Lessons Learned – Following Up

Alright, we’re going to take a break here from the regularly scheduled action to go off on a tangent…or what I hope is a beneficial blog posting.

It’s been about 3 months since I started this full-time venture, and so far so good. My client list has been steadily expanding and I’m feeling confident that great things are just over the horizon. I’d like to credit a large part of my recent success to the amount of time that I have put back into the photography community teaching and mentoring just about anyone who asks. I have had an awesome time forming the Charlottesville Photography Meetup Group;teaching a day’s worth of Strobist workshops at my old high school, Walter Johnson; and spending time teaching people one-on-one in VA, MD, and DC. A vast majority of that time is simply spent going over how to take photos, however, knowing how to operate a camera is not the end all and be all of professional photography. A great quote that I probably cite way too often is, “you can be the best photographer in the world, but if you can’t sell it, you’re going to starve to death. Conversely, you can be the worst photographer in the world but if you can sell it, you’ll be eating steak dinners every night.” I wish I could remember where I originally heard that little quip since I know I just butchered the hell out of it!

The point is that being a good photographer only accounts for a portion of the workload a freelancer has to deal with. The business side of the house can be very daunting, and unfortunately there’s not much out there aside from John Harrington’s Best Business Practices For Photographers to serve as a road map for the nascent photographer. Not to worry, me and my whopping 3 months of experience are here to tell you how it is! Well…not really, but I would like to offer my fellow photographers and interested readers small nuggets of information that may not come instinctively. Initially, I was going to list everything out into one long post, but I think it’s better to break things up for the sake of brevity and discussion.

To kick things off slowly I want to talk about following up. This was completely counter intuitive to me coming from a military background where asking a question generally yields an answer in one form or another. When I announced that I was going full-time with my photography I received a ton of support, and with that came a lot of “oh yeah, I think I may have some work for you.” Well, surprisingly enough the phone calls didn’t come raining in and I quickly figured out that it was solely up to me to put bread on the table. It doesn’t take much, a simple note with “just following up on our conversation from last night” is a great tag line and I’ve found that people are very receptive to little reminders. Now, I always take note of when people say this in conversation and I absolutely make sure to send them an email as soon as I get to a computer. Time is of the essence, and wasted days can mean burnt brain cells that won’t recall conversations or potential clients.

Another aspect of the email follow-up is staying on top of your existing and potential clients. Most of my clients are people with busy lives, or corporate types who are in public relations, so photography is often an afterthought. Their supervisor will mention in a meeting that “we need a photographer, and Johnny, you’re going to find one!” Well either Johnny is busy with his own work, or has nothing on his plate, so be ready for both types.

Count your lucky stars when a creative director reaches out to you. I have had first-rate experiences with these individuals who genuinely care about the quality of images that you’re going to kick out, and usually there is no necessary follow-up with them. Like I mentioned, most of my corporate contacts are in public relations and it’s often up to me to offer some sort of creative direction. You may send the greatest email ever read outlining a phenomenal shoot…and then get nothing back for days. Do not be discouraged! Following up is a BIG part of this process, and it’s really up to you as the photographer to take the reins to make sure all the parties involved are on track with your ideas.

So like the gentlemen pictured above, follow up! These two put good time into following up on their conversation with the woman across the table and like them…I hope your efforts yield the results you’re looking for!

Next up: Contracts!

2 Responses to “Lessons Learned – Following Up”

  1. Gina Elliott Proulx says:

    You’ve only been doing this for 3 months..? Well BRAVO, then.. Your work is stunning.. I have much to learn from you.. Really glad that I found your meetup group, and hope to participate even more in the future..

    Will look forward to your next blog entry,

    Gina Elliott Proulx

  2. Joel says:

    You inspire me. Thanks for being so generous with your tips and advices. Hope, one day i can make the leap myself. Keep up the great work.

Leave a Reply

Log in/Register to post a comment.