I have photographers regularly email me, asking for advice on how to make a living doing photography. Aside from the obvious things like assist other photographers or work on building your network, I always say if there isn’t work coming in, make work for yourself. I’m talking about self-assignments.
I shoot at least once a week for myself, often collaborating with models. If I can’t line up a model due to scheduling, I go to a plant shop and pick out interesting plants or flowers to model for me. Not only do clients love seeing personal work, you also never know who will happen upon them. For example, one of my flower portraits was recently discovered by a creative director at Apple who went on to license it for Apple Music.
For better or worse, the internet never forgets. Images can circulate, go dormant, and get re-discovered years later. For example, I recently had another one my test images get licensed for an Odesza album cover. The image was shot in 2015, but was discovered three years later by the designer working on the album. So whenever you do a self-assignment (aka test shoot), make sure to put the images out into the ether by sharing it far and wide, sending it to any blogs that you think will want to post it, making sure to tag it with descriptive keywords.