[By John Welsh]
Life is about relationships and so is success. And since business is part of life, then success in business must also involve relationships, right?
Perhaps there’s flawed logic in that claim, but I still believe it’s true. And as each year passes and brings with it “better” technology, it leaves us with very little face time to develop our business relationships. It seems it’s becoming increasingly difficult to carve our niches as photographers, but the technology is here and we need to use it well.
The danger of being lost in the crowd would still be there even if we were competing only with each other (meaning other professionals) and didn’t include the hordes of People With Cameras who chip away at our perceived value and create a huge distraction – one that leads our clients away from us. So how do we steer the attention back to us?
I was never disciplined enough to create traditional mailing campaigns. Of course, that’s not the only way to get noticed (though it can be highly successful if done well). Mailings, whether electronic or in print, are part of a tool kit we all need. The important part is that we recognize the right tool, one that uses our strengths.
Coming from the business of photographing for newspapers, I learned to connect with people quickly and genuinely. It’s something we all had to do to get the shot. Connecting with people has helped me create successful images and it also has helped me build relationships.
So instead of plugging away diligently through mailing lists and follow-ups, I toss myself out there at multi-disciplinary workshops I enjoy attending and speak about new projects, or I engage clients, old or new, and talk about the same projects that fuel me creatively. Enthusiasm isn’t the flu. And if genuine, it’s highly contagious and it’s something that’s totally ok to pass along.
Sometimes connections form quickly, and I build relationships that generate success (which I define as not just pay, but the opportunity to create meaningful images and be compensated). And sometimes there’s nothing gained directly, though going through the repeated repetitions help me polish social skills I wouldn’t be able to practice had I not put myself out there.
Regardless of the tool you choose, it’s about putting yourself out there, showing your best work and your best self. Crafting your approach to clients in intelligent and creative ways is what makes us stand out as professionals. It’s what steers attention back to us and proves our value. And it’s what will keep this ship we are all on afloat.
John Welsh is a photographer & storyteller from Philadelphia. He’s a refugee from the land of photojournalism and still manages to carve out (hopefully) some truth for his clients.