Moving cities as a freelancer

Moving cities as a freelancer

Spoiler: Brace yourself. It’s going to be a little rough.

At the start of my photographic career, the thought of relocating to a new country and rebuilding a client network was a daunting prospect. However, as I settled into the rhythm of freelance life, I started to lean into the sense that things generally seem to… work out. The concept of starting anew in a foreign land began to be more appealing.

Fast-forward a few years and my husband Nathan was offered a post-doc at the University of Washington in Seattle. What an opportunity! And a whole new continent to explore. Sign me up, I said. (Literally, as we had to legally get married else I’d be left behind – but after 9 years of being together, this wasn’t exactly a surprise).

Here are the things I wish I had done before, or first-thing into my move to a new city. Perhaps you’re in the same boat, or perhaps you are considering moving. Feel free to learn from my mistakes. I’ll be adding generously to the list as I go, I am sure.



Redesign and update your website, LinkedIn profile, resumes and social media presence. You want to hit the ground running, instead of sending potential clients to half-conceptualised pages. Sign up for freelance sites like Upwork and give yourself local working options. 

Research potential clients and photographic fields and keep interested parties updated with your timeline. This will establish a relationship and perhaps even a sense of excitement/pace. 


Give yourself some time off to orientate. There’s a new city, new transport methods to navigate and a new home to furnish. Take a moment to settle in, and take stock.

Dive into admin like a gluttonous raccoon in an unguarded dumpster. You’ll thank yourself for sorting out as much admin as you can handle right in the beginning. Here in Washington I needed Work Authorization as well as Business registration, plus things like new drivers licenses. Those things held me back for far longer than I had anticipated. More on that later. 

Consider taking a part-time job. Unless you apply directly for commercial companies and agencies, you might be in the situation that I was when you first move: living off savings. Which is to be expected, temporarily. I’d have advised past-Teagan to take on a part-time or short-term job, and started putting freelance feelers out in the evenings and in spare time, instead of holding space for ideal projects from the get-go. 

Re-establish your independence. One of my major challenges was the loss of my own vehicle. I’ve missed out on job opportunities and road trips as a result of being public-transport bound. Whatever your independence looks like, make it a priority. It’ll help with everything from finances to mental health. 

Networrrrrk. I am guilty of still not doing this extensively, but the few connections I have made have been a wealth of information and good energy. Sign up for Facebook groups with similar interests. Join local photography pages and post a comment saying you’re new to town. Actively seek out connections – at this stage, you don’t know where anything will lead. You could be meeting up with a potential friend for coffee, a future client, or simply someone who can share their experiences of living in the city. 

Create short lists of potential clients and slowly work through introducing yourself and your work. Personalised, concise emails with a follow up or two go a long way. Hot tip: to avoid your emails being classified as spam, don’t attach photos, or link in URL’s excepting your website/portfolio address. It can be disheartening sending emails ‘into the void’ with no response, despite your portfolio and experience. Keep on at it. 


Ultimately, moving cities is going to allow you to look at all aspects of your life anew – from your social circle and relationship, to your work. In many ways, you will be more refined for the move; moving allows you to shed what isn’t serving you and focus instead on what is, or what you would like to expand into. Networking and establishing a new client base is tough to do in the beginning, but not impossible. It just takes time, so the earlier you start the better.  

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