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Do you have a love of photography and an entrepreneurial spirit? Wonderful Machine may be the place for you!

Welcome to the Wonderful Machine Apply page where I’ll attempt to explain everything you’ll need to know if you’re interested in applying for a job with us. Please take a moment to read this so you can get a better sense of what it’s like to be a member of our team, and so you can know what to expect from our application process. Our company is somewhat unconventional, so it's important to read this entire article before applying.

INTRODUCTION

Wonderful Machine is a production company with a network of 700 photographers around the world. We currently have 23 staff members working from our office in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Our company provides three main services: we promote our member photographers (collectively) through our directory, we help photographers with a variety of consulting services, and we produce photo shoots for clients. We charge photographers a monthly fee for a listing on our directory, and an hourly (or project) fee for consulting and shoot production.

Our staff members perform three types of tasks: brand management, research/outreach and consulting. Brand management is a term we use to describe all the routine marketing that we do to promote our member photographers, and research/outreach describes our efforts to find and connect with all of the people in our industry who are important to us. Initially, new staff members spend most of their time learning about brand management and research/outreach. Over time, our staff members gradually transition from brand management tasks to consulting projects. All of our staff members continue to do research and outreach in order to cultivate relationships with important people in our industry.

There are six main types of people and companies we’re interested in:

  1. Clients (sometimes called prospects) are important to us because nothing happens without clients and it’s why all the other types of people exist at all (including us). Clients include ad agencies, brands, corporations, catalogs, magazines, graphic design firms, book publishers, record companies, non-profits, etc. (anyone who uses high quality commercial photography (and increasingly video) on a regular basis).
  2. Photographers account for the majority of our revenue through their membership and consulting fees. We work to attract the best photographers from around the world. Having great photographers on our site allows us to attract quality clients.
  3. Crew is a term that describes all the people and companies who help photographers execute photo shoots. They include stylists, make-up artists, digital techs, location scouts, caterers, and more. Photographers and clients love that we can help them find excellent crew anywhere in the world.
  4. Many photographers and crew work with agents, who help get them assignments and manage their careers. Many of our photographers have agents, and the exposure we provide augments the promotion that their rep provides. We also frequently help photographers find the right agent, and we sometimes help agents with branding, marketing, estimates or shoot production.
  5. We cultivate strategic partnerships with all sorts of people in our industry to create publicity opportunities for our company and our photographers.
  6. Resources is a term that covers everyone else in our industry – everything from legal and accounting services to website templates and hosting to associations and workshops. Knowing all the important people and companies in our industry allows us to be a valuable resource to clients and photographers.

New staff members can expect to spend about a year in our basic training program learning all about our company and our industry. That initial phase of training has 9 different steps usually starting with learning about crew, then agents, resources, photographers, and publicity. Along the way, the training includes tasks like updating photographer profiles, responding to membership inquiries, writing blog posts, and doing research and outreach of all kinds. All of those tasks are designed to support our member photographers, support our consulting services, and provide valuable training for our staff. Three of our newest staff members also share the office manager job. They look after our physical space, our office equipment, they order supplies and provide light tech support to our staff.

After a new staff member passes through our basic training process, they get an opportunity to learn about client research and outreach and they get to assist our other staff members on various consulting projects. With experience, people tend to gravitate to one of our departments (photo editing, marketing consulting, production), but they also have an opportunity to forge a path that might also include graphic design, creative direction, or social media. As positions open up in our consulting departments, we often promote one of our associate producers to fill those spots (though we sometimes hire more experienced people and put them directly into one of those spots).

Here’s a description of each of our current consulting departments:

Photo Editing

The consulting services that our photo editors work on mainly involve helping individual photographers select pictures for their websites, print portfolios, iPads or special projects. That may seem like a simple process, but it takes a sophisticated, knowledgeable person to work with hundreds of pictures, reconciling a photographer’s interests and skills with the demands of the marketplace. You can see screencasts of some of our web edits on our YouTube page.

Marketing Consulting

Our marketing consultants work on consulting projects for individual photographers, including building prospect lists, arranging meetings, and creating and executing marketing plans. We've recently launched a Branding and Marketing (BaM!) Plan, where our marketing consultants evaluate every aspect of a photographer's business and compile a comprehensive report with specific recommendations to help that photographer achieve their goals. When our marketing consultants are not working on consulting projects, they reach out to photographers to tell them about our branding and marketing services.

Production

Our producers build cost estimates for photographers and they handle shoot production for both clients and photographers. Estimating is probably the single most challenging task that anyone in our company does. It takes a long time to learn how to do it, but it’s rare and valuable skill for those who can attain it. Shoot production is all about understanding the needs of a project and then hiring the appropriate crew, arranging the travel, and managing all of the logistics so that the shoot goes smoothly. All of our producers also connect with clients, to make sure they know who we are, to learn more about their needs and then figure out how we can help them. You can find a bunch of our estimate case studies on APhotoEditor.

Often when a staff member completes a consulting project, they write a short blog post about it, which helps promote our consulting services.

Hours, Location, Company Culture, Salary, Bonuses, Benefits

We work Monday-Friday, approximately 8:30am - 5:30pm plus as needed. There are times when people work additional hours, like when we’re producing a shoot, traveling to a portfolio event or meeting a deadline. But most evenings, you’ll find the office empty by 6 p.m. We work in a two-story 4400-square-foot building in Conshohocken. We have offices on the upper floor, and a conference room, lunch area and other common areas downstairs. The work atmosphere is pretty relaxed. We usually have the radio on at a low volume. We  discourage the use of ear buds and texting during work hours.

We encourage a collaborative approach that allows everyone to grow as fast as their own ability, ambition, and attitude allow. Influence is something that everyone earns every day by saying and doing smart things. Management responsibilities are fluid and not necessarily a function of seniority. Everything in our company is dynamic. No position is permanent, and no position has a fixed set of tasks. As staff members acquire more and more experience, and especially as they grow their consulting business, they gain more and more autonomy. We start everyone off with a lot of structure and supervision, and over time everyone earns more and more freedom to follow their own path. We have several staff members who work almost exclusively on consulting projects, and I make every effort to ensure that they have all the support they need to thrive. Everyone in the company is expected to have a lot of initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit, and people tend to succeed here in proportion to that ethos. Our company is growing at a rapid pace, which forces us to occasionally adjust everyone’s responsibilities, so being adaptable is essential. The pace of our growth provides a tremendous opportunity for people who are interested in growing. It will not appeal to anyone looking to punch a clock or perform an unchanging set of tasks.

You can read more about how we got our start on Kate Osba's blog.

Applicants sometimes ask if they can work part-time or work remotely, but since our staff members collaborate frequently and spontaneously, we can’t offer that at this time.

I start entry-level team members at $35k/year plus benefits and we reconsider everyone's compensation twice a year. Since we're essentially a consulting company, our raises are pretty modest until your consulting revenue exceeds your salary. In the short run, compensation is a function of how quickly you can learn about our company and our industry. In the long run, it’s mostly a function of how well you turn that knowledge into consulting revenue for yourself and for others in the company. We don’t pay a commission per se on that consulting revenue, but it factors heavily into our compensation calculations, and it can allow for dramatic compensation growth. After going through the first stage of our training rotation (which takes about a year), each of our staff members gets an opportunity to work on consulting projects. Many of our staff members have cultivated a loyal following of clients, effectively creating their own individual brand within the Wonderful Machine brand.

The benefits we offer include 18 paid days off/year (which can be used for any reason, including vacation, illness, or snow days), 7 paid holidays, an additional 300.00/month towards your health & dental insurance premium, and matching IRA contribution after you earn 5000.00 in two consecutive years.


The Wonderful Machine team in the bullpen of our Conshohocken office.

What I’m looking For

With such a small company, each of our staff members has an opportunity to make a big impact. So I’m looking for people who have the potential to help us grow. Most of our work is about becoming an expert in some area, then communicating that expertise to photographers and clients. A background or interest in photography, sales, marketing or advertising is nice, but emotional/intellectual intelligence and people skills are more important. Otherwise, I’m looking for someone who is articulate, personable, conscientious, hard-working, adaptable, proactive and generous. By generous, what I mean is that our ability to succeed is largely dependent on our staff members’ ability to collaborate with one another, as well as with the photographers and clients we serve.

How to Apply and How I’ll Respond

If after reading all that, you think we might be a good match, please send your resume to [email protected] listing your education and experience, and a brief cover letter (which can be in the body of the email) describing why you’d be a good fit for Wonderful Machine. I'll acknowledge your email by saying, “Thanks, I’ll take a look.” If you don’t hear from me again, that means that I don’t think that you’re quite right for us at this moment. I get a lot of inquiries, so I’m sorry that I won’t be able to offer more feedback than that. It’s nice if you address your email to me personally (please call me Bill), rather than to “Dear Hiring Manager.” And you’ll score extra points if you include a link to your LinkedIn profile (which helps me keep tabs on you if I can't hire you this time around).

If it looks to me like you might be a good match for us, I’ll ask to meet up over Skype for a quick chat. I’ll have some questions for you, and it’ll be nice if you have some questions for me. I tend to interview a lot of people and I tend to take a long time to make a decision. I will do my best to let you know if you are definitely not getting that particular job. But since we’re growing fast, sometimes one set of job interviews can run into the next. So if I don’t tell you that you didn’t get the job, it could mean that I’m still considering you for the next opening. I’ll do my best to keep you posted, but there are times when I simply have to leave people hanging. I don’t mind if you follow up by email, and I’ll do my best to give you a meaningful update.

I hope that’s helpful. Please let me know if there’s anything I could add to make this explanation more useful. Thanks!