MODULE 3: SUSTAINABLE PROSPECTS. WEEK 11.

Project Diptych Test.
Copyright James Bellorini 2019.

The assignment work this week has been looking at how we market ourselves as photographers. So I’m going to take a little time here to reflect on that.

It’s interesting for me to note, as I write this, that November and December have been (and are shaping up to be) my busiest yet in terms of my commercial work. In the past these months have tended to be the quieter months in my working year. But this week alone I have three client bookings plus an enquiry from a potential new client.

None of this work has had a direct marketing ‘strategy’ behind it per se. But when I set myself up in business six and half years ago, one of the things I set out in my business plan was that I was my own marketing: how I am in the world, how I operate with clients, the kind of personality I bring, and above all how easy I am to work with. It’s not about me, it’s about my clients, or the people I photograph. I have deliberately seen myself as a service provider and a problem solver.

My main marketing strategy is then RELATIONSHIP. It’s a core value I have for myself and that’s how I work: building relationships from behind the camera and otherwise. This is perhaps a slower way to gain a client list, as it means meeting people face-to-face and trusting in word-of-mouth recommendations. It also means I am only as good as my last job, that’s my calling card – so I have to set a high standard every time in everything I do for that job from the point of first contact to invoicing for the work.

Promotional Image for Glyndebourne Opera.
Copyright James Bellorini 2019.

What I have also found as a result is that many of my clients come back with repeat work because I get to know them, I am open and approachable, and hopefully some trust is built. This has been the backbone of my working life as a photographer.

All this is not to say I don’t do much of the other marketing work: social media, newsletters, mailers etc – I do. But those are supplemental to my main strategic way of operating. I hate cold calling anyone. It’s not a way to create relationship. Having said that I do send out emails about recent work to people I may have only met once or twice, just to open up the possibility of a relationship starting.

One of the challenges for me because of this relational approach is how I widen my network. I’ve just stated I am quite slow at doing this. So I think I need to look at how I can do this playing to my own way of operating: for me it is definitely face-to-face. So I need to create opportunities to physically meet people. To pitch myself and my ideas more frequently. this is one reason why I chose to really get behind the 9-week client brief assignment during this module: to gain more skills for pitching.

So, here’s a plan:

For the next 10 weeks I am going to focus on creating printed (i.e. physical) marketing materials that deliberately use my M.A. work (which is different in content to my current commercial work in that it is more personal and ‘issues-based’) and approach a number of relevant platforms with those and see if I can arrange at least two face-to-face meetings from that.

An opening action list:

  • Research 20 relevant platforms (e.g. magazines, galleries, brands) who I think might be interested in some of the work I am currently creating – I’m already considering Burn Magazine and Point.51 magazine for example.
  • Get the correct contact details for relevant commissioning personnel.
  • Create a printed mini-portfolio with written context.
  • Mail out.
  • Follow up with calls to arrange meetings.
  • Build a specific social media timeline around this work using scheduling software such as Buffer.

Katie (portrait before commercial photoshoot).
Copyright James Bellorini 2018.

Finally, as part of this assignment we are asked to define our visual language as photographers. To be honest I never find this kind of question easy to answer, so perhaps that’s something I need to be more conscious around moving forward in order to help the plans I have above. So, taking what I’ve noted about myself above perhaps it is something like this:

My visual language is one that seeks to answer the questions I have about relationship both in terms of the content of my work and for the viewer. In this I am seeking to find ways to relate to a subject (human or non-human) and to continuously redefine what this is photographically????….. TBC I think…