Check out Part I, where I talk about figuring out what you want in life. Now it’s time to flip that and turn it into something that can pay for your food and housing.
After I kinda figured out what I wanted to do, it was time to figure out how to get paid to do it. Knowing what you want, and getting paid for what you want are different things. I’ve never really liked business. I’m not a suit-wearing, networking-events-going kind of guy. I don’t really like talking to people I can’t relate to. You sometimes see people force themselves into relationships, trying to keep them because they want something from the other.
If you’re in the business of making money fast and hard and always looking for the next trick to get it we would probably never connect. If I look back I always laugh at how much I hated business and never wanted one of my own. It’s not that I didn’t want a business. I didn’t want the business I saw other people having. The ones dealing with annoying clients, annoying people in general and pleasing people you shouldn’t be pleasing because they treat you like dirt.
So I did things a little differently. I only cater to the people who appreciate what I bring (my value) and what I create (my work). People I liked so much I wanted to help and didn’t even care if I got paid or not. As soon as I felt a little hint of the person/client thinking: “I was just a finger pushing a button on a camera”, I would “fire them”, and say something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think we are a match for each other. I would really still love to help you out and refer you to someone else who might be a better match”. The referral is important to me, because I still want to help the person out. I can do this by connecting a client that doesn’t match me as a person or style with someone who is. You help the client get the best photoshoot and you help another photographer get some new business. That’s a double win in my personal book. This has brought up a small network of photographers sharing clients they can’t help because they’re too busy, or they don’t match and we help each other with.
Once you’ve found the people you really want to help and can, you have found your target group. Stick with these people. They will give you so much energy, they will help you grow, help promote and become friends. And at the end of the day we all just want to do what we love with no hassle. So that’s kind of how I build my client relationships and approach the right people for the photography part.
For the workshop part and other photographers I had to put the word out.
Showing other photographers that I know what I’m doing by showing them diagrams of how things were lit. Writing blog posts about how the shots were achieved. Once I exhausted the photographers I had around my area, I had to find another way to attract photographers that wanted to learn something from me. So I started looking at where the photographers were hanging out and came up with a few places and things. Blogs they were going to to get their information, like Fstoppers/PetaPixel/DiyPhoto. And I started writing blog posts and emailing this to those sites, asking if they wanted to post it. I would make the content exclusive so that it wasn’t talked about before. This gave them a unique piece. Then I would find a way to tell people I do workshops and where they could find out more. This broke another network of photographers who wanted to learn something. So try and figure out where the people you are trying to reach hang out. Find out if you are a right match for each other. And try to help the other person with whatever problem they have.
Are you creating work, posting it on your website/blog/social channels, but just aren’t getting the people you are looking for ringing your doorbell, or kicking in your door? Join the fucking club! There used to be a time where if you produced good/beautiful/amazing work you would get noticed and people would start to ask for you. Those times are gone! Of course there are still the precious few wonder childs that get there breakthrough on some idle thursday morning after uploading a video. But those are just 1 in a billion. And I aint one of those! So for the rest of us mere mortals: We will have to work our nutsacks off to get that attention. By going at it! I’ve never been noticed by someone without doing something to get noticed.
Before I started doing this full time and was creating images in my spare time, I would look for magazines with websites which had a community following. Things like in The Netherlands we have: Zoom, In the UK you have Computer Arts and they would have a forum, or a place you can upload your work. Usually with groups attached and competitions. I would try to make something so soo crazy that it had to be noticed. If not by the judges, by other photographers. And if it didn’t, I would go at it again, on the next competition. I would tailor my work for the competition galleries. So if the gallery had 50px by 50px thumbnails. Before you actually clicked through to the big image. I would make that 50px by 50px sparkle so hard!! With bright colors, light flares to get noticed between the other duller thumbnails. I would also always do some research first to see what’s in the pool.
This habit, and doing it on loads of websites all together, got a few pingbacks. One was from Digifoto Pro. They liked my zombie collection with blood and gore so much, they asked me to write a small piece for their magazine. I loved this opportunity soooo so much, and always wanting to do things differently, I wrote a piece as if I was a human in a zombie infested land trying to survive. Kinda like a day journal. Complete with lighting specs and dark day stories. I didn’t want a dull article if I was gonna be printed for the first time. Then the magazine asked me for a profile picture. You know those little things you get in a magazine next to your article? So I went to the magazine store, went through all the photography (and other) magazines and did some research on those little pixels I was going to get in a magazine. Looked at what others were doing and hating it. I wanted mine to reflect the story. “Some crazy cat in zombieland.” So went on ebay, bought myself some wasteland goggles, hat and took a picture. All to make that little 1cm by 1cm profile thing sparkle! 2 days later, they emailed me this:
My first cover!!! As you see, I didn’t get noticed without doing something to get that. I put myself out there. Again and again. I didn’t set out to get the cover. I set out to create awesome, interesting images. Which was uploaded and got picked up. Then proceeded to produce an article to accompany those images complete in style, then to making a profile picture in all the same line and story. This resulted in them loving it so much, they wanted to run my small thumb as a cover. So do your crazy best to give something different. Something crazy, something with a story that people could laugh about, or talk about, cry about. Some might like it. Some might hate it. But that doesnt matter. There will always be the few that enjoy what you do. And when you find them. Give ‘em all you got!
Art Directors, Agency’s, Fashion Magazines, Other Humanoids
You won’t “get noticed”. Try to figure out how you can reach them. Find out their names. Be so bold as to create awesome work you love and send them an email with it. Or a post card. Or drop by the office. For every 100 emails I send out, 1 comes back with a yes. Don’t get discouraged by this. You need to start loving failure when you get into this. It is not personal. It is not towards you. It’s just not the right timing. Doesn’t mean it won’t be down the line. I had countless people telling me “NO!” 3 years ago who are now saying “Yes!!” because it’s the right time for them to have it/ experience it. I see way too many people that try, and after countless failures give up. Just because it doesn’t seem to work. Don’t! This is normal for every creative I know. We all go through this. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever stop. But just keep creating beautiful work, keep being you, keep trying to get more eyes on your work and eventually it will start rolling.
If you feel like I’ve left anything out, or said something thats wrong, leave a comment and let me know about it. Would love to hear it.