Four Corners

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Why you don't need a Rep Pt III

"He [Yousef Karsh] thoroughly researches his subject, knows wife's name, or man's hobby,
and uses this information to the hilt. He's the ultimate flatterer." - Elliott Erwitt

Van Gogh could have 'Repped' himself better.

I expect that like me, early on in his career Vince was often down the pub with a few mates waxing lyrical about why no one valued what he did and 'if only he had an agent all this nonsense would go away and he could concentrate on the real business of making pictures' etc.

And then when things were getting a bit maudlin and everyone was staring into their beer. There'd be the usual awkward moment, no one wanting to look at the obvious gap at the side of Vince's head where a ear should live. Then to break the tension someone would ask if anyone wanted another drink, and Vince would have to say "No, I've got one ear thanks"and everything would go a bit Reservoir Dogs, so to speak.

I only wonder why he didn't take the next step.

Not to clean off the other lobe (for the full aero effect), but rather, to consider marketing and repping himself. Obviously he was mad, but surely you'd be mad not to (Hah).

There's no point me repeating what Bree Seeley said here, and I detailed how far off the mark I was when I first started out in Pt I , all that remains are a few of the nuggets which (with the benefit of hindsight) I now see turned my career around, or kicked it off depending on your point of view.

It wasn't my fault that I didn't understand the role of the Agent or Rep(resentative) when I started out. My understanding of an agent was someone with a bunch of jobs each week and a roster of photographers with which to do them. I, like most of us, had worked from age sixteen and a lot of that had been for agencies doing unskilled minimum wage work. So when I started out on my own, I was still yet to make the transition to a self employed professional mind-set.

This is a bigger deal than it might at first sound. The first and biggest favour that a freelancer can do themselves is to consider all business relationships to be on some level; partnerships.

Even the relationship with the client should be perceived as symbiotic. Yes you're providing a service but the client is equally dependent on your product. Think of the photo-editor going to her Art Director and justifying her choice of photographer with the pictures you made. If you provided her with bad work then her judgment will be brought into question as well as your abilities.

Similarly the relationship with an agent or rep should be considered a collaboration.Put simply, a good agent is a great business partner that helps an artist to realise all the perceivable benefits of their product, both material and non-material. In doing so it is the partnership that enables each to sustain and grow both of their practices.

A bad agent is a parasite.

Here are a few steps :

Educate yourself. You can do a lot worse than subscribing to somewhere like Photo District News and using their vast resources to do this, of especial interest should be their "People on the Move" section wherein you can track the players within the industry and with little amateur detective work get in touch. Likewise their "Who's shooting what" section, great for finding out who shot that great campaign perhaps because you want to assist that person or because your work is better and you want to get in touch with the creatives.

Be creative in your problems solving. Another way to educate yourself is to learn from someone whose work you admire and respect. If this person reps themselves successfully then you can learn a great deal. If not then consider an internship at an agency. You'll see first hand how the industry works from the other side, it continues to amaze me that so few aspiring photographers try this route and instead dive straight into the studios - go to the agency you'll be able to meet all of the photographers,their current assistants and their clients as well.

Bring more. When you get that meeting (though it might equally be a commissioned portrait) - be prepared, know about the person you're meeting and what they do. Everyone loves to be flattered to some extent. Everyone is vain and even the most hardened pro will wilt at another's genuine interest in their practice (but don't bullshit - only 'wrong people' love an ass-kisser).

Be prolific. Be disciplined. If you're not shooting,thinking,working everyday, then you're a part-timer and as such you should get another part time job because your approach to this one's not going to pay the rent on it's own.

Be reliable. You must be someone that solves problems for people. Not someone that adds to them. If a commissioning client finds that you always overcome, they will be more inclined to give work to you if only to make their lives a little easier. Not definitively but those extra jobs that you get because you're a rock, add up. Pretty soon you have a reputation. Try to take stuff out of the hands of the client - "I'll book that, leave it to me, I'll sort all those other things" not only does this mean you're empowered but also you're removing stress from somebody elses world. Again not a definitive answer but these little things add up to an holistic practice.

Use what you've got, (equally don't dwell on what you 'ain't got'). The phone is a very seductive tool and if you're butt-ugly, plump for it. I say this with some authority and I believe that the telephone sex industry revolves around this dynamic. So I heard.
Email can be a similarly deceptive tool and your correspondences should be considered (don't text speak - you will be thought of as a chimp), and subliminally allude to what you aspire to be (big,lots of staff or small and intimate).

Make the most of being small. Perhaps you heard? Size isn't everything. One person doesn't have the overheads that a big set-up has, small is personal, manouverable, quick to respond and efficient.
An agent won't have time to spend all of their attention on you. You do. And here's a thing, in fact you can afford to pay yourself a relatively high percentage of your turnover in order to spend your time on you. As you grow you can also afford to hire good people to do specific tasks that maximise your efficiencies rather than being saddled with full time staff that you have to pay during down times.
Having learned from the bottom up you will also understand the intimate workings of your practice and be able to spot possible problems early on in the future, again saving you money and making your business more efficient.

Think long, make a plan and see it through. One photographer that I worked for always made a list every Christmas of the things he'd achieved over the year and things he wanted to achieve over the coming year. I adopted this and find it very useful.
It's also a good way of seeing the positive things in what sometimes, on the surface, seemed a bad year. I'd add to it a longer plan for where you want to be in three years time as well and likewise how to get there. These plans tend to change and evolve but that's okay. It's all about disciplining yourself and setting in place a structure. No on else will do this for you, remember 'You are the boss'.

If Van Gogh had thought like this, then he wouldn't have donated an ear. That was very short-termist. Especially when we consider that at some point he'd probably need to wear glasses.

Stick to the plan Vince..... stick to the plan dude.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the information, made for a good afternoon read. now to apply some of it. with tortoise like efficiency
    Carl warren photography