Q: As freelancers, the product we pitch doesn’t exist yet, but is based on work that was previously created. How do we sell based on the past?
One of the biggest obstacles facing fledgling artists who are just starting out in the industry is that their portfolios lack fullness and depth. Photos taken for your junior year Intro to Lighting course in college simply won’t cut it in the “real world.” It often takes years of experimentation, trial and error, and small-scale projects to fine tune your style and your brand. Once you have this critical asset established, however, you’ll be able to point to your body of work as proof that you know what you’re doing – and that you’re the right person for the job.
Let’s face it – if you’re sitting in a meeting with a buyer, they’ve seen something of yours that convinced them to take the time to meet with you personally. Whether it was a tear sheet from a previous gig, a fun Instagram photo you posted, or a blog entry you wrote about a recent photo shoot, it was your past work that got you sitting in that chair. Use that golden opportunity to tell a story about a standout image in your portfolio and how you were able to capture it. Did you risk life, limb, and camera trying to capture an extreme sports shot? Did you have a run-in with local authorities in some far off land thousands of miles away from home? Remember that your photographs are records of your past as well as that of the subject you are shooting. How you bring your story to life can make the difference between getting hired and being shuffled to the bottom of the metaphorical pile.
On the flip side of the coin, you have to be sure that your past work does not pigeonhole you into only getting RFQ’s for a certain type of project. Like a majestic eagle, you should constantly be looking to spread your wings. Yes, you should still show off that image which went viral six months ago on Facebook, but while you’re talking about that image, segue into a neat personal project you’re undertaking, or a new style of shooting you’ve been working on. If a buyer sees that your style is adaptable and constantly evolving, they’re more likely to keep you in mind for future projects.
Own your past, live in the present, and plan for the future. Use your previous success as proof positive that you have talent, but don’t rest on your laurels. Complacency is a death sentence in this industry, and those who refuse to evolve will see their workload shrink to nothing.
Knowing your strengths, sticking to your roots, and always pushing the envelope is a surefire recipe for success.
Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Nick is a 2009 graduate of Tufts University. He is currently a Marketing Coordinator for Agency Access. When he's not in the office, Nick enjoys cooking and playing in his band Three Chord Me.
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