An Interview with a Self Employed Photographer and Writer

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Jack Oughton is a self employed photographer and writer from London. In this exclusive interview with, he discusses the home working lifestyle and provides some useful advice for aspiring freelancers.

How do you make money from home working?

I have two main income streams; The first is as a journalist and copywriter, the second is as a self employed photographer (for events and portraiture). Admittedly there is an aspect of this where I actually have to leave my home to shoot stuff, as I don’t have the space for a studio at my place.

I used to teach guitar from home and I am intending to get back into that this year. I’d like another income stream due a rather unstable market at the moment.

Person playing guitar

Do you work exclusively as a self employed photographer and writer or do you have a “day job?”

Exclusively as a freelancer, but as you can see I have to do a few different things to pay my bills!

Can you give some examples of the kind of money you can earn from some of the work tasks you do regularly?

Sure. Journalistic commissions are usually the least profitable, netting a few hundred Pounds at standard NUJ rates. Larger, longer-term copywriting projects are the most profitable – going into the thousands depending on the length of the project and the amount of additional work involved.

For photography, events are usually on a day/half rate, whereas portraits are usually by the hour, thus making them the quickest and least expensive thing I do. Corporate portraiture has been great for me so far.    

How many different sources of income do you have?

It depends on how many clients I have at any one time. This could be anything from zero to three during what I’d call ‘scary’ times to topping out at 10 at my most busy.

I’ve found that I’d rather have lots of smaller paying clients than a few large paying ones (diversification is a great way to spread your risk…)

I also have some investment income coming in, but it’s not enough to live off of yet.

What advice would you give to anyone contemplating the home working lifestyle?

Everyone’s circumstances and history are different and I don’t presume to be able to advise people who have had entirely different career tracks to me. But here’s what I think can apply to everybody: 

First, ensure you can cut your personal expenses: because a penny saved is actually more than a penny earned (since the £1/1$ you save is not taxable, whereas the £1/$1 you earn is). 

I’d also advise that you make the clear distinction between ‘working at home’ and ‘living at home’ as it is very easy to slip into the workaholic mindset and burn yourself out if you don’t set clear boundaries. Know when it’s time to ‘switch off’ and stop working.

I do this by having a certain place that I go to to work on my laptop (actually a specific seat at my table, which is not where I eat.) Ideally, I would have a separate study but I don’t have the space!

Do you ever wish for the security of a regular employed job?

I do, but only if I could get a part time one that was in the industry I wanted!

What are the biggest benefits of working for yourself?

To be able to get up whenever you like and go out for a walk in the sun whenever you like. And to fire clients you don’t like!

Do you thinking anyone can make money working from home?

I suppose so. It would depend on your existing experience and skill set. 

You may not currently have the skills and experience to access the kind of market you can work from home in – but you can learn and you can get that experience if you are dead set on it. 

The question that we always come back to is what do you really want to do with your life? If working from home is what you really want to do – and you’re willing to take a pay cut, career change (etc) to achieve it, maybe it is for you. As I say, it won’t necessarily be easy – especially if you have big commitments such as kids and a mortgage (I have neither).

What are the most essential skills for self-employment?

Resilience: There will always be plenty of knockbacks!

Focus: If you’re prone to being distracted by TV, social media, etc. then you need to make sure that you have ways to avoid such distractions.

My vice is social media, and my way of getting around it has been to disable all notifications on my phone and not keep any social media tabs open on my browser. There are apps which you can use to block certain distracting sites but I have not yet seen a need for this.

The ability to sell: Unless you’re going into business with someone who can do the sales for you, you need to be comfortable with selling yourself and what you do (as you, to some extent, are your product).

We are all in the business of sales because we are all selling something. Furthermore, you have to be 100% sure that you’re good at what you do. You need to be 100% sold on your own product (i.e yourself) before you try to sell to anyone else! 

Without me going on for too long, I believe this is all about the mindset of wanting to help others and knowing that you’re bloody good at it. I think some people call this ‘knowing your worth’.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I really hope that we see a trend towards remote working and the ROWE (Results Oriented Work Environment). I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but many who work desk jobs in the ‘knowledge economy’ don’t really need to go to an office to get things done. 

Is it the future of work (as some people claim it to be)? I don’t know. It could be – I hope so! It’s up to all of us ‘remote workers’ to set high standards and show the world that it works. I have found that I am far more productive without an office and a commute to sap my energy and love for life, and I know I’m not the only one… 

We thank Jack for his interesting and honest interview. Do you work as a self employed photographer or writer, or plan to do so? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments.

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