Balancing a Business
Working through the Esto agency, located in Mamaronek, New York, as one of seven architectural photographers, Totaro networks between architects and marketing firms. His architecture and engineering background helped him build a reputation within the industry.
"When I started out, I had somewhat of an advantage over someone just graduating with a photography degree because I had been in the field and knew a lot of architects already," he says. "Some of my first clients were actually professors from school. But this was only a handful of clients. So I started doing direct mail and sending out postcards."
Totaro built his website three years ago, and for the past year he has tried marketing himself through Google advertising. However, according to Totaro, his most lucrative marketing effort has been sending out mini portfolios of his work.
"The portfolio is about 15 of my images bound in book form. I send it out to targeted clients-people that I know are working on a particular project that looks interesting-and those whom I haven't been in touch with yet. This has a very high percentage of return," he explains.
Often, just getting an interview with an architect can be difficult, so Totaro scouts potential jobs. "I might drive around Philadelphia and see a project under construction and ask who the architect was and send him one of these mini portfolios. That would generate enough interest to get me an interview with them," says Totaro.
In order to maintain a steady workflow along with quality pictures, Totaro finds a happy medium, balancing the number of jobs he is involved in and how much time he will need to produce exceptional images.
"The marketing approach for me is more specific than general. I go after really targeted accounts. I don't want to do too many at once, because I want to keep the business at a level where I can manage and produce quality work," he says.
His business strategy is to concentrate on repeat clients. To keep his clients coming back, Totaro listens to their needs and focuses on "the little things," as he puts it. "I try to be as responsive as I can to even the smallest questions or concerns. I find that in terms of billing, it's important to be as fair as possible while not giving things away. I try not to nickel and dime my clients. They know I'm there to get them the best photos I can and that I see the process as collaboration, not as an opportunity to stroke my ego."
Totaro is consistent, measured, and process-driven. His pictures are innovative, iconoclastic, and enigmatic. From his capture to his output to his business, he balances creativity with pragmatism. An architect to an artist, Totaro's multidimensional grasp is evident in his work and his person.
For more Totaro images, visit www.jeffreytotaro.com