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Photographer of the month: Peter Hilton

Another month, another one of our 760 - and counting - photographers to present!
 
Our photographers (or as we call them, FocalPros) are located across the UK, from London to Edinburgh. Together, they make up a talented and invaluable pool of photographers who capture properties throughout the country on a daily basis. 
 
Some use FocalAgent work to build up their portfolios, others view it as their primary source of income. It all depends on their preferences. To give you an insight into what being a FocalPro is like, we're shining the spotlight on a different photographer each month.
 
Our April photographer of the month is Peter Hilton, a Macclesfield-based FocalPro who covers a large area from the outskirts of Manchester through into Cheshire, bordering Chester and including High Peak and Buxton.
 
Shooting for FocalAgent since: July 2013
Location covered: Cheshire
First camera: Minolta film camera
Favourite photographer: David Bailey, for his up-close 60s style
 
You've got a flourishing business as a freelance photographer. How did you start?
 
Before going freelance, I was an area manager for a national company. This background definitely helped me with my customer service, which I've always found to be a key differentiator for clients.

Being a freelancer is quite simple on paper. It's all about booking in work, managing time, good communication, keeping an eye on payments for each job and maintaining accurate records of your income and outgoings for tax purposes. In practice, it can be quite challenging, as if you want to survive you need to get into profit ASAP. I used to do a lot of marketing and carry out work for free in the beginning.

Deciding to work for FocalAgent was a good move - my advertising expenditure is greatly reduced as I'm busy all week shooting property, and they take care of a lot of the admin side of things.
 
Peter Hilton property photography hallway stairs
 

We're glad to have you onboard! What was it about FocalAgent that made you want to join us?
 
I knew I'd need to purchase a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, which would cost around £1,200, so I needed to work out whether it would pay for itself. I calculated how much I could earn with FocalAgent and it was no problem at all. If you're committed, there's plenty of work available.
 
The FocalAgent team are good to talk to, which is great - I know how important it is to keep up good communication with clients. Plus the automated payment process is really simple, which is always appealing to a freelancer!
 
Peter Hilton property photography kitchen reception room
 
What was one of the first things you learned when you joined FocalAgent?

Communication is intrinsic to good customer service. When you've got that sorted, you'll find clients asking for you by name and your FocalAgent business will grow. Take your time and speak to your client so they know what you're doing and why. You can't be afraid to ask them to move things out of shot. I didn't spot a cat hiding under a chair until I looked over the photos later! Attention to detail is really important; I now take more time with things instead of rushing.

Peter Hilton property photography garden

Great advice. Do you have any more tips for any would-be FocalAgent photographers?
 
Throw yourself in! I mostly work for FocalAgent now, as there is more than enough available work. I spend 90% of my working hours shooting property, with sports photography (such as for Macclesfield Town Football Club) on the weekends.
 
One thing I would say is that you need to be on top of managing your daily workload, and allow time for travel and completing the job. For particularly large properties, you may need to consider doubling the time slot. If you're fully booked, you should let another photographer cover the job instead of taking on too much.
 
Another important tip from me is to be open. If you're running late, phone ahead to advise them of your new arrival time. It's all common sense really!

All photos taken by Peter Hilton of peterhiltonphotography.co.uk.

Thanks to Peter Hilton for sharing his experiences as a FocalAgent photographer! If you're interested in how you can join the team and work as fruitfully and flexibly as him, click here to sign up. Our team can't wait to hear from you.

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