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.
Wonderful Machine is a production company with a network of 700 photographers around the world. We currently have 20 full-time and 2 part-time 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 agencies and brands. We charge photographers a monthly fee for a listing on our directory, and an hourly (or project) fee for consulting and shoot production.
Since all of our opportunities arise out of us making new connections, cultivating existing relationships, and understanding the needs in the marketplace, we put a lot of effort into learning about the people and companies in our industry. Those people tend to fall into the following categories:
Internally, the work that we do to support those relationships falls into three categories: brand management, research/outreach and consulting. Brand management is a term we use to describe everything we do to promote our member photographers (and to support our company in general). Research/outreach describes our efforts to find and connect with the people in our industry who are important to us. And consulting describes projects that our individual staff members perform for individual photographers and clients.
We have a "training pipeline" that every staff member goes through (in whole or in part). The initial (basic training) phase has 10 steps (each taking 1-3 months), usually starting with learning about crew, then agents, resources, photographers (including handling member profile updates and membership inquiries), and publicity (including writing, copy editing, social media, press relations, and email marketing). Those tasks not only support our member photographers, but they simulate many of the consulting services that our senior staff members provide, making them a great learning opportunity for our junior staff members. The people at the beginning of the training pipeline also share the office manager job. Our office managers look after our physical space, our office equipment, they order supplies, and provide light tech support to our staff. They also take out the trash each day and clean out the refrigerator each month.
Everyone in the training pipeline contributes articles for our blog and also creates and updates department documentation.
After a staff member passes through our basic training, they learn about client and photographer outreach and they get an opportunity to assist our other staff members on various consulting projects. Over time, people tend to gravitate to one of our main consulting departments (photo editing, marketing consulting, estimates/production), but depending on their interests and skills, they also have an opportunity to forge a new path that could include social media, analytics, SEO, or creative direction. The process of "graduating" to a full-time consulting role tends to be gradual and organic. Opportunities come from a combination of overflow from our senior consultants, and projects our junior consultants generate on their own. We don't currently have any permanent admin or junior positions. Everyone is either a consultant or they're on their way to becoming one. Our experience has been that a transition to full-time consultant happens within 3 years. However, our experience is also that being a consultant requires a rare combination of interests, skills, and personality, and not everyone is cut out for that work. But even for the people who discover that consulting isn't their thing, nearly everyone who has gone through our training program has appreciated the skills that they've learned along the way.
Here’s a description of each of our current consulting departments:
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.
Our marketing consultants work on consulting projects for individual photographers, including building lists of prospect, arranging meetings, and creating and executing marketing plans. When our marketing consultants are not working on consulting projects, they reach out to photographers to tell them about our branding and marketing services.
Our producers build cost estimates for photographers and they handle shoot production for both clients and photographers. Estimating is one of the most challenging tasks that anyone in our company does. It takes a long time to learn, 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. Most of that work happens from our office, but our producers sometimes travel to the shoot location, which could be anywhere. When they're not doing estimates or production, our producers continue to cultivate relationships with prospective clients. You can find some 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.
We work Monday-Friday, approximately 8:15am - 5:45pm plus as needed. We expect our trainees to work an average of 45 hours per week and they use an online punch clock to track their time. They clock out for meals and breaks. There are times when we'll work additional hours, like when we’re producing a shoot, traveling to a portfolio event or meeting a deadline. 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 ask trainees to put their phone away during work hours. We intentionally create a lot of structure for the staff members who are in the training pipeline because we want to help them form healthy work habits to maximize their chances of long-term success. As staff members acquire more and more experience, and especially as they grow their consulting business, they gain more and more freedom to chart their own course and manage their own time.
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. All of our senior staff members 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 rapidly, which forces us to occasionally adjust our trainees' responsibilities, so being adaptable is essential.
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.
Our starting salary is $38k/year plus benefits, and we reconsider everyone's compensation each December. Since we're essentially a consulting company, our raises tend to be modest until the net revenue from the consulting projects you manage exceeds your compensation. We don’t pay a commission on consulting revenue, but it factors heavily into our compensation calculations, and it can allow for dramatic compensation growth. In the past, people starting at a $38k salary have seen total compensation (a combination of salary and bonuses) of $40k in their first 12 months. With good performance, their compensation has been 3% greater in the next 12 months. With very good performance, 6%. With excellent performance, 9%. By the time someone reaches $50k in annual compensation, it's our target that they'll be managing $50k in net consulting revenue. I can't predict what our raises or bonuses will be in the future, however, I aspire to be competitive with other companies in our industry and to compensate people fairly internally.
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 310.00/month towards your health & dental insurance premium (after 90 days), and matching IRA contribution after you earn 5000.00 in two consecutive years.
The Wonderful Machine team in the bullpen of our Conshohocken office.
Now that you've learned a little bit about our company, please consider whether our culture is a good fit for your interests, skills, and personality. Here are few important points:
With such a small company, each of our staff members has an opportunity to make a big impact. Most of our work is about becoming an expert in some area, then communicating that expertise to our photographers and clients. A background or interest in photography, sales, marketing/advertising, or research is nice, but emotional/intellectual intelligence and people skills are more important.
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 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.
You can read more about our history on Kate Osba's blog.
I hope that’s helpful. Please let me know if there’s anything I could add to make this explanation more useful. Thanks!