Todd Bigelow - The Freelance Photographer's Guide to Success: Business Essentials
Book review verdict: Well worth a read – best value obtained if you practice in the United States and buy the eBook
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Todd Bigelow is a successful photographer and educator who shares his considerable experience as an independent practitioner through this book.
Perhaps the first thing that stands out about this book is its price. With a hefty price tag of £120/ $157.99, the hardback version is probably only for those that either collect books, like to buy them to look good on their bookshelves, or feel a charitable urge to support the author. Buying the most expensive hardback version of a book on how to run a business may not be the best business decision you will ever make.
The paperback version is considerably cheaper, while the eBook is cheaper still. The “Business Essentials” approach of the book suggests that you should consider buying the eBook; it’s the cheapest option available and therefore helps you maximize profits, it’s portable – you can read it on your phone so the information will always be close to hand, and it’s electronically searchable, ideal when you need to check something quickly.
Maximum value will be gained from the book by those independent photographers practicing in the United States. The final chapter in particular is very US focused, dealing with “The 1099 Life”. While all independent photographers need to consider tax implications, the US focus does significantly reduce the value of this book in non-US markets.
Having said that, Bigelow does provide a wealth of information and guidance that goes a long way toward mitigating the financial impact of purchasing the book. Readers would find it hard to engage a consultant to offer so much advice for the price of the book.
The topics that Bigelow introduces are well covered, from diversifying revenue streams, through optimizing workflow and making the most of your archive of images, to the nitty-gritty of contracts, copyright, and image licensing.
The author also offers guidance on software and online platforms to support the independent photographer, some of which might appear quite expensive at first glance, but these are tools to support a business.
Bigelow has presented information that supports existing practitioners, and that will serve newcomers well from the outset. He also provides a non-nonsense approach to the business side of independent practice that will be something of an eye-opener to those thinking about taking the plunge.
Bigelow places great importance on the need to adequately understand contractual terms, something that deserves a stronger focus in courses for creatives. He draws upon his own considerable experience to demonstrate how contract terms have been adjusted over time, to the detriment of the photographer.
With a chapter devoted to each of contracts, copyright, and licensing, the reader is left in no doubt about the importance of understanding the business of photography. The book delivers what it sets out to do, provide guidance on business essentials, and thus has the potential to help independents operate more sustainably.
Bigelow concludes the book with a “Resources and suggestions” section, introducing readers to organizations that they might find beneficial. This section is again very US focused. The book could be made more relevant to the non-US market by the inclusion in this section of links to organizations such as the Association of Photographers, and the National Union of Journalists in the UK. While the author does encourage readers to do their own research, just a little more research to make the text more relevant to international readers would be welcome.
For more business-related information, check out this article before you leave: What to charge for architectural photography? Best answer Pt. 1