend so much of my time editing, it’s great to have a social network for when I have to take a break. I try and network when I’m at events not shooting, which sometimes isn’t often. So when I can, I try to make efforts to go to an event when I’m not shooting, just so I can network, as hard as it is when I’m shooting several events per week. Or sometimes a good connection can be made in the simplest of circumstances, like when I bump into someone around town. Sometimes I take to online networking but I find it doesn’t carry that much strength. In-person is the real connecting, social media is just surface-level.
Is it really who you know when you freelance?
I would say for the most part yes, but not completely. I think it depends on what type of freelance work you do. You can have the strongest social network in the world, but at the end of the day if what you do is crap, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ll have friends and lots of twitter followers, but you won’t have a job.
What do you think about the ‘pick your brain over coffee’ invite? Do you do it?
If it’s the right circumstances, yes, of course! If it’s about a topic I know something about with someone I like and respect, than why not? If I have a few insanely busy weeks coming up or don’t have anything to say on the topic, I try and be truthful about it and pass.
Do you think you have to have a certain personality to freelance?
I definitely think there are some characteristics that fit with a freelancer’s life. I have some of them, and some I just wasn’t born with. Not being afraid of risk or change, being open to new things, being flexible and being independent all helps. But also knowing what you want and having goals. Know your bottom line, your focus and what you really like doing. You should be good at being your own boss, time management, motivation and organization. Budgeting, accounting, very ‘right brained’ things that I feel like often don’t come naturally to artistic people are very important. If you’re not good at doing something but it needs to get done, hire someone.
What are your tips?
It’s good to always have a ‘safety net’ or something else stable on the side. For me personally, it’s not even about the paycheques, it’s about being able to take breaks and give my creative batteries time to recharge. Read the “Sex and Cash” chapter in Hugh MacLeod’s book, Ignore Everybody. Actually, just read the whole book. It’s one of my favourites.
Do you think freelancing is a viable way of making a full-time living?
Yes and no. It depends on what industry you want to freelance in, your skills and goals. It depends on what kind of life you want to live now, and what kind of life you want to have in 5 years. I’d rather be a broke freelancer than rich and miserable. I’ve had some interesting discussions with middle-aged veteran photographers who are depressed about the photo biz right now. What they have to say is true, but you have to find a future niche and change with the tide. Keep up or get out, I guess.
Free(lance) lunch is a weekly series published on Mondays. If you are a freelancer and want to be featured on Free(lance) lunch, please email email@example.com.