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Starting a business as an independent contractor

'I like to say I have the best and the worst boss in the world, but, if you've got a marketable skill and you are prepared to put in the business preparation, it can be very rewarding.'

David Johns, photographer

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Being a freelancer

Working as a freelance photographer sounds like it could be glamorous, interesting and well paid. But the truth is, like any independent contractor, there are business issues which have to be considered, even before you take your first shot.

David Johns was a staff photographer for magazines and newspapers before he decided to take a chance and work for himself.

'The experience I had working in the media was a terrific training ground for my own business,' he says. 'At one point, I was the sports photographer for The Age and I always say that meant I could shoot anything.'

'What I needed to learn was how to run a small business.'

It's good to get on top of business administration and planning

David says that independent contractors need to keep the administrative, accountancy, marketing and legal aspects of their businesses as up to date as possible.

Small business people such as independent contractors typically spend about 40 percent of their time on administration, marketing and client liaison. It's time David has to factor in before he even thinks about taking on an assignment.

The freelance experience

'The advantages of being an independent contractor are great,' he says. 'I've been flexible around my family and had more control over the type of work I do.'

'The downside is that I've had to work irregular hours, I can't really plan my work and my cash flow, at times, has been difficult.'

All things considered, David Johns is happy with his career as an independent contractor.

'I like to say I have the best and the worst boss in the world, but, if you've got a marketable skill and you are prepared to put in the business preparation, it can be very rewarding.'

The result

In the 20 or so years that David has worked for himself, he has been a busy and highly regarded generalist photographer.

He shoots products, people and things for advertising campaigns, industrial purposes and websites.  Being so flexible has meant no shortage of work but, he says, getting the small business infrastructure right has been just as important as his photography.