By Mark Loundy
Does a tree falling in the forest make any noise if there's nobody there to hear it? I know, you ain't no stinkin' tree, but if clients don't know about you it doesn't matter how good of a photographer you are - you won't get any business.
You could buy an ad during the Super Bowl and reach a lot of potential clients, but at more than $2 million for 30 seconds, not even Annie Leibovitz can afford that. The good news is that there are a lot of things that you can do that don't cost quite so much.
Corbis Sygma freelancer Steven Frischling likes E-mail. "I sent E-mails to 41 editors at 37 publications. Of those 41 E-mails I received 23 (replies,) and was invited to come down to NYC to meet with multiple editors at one major magazine (whom I had done limited work for in the past). A few editors I have dealt with," says Frischling, "tell me they prefer E-mail with a Web link. They get the E-mail, click the link, and can quickly decide if they want to pursue the correspondence any further."
Alicia Wagner Calzada's Web site works well for her. "My Web site is my greatest marketing tool. People often call me cold for an assignment that they need the next day. Instead of having to Fed Ex them a portfolio or promo piece, I can refer them to my site, and they instantly know that they are getting quality for their money. Other than that, the main thing I do is keep my business cards with me everywhere I go. I give them out liberally to everyone I meet. "
The Advertising Photographers of America has a great list of links on their resources page. Scroll down to "Promotional Resources." "The Art of Self Promotion" link is a gem.
Frischling doesn't just "fire and forget." He keeps up a steady stream of marketing. "I send a few editors a CD every 60 days or so with 10-12 photos, or stories, I have shot in that period of time. My monthly or bimonthly E-mails have proven the most successful for me.
Seattle freelancer Andrew Buchanan believes in following-up on a mailing. "(Ask a) photo editor if they entertain outside story proposals and then try coming up with a couple on your own. If the photo editor is serious and really wants you to shoot for them, then you're showing initiative by doing some of their work for them and suggesting things that would be of interest to their readers, and of interest to you to shoot."
Face-to-face is one thing that everybody seems to agree on. "I try all the usual avenues, direct mail, website, etc.," says Buchanan, "The one I have found that works the best, and gets me the most work, is simply to ask my clients if they know of anybody else that I might contact, and then go contact them with the original client's name as reference. I really believe that the face-to-face meeting is by far the best way to get work. Let's face it, 80% of the photography out there these days can be done by about 90% of the photographers. One reason for a potential client to choose me over someone else is because they have met me and are therefore more likely to trust me and believe I can do their work right."
Sean Cayton had a lot of interesting things to say about marketing in his column over on The Digital Journalist.
The important thing is to create a marketing plan for your business and stick with it. You do want somebody to be listening, don't you?