Talk up your client list and be prepared to sell yourself. This is no time to be humble. Make a follow-up phone call if you don't hear back within two weeks of your mailing. If you don't hear from the agent following the phone call, assume the rep is currently not interested. "Currently" is the key word. As with clients, a rep's needs change often. While additional phone calls are almost sure to be unwelcome, well timed direct mail and e-mail messages containing relevant information (awards, new shots, new assignments), can be useful. Send your updates only to reps you are truly interested in working with, knowing that your efforts may produce results-eventually. Rejection is not the issue, timing is.
Mennemeyer, who has been on the receiving end of these requests for years, offers these thoughts:
"We often hear the phrase 'timing is everything,' but what that overlooks is the nod to persistence, because without it, timing is nothing more than dumb luck. You have to create the opportunity for the timing to be right and that comes by staying in touch gently. After all, this art is what advertising itself is based on . . . the idea of planting the seed in a person's mind so that when the time comes for them to make a choice you are considered. Too often people will press me with monthly calls or emails [or] postcards, which only makes me tune them out, and then they give up and wonder why they aren't more successful. "
What should you do?
"Use postcards . . . enter contests and email me news of your account wins and ads or editorial pieces that are running," says Mennemeyer. "Show me that you have momentum going and I'll want to be a part of your team. Call me with a desperate tone that reeks of, 'I need work, can you give me some?' and I'll run like hell in the opposite direction," he explains.
Building a Good Business "Marriage"
If you move slowly but consistently you will find yourself an agent. When you find appropriate candidates, be prepared to open your books, heart, and mind. The rep-talent partnership is a business relationship, true, but has many similarities to a marriage. Two distinct personalities are working toward a common goal. Working in the same direction, you need to discuss personal, financial, and professional objectives. Determine the rep's expectations of you and talk about your expectations of the rep. Ask to see samples of work the rep has obtained for his talent. Be prepared to show your body of work. If conversations progress, feel free to ask for references from talent and clients. Be ready to offer your own client references as well.
Once you find a rep, the real work begins. As with any relationship, clear and distinct goals are as important as common values. Respect, unfailing honesty, and excellent communication are needed in order for the relationship to succeed. Set team goals and yearly objectives. Monthly meetings to discuss long-term progress are essential-either on the phone or in person. Too often, talent and reps let this slide. Used to speaking on a daily basis about current work, future plans are often put aside. Good communication is an ongoing practice, and regular discussions outside daily activity updates are a must. Don't constantly pepper your agent with calls. Choose instead to list your questions and bring them to your weekly or monthly meetings. If you need to talk about real-life, real-time issues call; otherwise sit back and simply trust.
Finally, expectations must be realistic. The bottom line is the rep needs to bring in work, and you need to support that effort. Most relationships take between six months and 18 months before the flow of assignments begins.
Provide the rep with a strong portfolio and update it with new images or illustrations monthly. Turn over all available leads to your rep and meet all deadlines for any promotional material. Accept all assignments from your rep and service them to the best of your ability.
Too often, photographers seek representation because they think a rep will take over all the business responsibilities and they can just sit back and wait for the bucks to roll in. This is not true. With a good rep, you will be working harder than ever, and not just on the assignments the rep brings in but on your talent as well. Be prepared to be an active partner in this unique relationship and the rewards will be well worth the effort!
Selina Maitreya has been counseling photographers for three decades; helping them develop their vision, build portfolios that sell and marketing tools that enable them to compete in today’s marketplace. For more on Selina and her services visit www.1portauthority.com or www.selinamaitreya.com.