Before Ray Smith began his own photography business, he used to work for one of the finest catalog producers in the world (Cabela's). He edited and retouched over 7500 images a year and Ray's work was seen by more than 200,000,000 people in 125 countries. He edited nearly everything: clothing, sunglasses, jewelry, bedding, guns, model shots ect. You name it, Ray saw it daily. Ray specialized in product and e-commerce editing, but he's also versed in all forms of photo manipulation and design.
Ray is now the owner and lead photographer of Best Foot Forward Photography, a successful start-up venture. He has successfully combined his 6 years of world class photo editing experience with his 10 years of photography experience to bring the best in digital imagery. He specializes in clean and crisp white background images designed to appear on Amazon and other online outlet stores.
goLance: Ray when did you decide to become a freelancer and why? Is freelancing your only and main source of income or you provide your freelance services on some other basis?
Ray: I began my freelance venture in 2014 as a way to make a little extra side cash. I was working full-time as a Digital Imaging Specialist for Cabelas when they sold to Bass Pro Shops. BPS immediately closed all of their redundant departments, the catalog department being one of them. So after being laid off I had a choice, enter the job market again and move wherever there was a job, or take root and see if my thriving freelance business could make it on its own. I decided to put on my big-boy pants and bet on myself.
Ray's work and comment: Main image of an Apple iPod Touch. Apple probably being the most recognizable brand I have shot.
goLance: What’s your opinion about the current state of freelance photography production and editing services (is this the right term to describe these types of services)?
Ray: It’s a wave that I was lucky to get in front of. As I sat at my desk editing thousands of images a day my only thought was “I can take better images than this.” After some tinkering and time it turns out I was correct. With Amazon booming and continuing to grow my market should only get larger. I was lucky enough to be at the start of the wave so my name/portfolio is large enough to stay relevant. As long as people buy things online, someone like me will have to be there to snap the images.
Ray's work and comment: White background model shot of a child costume. I shot an entire website of these for a party website over the course of a year.
goLance: What’s the most challenging part of your work as a professional freelancer in your field of expertise?
Ray: Always tracking down work. Getting off the ground I had to deal with; how do you trust a random stranger 500 miles away with your product? You have to physically send me a sample or two of the item and then hope for the best. Am I going to steal your product? Am I going to be able to deliver? I have dealt with one-of-a-kind prototypes and that requires a certain level of trust. If I break that item the client is set back weeks and untold amounts of cash. To go hand in hand with that, getting models into studio. How do you get models to take you seriously? “Hey, I have this random product I need you to be 1/2 nude and stand with it for a few pictures”. It sounds incredibly sketchy until you have a diverse portfolio to back up your words.
Ray's work and comment: Lifestyle shot for LED balloons. They are used for parties and weddings. The client wanted a few images of kids interacting with them.
goLance: Are you a photographer, producer, entrepreneur, freelancer, founder, or all of these? How do you define yourself and all the things you do in the digital world?
Ray: Technically I am an owner/lead photographer. I try to be humble and tell people “eh, right time, right place, right skill” but it was so much more work than that. In the digital world I’m a single flash bulb in the wave that sweeps through the stadium during opening kickoff of the super-bowl. Im just one amongst a sea of immensely talented individuals (way more than I) and I consider myself fortunate to be able to make a lifestyle out of freelancing myself.
Ray's work and comment: The product in this image was a high-end whisky glass. The client covered the cost of the bottle. Everyone once in a while all jobs have their perks :-)
goLance: Do you work exclusively on one freelance platform or you also provide your service on some other platforms? How do you compare goLance with other freelance websites?
Ray: I am a businessman. I work wherever there is money to be had. If there is a freelance website out there, I have a profile on it. Some platforms have more successful than others, but such as life. I also work weddings, portraits and whatever else may need to be done with a camera to bring in supplemental income.
Ray's work and comment: Beautifully rendered infographic for a food storage product I had to shoot. A sample of some of the high quality graphics I can cook up.
goLance: What are the goLance features and options that you appreciate the most? Where do you see room for improvements and why?
Ray: Always fees. As a freelancers every penny matters. So having an extra 10% allows a lot of flexibility. We can be more lenient with clients and edits. We can allow for re-shoots. There is more money to re-invest into yourself and your business to make that snowball bigger, faster. The clients post jobs worthy of filling. There are competitor websites that are flooded with low dollar, high volume busy work. The gigs on GoLance appear to actually require skill to accomplish, and with that, respect and the money that goes with it. The website is well built and easy to navigate. The only knock I can notice off the top would be marketing. By that I mean I am someone who has researched and googled “freelance websites” 1000 different ways and have never heard of GoLance until being reached out to directly. A twitter presence is a great start, but I couldn’t find you at all!
Ray's work and comment: Another beautiful, but wildly different styled infographic. Showing a wide range to anyone wishing to build an infographic.
goLance: What would be your word of advice to new freelancers who have just joined goLance? What’s the best way for them to increase their chances of being hired?
Ray: You aren’t going to want to hear this, rookies, but we all have to do it….you’re going to have to work a few gigs cheaper than you’re worth. It’s human nature. If you go to a hire someone yourself and you’re presented two options; one with 1000 completed jobs and a 5 star rating that is reasonably priced OR one with 5 completed jobs a 5 star rating and the same wages. Most people are going to pick experience every.single.time. The only way you can fight this is to outbid you competitors. Pride is a crutch of the insecure and in freelance that is never more true. Keep your nose to the grindstone, work a couple of cheap gigs and before you know it clients will be reaching out to YOU!
goLance: What can you tell us about your experience working on Upwork?
Ray: I was on Elance before Upwork existed. They provided amazing features, 10% fees, great customer service….it was a paradise. Then they get swept up in the conglomerate that became Upwork and my freelance career started to choke. What was once 3 independent freelance websites with their own communities, gigs and jobs were now slammed together then it was never the same. A flood of cheap labor hit the website. Jobs began having 100+ bidders and the average job rate was below $8.00 an hour.
As a freelance I never felt protected with Upwork. Any complaint at all, no matter how egregious by the client, always settles in their favor. You were slave labor to Upwork forced to close every single gig so they made their cash. If a client wanted 2000 edits until the end of time, you were going to comply. If you go read the “success” stories on Upwork they tell you exactly that. Only they try and mask it with “perseverance”. In freelance, this means working infinitely on a $40.00 project pouring 20+ hours into meaningless “know it when I see it” tasks praying to get a 5 star review in the end. It was frustrating and soulless work.
goLance: Would you recommend goLance to your friends and colleagues?
Ray: Yes. Anything to get another up and coming platform off the ground. If your customer service is existent, you’re already 3 steps ahead.
How To Hire Ray Smith?
If you want your photos handled with the utmost care and attention, then Ray is the man you need. Check out Ray Smith's profile on goLance and hire him if you want your work to be successfully executed quickly, efficiently, and with your budget in mind.