Apply: Marketing Associate

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 24 full-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.

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 support our company in general). Research/outreach describes our efforts to find and connect with various 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 to consulting projects.

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

  1. Clients (we also refer to them as 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 a year or so in our leadership training program learning all about our company, our industry, and about teamwork in general. That initial phase of training has 10 steps (taking 1-3 months each) 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 lots of research and outreach. 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. Our OMs 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 leadership training, they get an opportunity to learn about client and photographer outreach and they get to assist our other staff members on various consulting projects. With experience, people tend to gravitate to one of our main consulting departments (photo editing, marketing consulting, estimates/production), but they also have an opportunity to forge a path that might also include social media, SEO, graphic design, or creative direction. As positions open up in our consulting departments, we often promote one of our marketing associates (we also use the term associate producer) to fill those openings (though we sometimes hire more experienced people and put them directly into 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 lists of prospect, 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.

Shoot Production

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 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, History

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 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 freedom to chart their own course and manage their own time. 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. The pace of our growth provides a great opportunity for people who are good team players. The job will not appeal to anyone looking to punch a clock or who is primarily focused on their own comfort.

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 staff members at $38k/year plus benefits and we reconsider everyone's compensation twice a year after their first year. Since we're essentially a consulting company, our raises are very modest until your consulting revenue exceeds your salary. 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.

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 work is at times difficult and/or unpleasant, but the result of that hard work is that we provide a tremendous benefit for our clients and our member photographers. If you are looking for a job that's fun all the time, this is probably not that job. If you are interested in photography and advertising and you find meaning in helping the people around you succeed, you will find this job meaningful, gratifying, and sometimes even fun.

You can read more about our history on Kate Osba's blog.


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 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. 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.

What is it that's unconventional about Wonderful Machine?

  • Innovation is an important part of our company culture. We sometimes do things differently than other companies, not just to be different, but because we've found a benefit to that innovation. As a result, your experience as a Wonderful Machine staff member may be different than your experience elsewhere. You may like some of those differences and dislike others. Our company structure and all of our company policies are intended to have the greatest long-term benefit for the company (which is sometimes in conflict with the short-term interests of individual staff members or me).
  • We have a leadership training program where everyone learns the basics of research, outreach/business development, photo editing, writing, and social media. We have found that understanding a lot about our company and about our industry makes our staff members to be good collaborators internally, and it makes them more valuable to photographers and clients externally. Some of our staff members like the diversity and challenge of these experiences and others are uncomfortable with one or more of those roles. It's our expectation that our staff members contribute their best efforts in everything they do, even when they find those tasks diffucult or unpleasant.
  • Since our work is so specialized, it's hard to find people with the skills we need (especially in Philadelphia). (Have you ever tried to find someone with experience doing photography estimates or building lists of photography clients?) As a result, we tend to hire inexperienced people who are smart, communicative, and cheerful, and train them on everything they need to know in order to be successful. I do sometimes hire people with experience.
  • Over the years, we've evolved into a consulting company. That means that once you graduate from our basic training program, it becomes your job to cultivate a skill (like photo editing, marketing, or shoot production), communicate that skill to publications, agencies, brands, and photographers, and then manage the projects that come in. When our junior consultants are getting started, they collaborate with our senior consultants to learn the ropes. Our consultants enjoy all of the benefits of running their own company without any of the risks. This is great for people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, but it probably won't be appealing for people who don't.
  • Our company culture is client-focused rather than employee-focused. This one is has historically been a challenge for many of our staff members. Since we can only work on projects that our photographers and clients hire us to do, we focus our attention on understanding those photographers and clients and then figuring out how to serve them. This means that sometimes individual staff members get to work on projects they enjoy working on and sometimes they have to work on projects that they don't love. Even though we put a lot of energy into creating opportunities for our staff members and cultivating a happy work environment, we are limited by the needs of our clients.
  • All of our roles involve business development. Even when someone ends up specializing in photo editing, marketing, or shoot production, they are responsible for cultivating their own clients. At most publications and agencies, there are people who sell projects and other people do the projects. At our company everyone does both selling and doing.
  • We have a flat management structure. We're basically a consulting company where all of our consultants learn to manage their own clients and collaborate with other staff members to grow. In the future, we may add on managers.
  • We aren't a company of "creatives," we're a company of "project managers." Sometimes when people see our website, they see creative work like photography, writing, and design. It's important to understand that even though our staff dabbles in these tasks here and there, the main emphasis of our work is in business development and project management. If you apply for a job because of our creative opportunities, you are likely to be disappointed.
  • We bundle sick days, vacation days, and snow days into a pool of 18 paid days off each year. Some people would rather separate time off into these three different categories, but we find that our staff members like the flexibility of being able to take time off for any reason or no reason at all.
  • We expect all of our staff members to work with us exclusively. We pay our staff members a retainer (in the form of a salary) to support them until they become self-sufficient as consultants. In exchange for that retainer, we expect all of our staff members to work on all of their projects as part of their job, even if a client found them independently of Wonderful Machine (we don't want to compete with our own staff members).
  • I work closely with everyone in our training program. I am constantly coaching everyone on their work and I'm constantly having conversations about how we can improve upon our processes. Since we have 24 staff members, 700 photographers, and countless clients, it's my job to reconcile everyone's interests and then create structure and policies that I think will work best. In most cases, I won't be able to follow your advice, but I want you to give it to me anyway.

I sometimes get criticism on Glassdoor for my unconventional ways, which you can read here. I am constantly getting feedback from clients, photographers, crew, current staff members, and former staff members, and I do my best to consider all of that feedback when making decisions about company policy and structure. However, as much as I put a lot of energy into working with each of our staff members to learn and grow, it's safe to say that this company is not a good match for everyone.

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!