One question we get from many photographers is “Do I need a rep?” Life as a freelance photographer means taking on the role of a full-time business owner, and it’s understandable to want someone in your court, fighting for you and your work. Louisville-based photographer Clay Cook first came to me not with a desperate need to build his portfolio or client list, but from a place of growth. He wanted to know more about his options to further develop his business. So, coming from the perspective of research and experimentation, we began our process to find him a rep.
Clay is not only talented as a photographer, but he also has an eye for design and the tenacity for outreach. He’s used these skills to build his marketing mix. Clay does routine research and outreach, designs his emailers and print promos, and sends gifts that match his brand and personality. He is the type of photographer that agents look for – the type who puts the time and effort to consistently grow their business.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and meet a lot of great people and cultivate many relationships in the photography/creative industry. But, I’ve recently reached a plateau, in which I need a partner not only to handle much of the paperwork and estimating, but a partner to help break through to a new echelon of clientele that you can’t reach with promos, email blasts or portfolio reviews — the type of client that requires a trusted bridge to work with a new face. Ultimately, I believe I don’t need a rep to accomplish my goals, but I want to give it a shot.
When we began this process, Clay already had an established portfolio, a well-thought-out and consistent brand, and an impressive client list. Although we were only making a soft push to find a rep, Clay was in a good place to make these connections.
I started by creating a list of reps who might be a good fit for Clay. Something to keep in mind is that he lives in Louisville, not New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. I knew his location could be a deterrent to some reps, but a welcomed challenge to others.
My next step was the outreach — it can be nerve-wracking, but our goal was to make connections and receive feedback. While a number of our responses were “Thanks, but our roster is full,” there were a few reps interested in learning more. So, we had a few phone calls to discuss Clay’s work. By the end of my outreach, Clay had several connections, but no offer from an agent.
Once I completed my outreach, I sent Clay his list of agents with notes advising him to reach out and introduce himself within a few weeks. He did just that. Clay emailed the list of interested reps, respectfully introducing himself and asking for a phone meeting. He walked away with two in-depth calls lasting over 45 minutes.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I was confident that I had the portfolio and client list to be a worthy prospect for them.
What sets Clay apart is that tenacity I mentioned before and his ease of communicating with people and connecting with them on a personal level. One of these reps hadn’t even responded to my initial outreach, but Clay’s follow-up made the difference. My role was to make the introduction, but it’s up to the photographer to follow through and seal the deal.
Clay is still considering his options for representation. As a “firm believer in the power of a handshake,” he hopes to schedule an in-person meeting before he makes his final decision. In the mean-time, one rep has already pitched Clay to an ad-agency to shoot for a large beverage brand.
Working with Katie was great, from the initial phone call to the follow through, she met all my needs and was happy to help a photographer like me navigating unknown territory such as seeking representation.