4 Lessons Alice Gao Has Learned From Being a Travel Photographer

Updated 09/30/17

Without having any gigs booked, Alice Gao quit her consulting job to pursue a career in photography. “I think when I started out, I was young and naïve and didn’t even realize most of the challenges I’d be facing,” Gao says. Fast-forward five years, the mega-successful photographer—who has a shocking 984k+ Instagram followers—has learned how to run her own thriving business. From negotiating usage rights and toasting her big wins to learning how to improvise, here are four things creative people should always keep in mind when forging their own career paths.

lessons to learn from being a freelancer

Not sure how to run a successful business? Neither did Gao when she started. “A lot of it is just trial and error, and figuring it out as you go,” she explains. “As long as you find your vision, don’t undervalue your work, work hard, and express your gratitude toward those who help you along the way, you’ll be in a good place.”

“When I was starting out, I never even thought about usage,” Gao says. “Sometimes I’d shoot for what I thought was just a client website, but then they'd use the images for PR, meaning my photos might end up in a magazine or other digital media and I’d be losing out on potential usage income from those sources.” As far as tips go? “Email the client and explicitly state what kind of usage is outside of the scope of the original contract/job, and then negotiate how much the additional usage would be.”

“I’d say one of the more challenging things about being a travel photographer is that you’re at the mercy of the weather,” explains Gao. “If you’re supposed to shoot a tropical resort and entice people to come over with sunny clear skies and it’s cloudy and rainy the whole time you’re there, you have to troubleshoot on the go.”

“It’s definitely important to step away from work and actually have human interaction, whether that be with a client or close friend,” says Gao. “A glass of Veuve Clicquot is almost always involved. I’m definitely of the mind-set that you don’t need a celebratory cause for some bubbly.”

If you’re a freelancer, what tips do you have for negotiating pricing? Tell us in the comments below.

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