So what is life like as a freelance event photographer in Montreal? Well, after surviving February (the most feared month of the year for any freelancer), March has kicked off with a roar. It’s never easy to predict workflow or plan for last minute assignments, but sometimes they can happen fast and furious and the job of a freelancer is to answer the call.
Occasionally I have clients who apologize for the very last minute notice, to which I always reply (only half joking), “were it not for the last minute, I’d be out of a job!” So while it’s always nice to have advance notice to plan out a work schedule, nearly half of last week was spent on gigs that weren’t planned or booked until the day, sometimes even the night before.
From an all-day tour of aluminum smelters with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, to filming the re-election of Secretary Fang Liu as Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the first week back from spring break kept me on my toes. In between there was a day at a dental clinic photographing the premises and staff, a video of a talk given by Danièle Henkel at Rio Tinto’s Inclusion & Diversity Committee lunch seminar, and both an evening event and International Women’s Day luncheon put on by the powerhouse team at the Traffic Club of Montreal.
As the gig economy continues to colonize an increasing share of the real economy, many more Airbnb hosts are popping up in cities around the world. Many people, myself included, have mixed feelings about Airbnb and similar types of business models. While it creates the opportunity for some people to increase their revenue streams and even make a living off of hosting, it has a social cost that is invariably borne by those less-well off people who still need affordable places to live. Sure they too can benefit from becoming hosts, but not everyone has the flexibility and means to share their space with travellers. And while city regulations and condo building by-laws can also control the spread of room shares, in the end it is a trend that is likely here to stay. So how can the wealth it generates for some help create opportunities for others?
The gig economy, alternatively known as the connected economy, the sharing economy, or the on-demand economy, is a growing and still not very well documented trend that is changing the way many different kinds of people work.Characterized by short-term contracts, a high degree of autonomy and payment by task or assignment, working a gig is how many people today earn part or all of their income.
For professional photographers, who have been in the gig economy long before it ever had a name, this trend is hugely beneficial and they are poised to be big winners in a future where there will still be a lot of work, but a lot fewer permanent jobs.
In the gig economy there are three main categories of work, all of which benefit professional photographers (and videographers too).
Freelancers – people who sell their labour or offer services either directly to clients, or via a digital platform like Upwork, or Uber, or Taskrabbit.
People who sell goods (artists, artisans, up cyclers, makers, etc) directly through their own blogs or websites, or via a digital platform like Etsy or eBay.
People who lease our assets (a couch, a spare room, a condo, a stock pot) mainly through digital platforms like AirBnB.
For all three main groups photographers are either major players (freelance photographers) or creating the gorgeous images necessary to enable people to sell their goods and services or lease out their condos to travellers.
Photography, as a craft, is also open to anyone with enough drive and passion to develop their talent and build up a portfolio of good work. It is a perfect second career for a retiree (people age 55-64) who doesn’t necessarily need to earn his or her primary income from the trade (which actually represents one of the largest slices of the gig economy workforce), and it is often a profitable sideline for people working other main jobs, or, in true gig economy fashion, living a portfolio lifestyle. (Also known as “slashers” as in, I am a photographer/writer/podcaster).
As with the rise of any hobbyist-turned-worker trade, their can be a negative knock off effect on professionals whose work is undercut by others willing to do the same work for less pay (think Uber drivers vs professional taxi drivers) but this kind of change is unavoidable and must be faced head on by the working professional.