How to Win Clients and Influence People—Presenting Your Work Online and in Print
By Mindy Charski
Marketing your photography services is a lot like paying taxes: If you don’t do it, things could get ugly. After all, it’s really hard to build a business when potential clients don’t know about you and your work. Building a website, sending promos and staying on top of social media are the standard trifecta when it comes to getting noticed by your target audience. Standing out from the pack and building the foundation for client relationships, however, takes both persistence and a good understanding of your own brand and what you have to offer.
Strive for a good user experience online
Having a good website design is essential today. “Nobody’s going to pick up the phone and call you if they don’t initially see something that entices them on your website,” says Sherry Riad, owner of the artist-management agency RIAD Represents.
If you choose not to hire a website designer, you can customize templates offered by website builders that are designed specifically for photographers. Creating a strong brand identity can help buyers remember you and your work, Riad says.
When you’re planning your design, prioritize organization and navigation. “Having an experience that is easy and will let people get to the meat of what you do [quicky] is ideally what people are looking for,” Riad says. Thumbnail views of categorized portfolios, for instance, can help busy visitors look at your work quickly.
Also include photos that will help buyers feel confident you’re a good fit for a project. “You want to show off the things you want to get hired for even if they’re less sexy,” Riad says. “If you’re interested in going after business clients, you have to have something representative of that work on your website.”
Likewise, Staci MacKenzie, a producer at the graphic design firm Doyle Partners, says to consider your edit when putting up work to engage clients in a specific field. “I would want to see at least five pictures that tell a story, where there’s some consistency and some visual rhythm to it or point of view,” she says. “We often show our clients photographers’ pictures, so sometimes we have to be very literal and have to say, ‘They would shoot like this and here are five photos that demonstrate that.’”
A good bio is important, too. It doesn’t need to be long, but it should give buyers an idea of who you are and your interests. “It’s not a deal-breaker, but it gives me a sense of personality,” MacKenzie says. “If I’m going to be working with someone beyond a one-day job or something extensive, I want to know them.”
Create effective printed and digital promos
Printed promotional pieces can still make an impact: Buyers don’t get many anymore, and less competition in the mailbox can be advantageous.
“I love to get a printed promo, and if it’s good maybe it will go on my wall or in a box and I’ll keep it,” MacKenzie says. She prefers a big image in a mailer. “I want a picture that I can remember them for,” she says. “Because I’m visual and I have a visual memory, I want that single image. If I‘m overwhelmed with many images that are small, there’s not going to be a standout per se.”
MacKenzie thinks showing a single image is best because it demonstrates confidence. “From [a photographer’s] perspective, this is an image they really believe in and stand behind and represents them and they’re proud of,” she says.
Single-image promos can benefit those looking to send a large mailer, but multi-image promos can be sent to a more targeted list. If you do want to send something with more heft than a postcard, Riad recommends creating a strong content piece like a zine, perhaps including copy that complements images. These can be done in smaller runs, she says, and can even be self-printed and staple-bound. “There are definitely cost-effective ways to make zines,” she says. “And I think there’s something nice about something that’s well printed but a little DIY that can stop people and make them take a peek.”
Email promos are another option. Jed Grossman, former creative director of agency Mother and current managing creative director of agency B-Reel, sees email as “an important piece of the communication process” and “the quickest way and probably the least amount of investment to get to me—if you can.”
That’s a big caveat. Templated emails can help you get images into the inboxes of buyers only if spam filters don’t nab the emails first.
Likewise, even if emails do go where they’re supposed to, busy creatives like Grossman find they must pick and choose which of the overflowing messages to open. When he does click one, he wants to be able to absorb the images as fast as possible. Getting to the work quickly is more important to him than receiving an email that is tailored, he says.
Still, taking a customized approach for top prospects can be beneficial. MacKenzie, for instance, appreciates receiving promos—printed and digital ones—that show someone not only knows about her firm and its clients but also has some kind of connection. A mention might be along the lines of “I’ve seen your XX project and really love it and thought you might like to see some of my work,” she says. “Or even just some kind of small gesture and acknowledgement that maybe we have the same values or look at the same thing.”
Find a balance on social media
Social networks can be great vehicles for featuring your talents—especially Instagram, which Riad has found to be “the sweet spot for photography.”
Grossman says he looks at Instagram to get a sense of a shooter’s narrative or storytelling abilities through the platform. “It’s interesting for me to see how they’re visualizing their everyday life,” he says.
Social sites also offer unique opportunities to show people who you are. Instagram posts help Grossman see if someone is fun, “or they’re doing cool personal projects that I haven’t seen, or they have a really interesting eye,” he says. “You want to identify who that photographer is along with what they’re physically capable of because all of that goes into the stew when you’re creating something.”
Use the real estate of your profile section on social networks to both link to your website and say a bit about yourself that is witty but not long winded, Riad says.
Finally, remember the importance of interacting with others while maintaining the right balance. Commenting on posts from a photo editor at a magazine whom you don’t know can get awkward. “Engagement is extremely important,” Riad says, “but it’s also important to not be overbearing.”
And that, actually, is a pretty good maxim for all your marketing efforts.