If you’ve done your research to obtain the email address of an art director or creative director at a large company or advertising agency, congratulations. Now you can send them an email. Assuming your work is in the top 100 in the world, there’s about a 8% chance your email will be opened, and a .1% chance the link in your email will be clicked. If your link is clicked and your website is visited, there’s a tiny chance they will ever reply to your email or contact you in any way, and if they do, there’s about a 95% chance it will be to tell you they’ll “add you to our list” or to tell you that “Your work is great.” These days, most art directors get about 1,000 emails per hour from photographers. Some of them like it this way because it means they have a set of select photographers they’re in touch with.
Similar to email, postcards can be sent to potential clients all at once. The postcards cost money to design, print and mail, so artists rarely send them. With real tangible mail, if it is pretty on the way to the garbage, maybe it will go into the trash more slowly.
3. Get a sweet decal made for your vehicle with your photos and logo on it, then park the truck in front of your target client’s business for 3 days and nights.
No seriously. I heard this worked.
4. Portfolio websites and services
I can be a witness that there are art directors who look at these websites; however, like the above methods. These are an expensive net to cast, but they may catch a few clients if your work is really good. Certainly not the people looking for TFP or low-budget photoshoots.
5. Portfolio reviews
This is probably my favorite method. You sit down with a handful of people for a significant amount of time and discuss your work and goals, then receive feedback. Even when you don’t immediately obtain work, you do immediately obtain business relationships for when your work gets better.
6. Who you know
This one seems to be the best one. Many of the people who tell me that they often pitch my work to clients are relatives and people I went to college with. If I knew then what I know now…I would have run around to the different heads of departments of the school making friends over there. Be nice to people. Express your genuine interest in their careers. Make friends. They come in handy later.
7. Your website
Of all the methods I’ve ever tried, I’ve obtained the bulk of my work directly from my website. Often you can get some small jobs just by being the best person in your local area. I’ve had a New York agency hire me to film a construction site here in South Florida. I just got the job because they Googled “Miami photographers” and liked my website. I got a job from Profiles 98 Magazine out of Nassau, Bahamas shooting a portrait because the subject of the portrait lives here in Miami, and… they loved the work on my website. If you don’t know what SEO means, then you should probably start there before you decide to spend $2500 on an Agency Access account. Do the most effective things FIRST, then you can reinvest in the less effective, more expensive things. Don’t worry. There are always people you can give your money to.
8. Social media
Now, having a Facebook page and a Twitter and LinkedIn such are nice, especially if you’re a baby photographer or something. But if you’re trying to stalk some art directors, it’s not the most effective approach. Instagram has some value there because it’s an app, and there’s no limit on the eyeballs that see your posts when your work is followed. Having a large following there has other benefits, like sponsorships and paid posts, which can get you free gear, exposure, and money by itself. But I wouldn’t neglect the development of your portfolio in favor of getting some new likes.
1. Oh great. Another list.
2. Are you the best?
If your work isn’t the absolute best in your industry, it’s probable that the guy who is the best is the one getting called. If you’re looking for the biggest budget jobs for the coolest companies shooting the most awesome photos, you’re dealing with people who are going to go with the best. So you’ll have to become the best.
3. Are you doing all the things in the first list?
Sometimes, the people who are the best forget to show their work to people. Don’t neglect your marketing.
4. Are you shooting the kind of work people want to buy?
Maybe your love is shooting erotic nudes, and you can’t figure out why Nike isn’t hiring you. Figure out who your dream clients are, and shoot what you think they will want to buy.
5. Have you asked why anyone should care?
I’ve often heard the advice that photography is a business and you can’t neglect the business side of things. Usually, that meant to me that I needed to add up my expenses and make sure they were lower than my income, but let’s get dangerous here. More important than being an accountant is understanding the economy of this situation. Why should anyone care about you or the work you produce? What does it do for them? This is supply and demand. When people buy things, there’s a reason they buy them. Whether you’re a paper company trying to sell printer paper. When it comes to buying art, nobody cares. If baby portraits aren’t going to get my customers to buy my pictures, then I don’t need them. I don’t want them. They’re worthless. Are you making something your customers don’t need?
In any endeavor, the more skilled and successful you plan to be at that thing, the more honed and refined you have to become. This is competition. If one day you decide to run in the Olympics and you’ve never been willing, to be honest with yourself and make some changes to your life and habits, you’re not going to win. They won’t even let you on the field. Advertising photography is the big leagues. Time to hop on the treadmill. Maybe even go outside. It’s nice out there this time of year.
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