Networking is vital for being a successful freelance photographer.
In the action photo industry it is all about who you know, and who you work with. Our careers pretty much depend on our network of connections. Your network should be on the top of your priority list, and doing everything you can to grow it should become a daily routine. Building a network is not easy and it takes work and dedication, but it also could mean the difference between success and failure.
Networking is all about giving to other people, it is not about receiving. You need to spend some of your time helping other people out, without even thinking about asking them for favors.
The first thing you need to do to start building a network is to get in touch with people. You should start with the people around you, neighbors, local athletes, local companies, newspapers, basically anyone you can think of. Go talk to them, or just shoot them an email, see if you can shoot with/for them.
This will help you build your portfolio, help them get some sick images to show off what they can do, and it will get the word out to potential clients. You have to think about all the different spots where people involved in the industry you hope to shoot in meet. Starting with the local skate park and going all the way to big action sporting events. You can meet a lot of people from the action sports industry at events of any size. Even if the event is small, there are still some sponsors..and there always is media.
Don't be a stranger! Talk to people and you are going to find out that some of the people you talk to (either at the skate park or at a big event) are involved in the industry in some way. That's how you can meet a ton of people! Just make sure that when you meet anyone you exchange contacts or business cards, and actually save the cards.
The follow up, is even more important. Just meeting someone doesn't do you any good unless you follow up. Make sure you call or email people in your network every now and then, just to remind them that you exist.
You can always research companies and see what their newest products and projects are. After staying in touch with them it should be OK for you to ask if they need your help with any of the projects. This often won't land you work with the first e-mail you send, but if you network is huge and you regularly send e-mails (just not so often it's pestering) something will come out of it…trust us!
Eventually one of these people will need your help, and the larger your network is the more opportunities you are going to have. Your life as a photographer should become deeply rooted in your daily social life. The more people that know what you do and that you stay in contact with, the more work that is going to eventually start coming your way. Stay dedicated, focus on what you do, and follow-up to become a more successful photographer!