How to Make Your First Dollar as a Freelance Photographer

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Today, I’m hitting you with a video.

Can I get a hand clap?

In an effort to bring you more side hustle and business inspiration, I sat down with freelance photographer Leslie Mairs of Make My Colors Melt.

She’s a stay-at-home mom who launched a photography business from scratch, and her hustle has grown from small projects to full-on corporate accounts and festivals!

Leslie dishes on her first paying gig and how she made the leap to larger contracts right here with me on GoogleHangouts.




Video transcript aka bite sized gems:

Pay your dues, for real, for real.

Leslie started out doing free work which grabbed the attention of people she knew and got her name out. Her first gig came from a friend’s recommendation when her son’s t-ball team needed team photos.

Can you say score?

Doing free work at first also helped her increase her confidence level for when it was time to start charging moolah. For creative business owners, she believes it’s important to stay humble and continue working on your craft so you can feel confident charging what you’re worth once business picks up.

If confidence and skill building happens while doing free work, it’s damn near as valuable as pay.

Network like a beast. And then rinse and repeat.

In the beginning, Leslie took a laid back approach to marketing because her referrals from friends and family were coming in strong. But to level up, she had to increase her networking efforts to get the larger accounts.

One of her big accounts came from meeting someone on an off-chance, and that’s grown her business exponentially. The major key alert here is always to be in business mode at the grocery store, getting your nails done, at the barber… I could go on into infinity here.

Look up to people doing “big tings”, not just anyone.

By big tings, I mean big things (I’m using my Jamaican patois here folks).

There was a period when Leslie acknowledges feeling complacent and settling because she started getting paid well.

She pushed through it to grow even more by following accomplished photographers on social media who are making power moves. Their work pushes her to aim for higher goals as well.

Final thought.

Networking, networking, networking!

Getting outside of her comfort zone is what helped her make moves. Each connection came from her taking a leap. If you’re an introvert, don’t worry about it. Networking is a learned skill she worked on improving.

You can get better at it, too!

Thanks so much Lez for doing this interview 🙂

(P.S. we’re both pretty awkward on tape, so excuse the nervous laughter. I promise next interview I’ll be on expert status.)

Want to reach out to Leslie? Follow her @makemycolorsmelt on Instagram and Facebook.

You can also check out her site


New to side hustling?

I have a mega list of 107 Productive Things to Do Instead of Spending Money to share! It includes ways to get your finances together and ways to bring in more income. Grab the PDF version of this list below!


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Taylor K. Gordon is a writer and money blogger. She writes on how to live your best life without going broke.

  1. Reply Natasha Solae September 1, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Love this series!!!!

    • Reply Taylor September 2, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Thanks!! I’d love to feature you on the series if you’re interested!

  2. Reply Kanisha March 16, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Love the Topic, love the series <3 I like the video version more than reading, but that is because I really like the conversation style, but both are great!

    Im starting my photography bussiness… And Im REALLY nervous about it, looking for clients.

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