Top Marketing Strategies for Photographers & Commercial Artists in terms of ROI

While many of us are spending way too many hours in the black hole of Instagram, struggling to be perceived as relevant, trying to figure out how to make our feed look like a color wheel of perfection, following and un-following to gain followers and then sitting in FOMO and guilt about our strategy and wasted time, we may be neglecting the marketing tools that have much stronger ROI (return on investment.)

You know what works for you, and if that is social media, keep going (also, email me your secrets!) But if it doesn’t seem to be getting you any new work, you might consider investing your time in some good old-fashioned coffee dates and personalized emails.

Here are the marketing tools that are working for me:

1. Word of Mouth - direct connections come with implied trust. If you can get a friend to refer you to one of their friends, or client to client, it’s like getting a five-star Yelp review. When you are so lucky to be introduced to someone new, be sure to follow up quickly, with gratitude, and don’t forget to return the favor/pay it forward.

Writer, psychologist, and Sheryl Sandberg’s BFF Adam Grant once said, “Making introductions is a seriously overlooked form of generosity.” My business has thrived on personal connections more than anything. It has helped me find new clients, mentors, and close friends. Don’t wait to be connected, ask your friends and clients to introduce you to others (and be specific about who you want to connect to). 

2. Networking - I know, ugh! Leave the house?! This is coming from a textbook introvert, so you know it’s real talk. Yes, leave the house with your fancy pants on and go look new people in the eye. Find an art opening, a girl-gang, business event, book club, cooking class, or co-working space and introduce yourself to at least one person. Then you can run home, get back in your PJs, and reward yourself with a scoop of non-dairy ice cream. If you have the opportunity to tell someone your story face to face, they will be a billion times more invested in helping you be seen by others. (Not a scientifically derived statistic. More on networking-for-introverts to come!)

3. Handwritten notes. This is so rare and unexpected these days, you will for sure leave an impression. I regularly receive thank you notes for sending thank you notes, and the ROI is legit. Side note, stamps are getting expensive! 

4. Email!  Which is for now, undisturbed by the soul-crushing algorithms of social media. There is a much higher chance that your email will be seen by a much higher percentage of your audience than your social media posts. Direct emails are great, especially when they are well written, personalized, not completely self-centered, and ending with a call to action.

Newsletters are also still quite valuable. Only about half of the clients I work with come to me having a well-maintained mailing list, and I think this is very important to do. Who you add to your list, how often you send it out, and your content is key.

I love this article: Newsletters are Immortal.

When I was working as an art buyer in advertising, I would create email folders organized by city or specialty and save emails and newsletters if they contained work that I liked and might want to reference in the future. So, if you are not getting any replies or immediate work, don’t sweat it, you might still be in someone’s hire-this-person-next-time-we-shoot-in-Los-Angeles folder.

5. Direct Mail. I still believe in printing postcards and if your budget allows, creating larger scale, print mailers like mini-books, accordions or catalogs. Similar to e-filing, I still save my favorite print pieces and go back to look through them every few months. There’s no end to print inspiration on the APhotoEditor Instagram account. 

I also recommend hand-written notes with your mailers. Yes, it’s incredibly time consuming, but having a third party print and mail your postcards is the fastest way to land in a recycling bin.

All of this being said, I’m not implying that you should quit social media by any means. Look at your analytics on a regular basis, think about where your jobs are coming from, and invest your marketing time in the strategies that are bringing home the bacon. Give each marketing platform a set number of hours you will dedicate to it each week in balance with your current ROI and see what happens. 

I’d love to hear what’s working for you! Need help figuring it out? Shoot me an email.

P.S. I’m rooting for you!


Interested in hiring a business coach? Click here to schedule a free 15 minute call. Let’s chat and find out if we’re a good fit.

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How To Get a Photography Agent

First of all, you need to determine if you really need one, and, if they really need you.

For most larger, traditional photo agencies, this graphic above would be a good gauge. High-profile photo agencies are mostly interested in photographers who are already billing upwards of a million dollars per year on their own (or getting insta-famous), and/or regularly shooting large editiorials, but the landscape might be changing. 

Many photographers believe that if they can get a rep, that they will magically start getting lots of work and high-paying campaigns. What they don’t understand is that reps expect them to already be working a lot and marketing themselves regularly. A photography agent doesn’t exist to do all of a photographer’s business tasks and sales. They traditionally come in when you are working quite a bit, or need someone to help you bid and produce high-budget projects, although some smaller boutique agencies will focus on helping photographers build their client list. 

Either way you go, the main work of an agent is to help edit your work and guide you in the right creative direction. Let’s break it down -

Things that photo reps do:

- Manage requests for your services

- Bid new jobs (help you with estimates, pitches, production costs, creative PDFs, and communicate with clients)

- Help you refine your portfolio

- Read and negotiate legal contracts

- Be your therapist

- Invoicing/Billing

- Take a commission (20-35%)

- Show your work to potential new advertising clients

Additional things that some photo agents do:

- Manage your website and social media, print your portfolio

- Show your portfolio to potential clients (in-person and otherwise)

- Produce your photo shoots

- Advise on marketing strategy

- Send out marketing 

If you do not have a lot of work or clients, you definitely do not need a rep. You may want to work with a photo consultant (I know a great one! 😉) to refine your portfolio and develop a marketing strategy. Alternately you may want to hire a marketing or social media assistant.

If you have a good amount of work, are not overwhelmed by requests, but need help with production and billing, you may only need to find an amazing producer (I know a few!)

If your focus is editorial, local, or photojournalism, you also do not need a rep. Photography agents are interested in high-dollar advertising shoots, and anything smaller is not usually worth their time. (And having to go through a rep can actually deter smaller clients from seeking to work with you.)

All of this being said, all reps are different and agency models are changing as advertising and the influencer landscape is changing. There are still a few unicorn photographers that are so crazy talented that an agent may take them regardless of their client list. (I’ve been known to do this.)

Not sure if you are ready for a rep? Shoot me an email.

Questions? Comments? Let’s continue the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

Here are some more great articles on the subject:

Why You Don’t Need a Photography Agency

How Does A Photographer Land an Agent?

Does a photographer need a rep and do they really get you work?

Expert Advice: Finding A Rep

Do I Need an Agent for Photography?

The Top Ten Most Important Roles of a Photo Agent

P.S. I’m rooting for you!


Interested in hiring a photo coach? Click here to schedule a free 15 minute call. Let’s chat and find out if we’re a good fit.

Never miss a blog, sign up for my newsletter here.

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