Starting & Maintaining Your Retouching Business

Maintaining your own retouching business as a freelancer…many of you have learned how to do it the hard way, and those who haven’t yet will likely! As time passes, I am working more as a freelancer, and even though the safety net from the day job has started to crumble, I still manage to keep on going and hold on when the ground quakes.

Business Mindset

It is tempting to think that your office door will overflow with clients walking in with piles of cash, offering creative and thrilling projects from the first day of your business career. The truth is, though, that in the first days, weeks, months, and even years, it can be quite a struggle to get even a single client into your office.

You need to have the right mindset when you start out as a freelance retoucher. You might be a digital artist with multiple degrees and loads of skill, but if you can’t get yourself noticed and close deals with your potential clients, those degrees and skills won’t do you much good.

The first thing to understand is that you must have the mindset of a determined entrepreneur and come equipped with some essential business skills. Great customer service, brilliant marketing strategies, financial acuity, etc. are just as important as your artistic skills and expertise.

Creating Relationships

Business is business. To have and maintain a fruitful business, you need to create relationships with your potential clients to get your first assignments and to continue getting more. Know what you can offer your clients that sets you apart. Ask yourself: What is my thing? What sets me apart? What is my expertise? Who would benefit most from my services? Who are my target clients? You must find answers to these questions before you launch your business, not after.

In the era of Internet and social media, finding potential clients and creating new contacts is relatively easy. However, it isn’t enough that you ask a photographer or advertising agency’s art director to be your friend on Facebook or LinkedIn; you need to give them a good reason to be connected with you and work to stay top of mind with them. Tell them why they would benefit from your services, not why you need their money for your rent.

After you have created a relationship with your clients, remember that all relationships need nurturing. Keep your clients close in your daily efforts. Understand their needs, their problems, and demonstrate an ability to help solve them. Show them what you have been working on from time-to-time as well. Remember: the key thing is to position yourself as a trusted resource and stay top of mind!

Marketing Yourself

The Internet has its benefits and pitfalls for entrepreneurs. Although creating connections and networking with others is quite easy, but keep in mind two things:

  1. Your clients and social media contacts are inundated with information, images, news, messages, emails etc., so don’t assume they see or read everything you post;
  2. Your competition uses social media as well, so don’t expect to differentiate your business through the Internet and social media alone.

Marketing yourself and your services with a personal touch is critically important so that people start to recognize you, your work, and your brand. I learned the hard way that if you simply upload one photo to your website and don’t do anything else, your time and effort will be wasted and it’s unlikely that your one upload will do anything to help you grow your business.

Give your whole audience many opportunities and avenues to find out about you. Timing, platform, content, and even the way you promote your services can affect your marketing efforts and whether you can turn those “ads” into profits.

Do you call for action or do you aim for huge exposure? Can you benefit from the exposure even though it may not generate profit right away? You should consider these things as you develop and execute your marketing plan. Successful marketing is so important to a freelancer that you should study it as intensely as you do your artistic endeavours.

Also, although quality wins out over quantity every time, success lies in delivering both. Your work, whether it is a retouched image, a blog post, or an ad, needs to be of excellent quality, but to garner the most exposure, you’ll need to generate quantity as well. Just don’t turn yourself into a spam bot; give good reasons and opportunities for your potential clients to find you. Create an efficient marketing plan and stick to it!

Believing in Yourself

Working as a freelancer is going to be a hard and bumpy road. You need to be a professional retoucher, excellent marketing director, and a CEO who loves the smell of money and success. Everybody wants that, but not everyone succeeds at it. Why not?

Because being a freelancer is hard work. It requires long hours and extreme dedication to your craft, to your business skills, and to your clients. Everything you do needs to be done with maximum effort. The retoucher-entrepreneur who goes the extra mile stays in business even though he or she hits bumps along the way.

You need to believe in yourself and practice daily to become even better at your craft.

Many retouchers have quit their careers because nine out of ten people were telling them, “The work you do is bullsh*t.” But understand this: that one person who likes your work may just be the only one you need to help you have faith, improve then run and maintain a fruitful business as a retoucher.