Instagram Live AMA: Melissa Lyttle is Hellbent on Helping Fellow Freelancers Succeed

Instagram Live AMA: Melissa Lyttle is Hellbent on Helping Fellow Freelancers Succeed

In May, we teamed up with freelancer and award-winning photojournalist Melissa Lyttle for a webinar all about how she runs a successful photo business. Melissa packed quite a bit into the hour-long webinar—passive income streams to explore, financial mistakes she made, stories about adopting what she called her “Year of Yes” and learning all sorts of new skills—but she admitted there was plenty more to cover on the topics of freelancing and running a photo business. Now, we want to hear your questions. 

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, June 17th at 12pm ET, for our next event with Melissa: an Instagram Live AMA! To get a sense of the types of questions she’ll answer, take a look below. These are examples of topics Melissa gets asked about via email and DMs on Instagram and Twitter almost every day. Tune in to ask her your own burning business questions and get expert advice for how best to take your photo business to the next level.

Update: You can watch the Instagram Live AMA with Melissa here.

The following has come directly from Melissa Lyttle based on her responses to webinar attendees’ follow up questions.


Let’s talk contacts

As far as the how-to with this, I’ve just compiled my own list over the years. I follow a lot of editors on Twitter and Instagram and I’ll add them to my list if I want to work with them. Naming conventions are usually the same at most places, so if you can figure out the naming convention, you can figure theirs out. It could be mlyttle@publication.com or melissa.lyttle@publication.com or melissa_lyttle@…. but once you crack that code…

You can see if the editor has linked their work email to their website or social media accounts or reach out to them directly and ask if you can keep in touch and update them on what you’re working on. You can always try checking LinkedIn, too. It’s a surprisingly decent tool because when you click on the company in an editor’s profile, you can also see other editors there. Agency Access is also a good place to start. It’s a paid list, that you can search and compile from.

Lastly, create a community and colleagues, especially as a freelancer. By this I mean, find people doing similar work or with like minds, and then work together to share your resources and help each other out. Just recently I did this with a handful of friends. Everyone is adding and updating a shared spreadsheet with their contacts, so we all now have a list of roughly a  hundred editors. 

Meet your new copyright attorney

Passive income is SO important, And one of the ways to get passive income? Register your copyright. This has probably been the biggest benefit that I’ve learned running a business. It was one of those things that once I started registering my copyright, I asked myself why I hadn’t done this years earlier.

It literally takes me 15-20 minutes every quarter and I send them off to the copyright firm that I work with. They’re called Higbee & Associates… They work with all sorts of artists and they’ve basically built a back-end that combs the internet and looks for places your images are being used without your consent. 

The first time you get a hit on one of those, and you get a settlement, it’s a no-brainer. It’s just become a part of my business plan now. That’s a couple thousand extra bucks here or there every time they get a hit.

Higbee & Associates is the firm and the lead copyright attorney is Naomi Sarega (nsarega@higbeeassociates.com). 

Please tell her I sent you or that you heard me mention them in the PhotoShelter webinar for an easy intro. They’re amazing!

“Ok, but where do I start?”

If you don’t have an 8-month emergency fund plus money in the bank to buy gear, camera insurance, and pay for some marketing stuff, web hosting, etc… KEEP SAVING BEFORE YOU GO FREELANCE.

It’s never too early to talk to a CPA, create a business, and set yourself up as an S-Corp or an LLC. They’ll be able to tell you what’s best for you depending on where you live and what your situation is.

Set up a business banking account and get a business credit card to keep everything separate to make it easier on yourself at the end of the year. 

Your “branding” also needs to get in order. To me this means having a consistent look and feel across all channels and figuring out what you want to do with your business. If you want to be a wedding photographer, that’s great, but that’s an entirely different feeling than if you want to do editorial work or corporate headshots or lifestyle stuff. So, if you’re transitioning out of newspapers, redo your website in a non newspaper way. By that I mean think about what kind of work you want to get hired for and tailor it accordingly. Look at other freelancers’ sites for inspiration and help with categories.

Get your promo material in order too – new business cards with your info on them. Postcard leave-behinds are a great idea. Design a Mail Chimp newsletter you can send out a few times a year to keep editors updated on what you’re doing and where you are.

And for the latter, start making that list of editors you have worked with and want to work with.


To ask your own freelancer or photo business questions, comment below and join our Instagram Live AMA tomorrow at 12pm ET. We’ll be waiting for you! 

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PhotoShelter Community Marketing Manager

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