There are several ways to make money with your photography, and freelance photography jobs is a big one. I even have a post on the blog listing food photography jobs.
What I figured would help you is telling you HOW to get freelance photography jobs. So I’ll be making a series of posts about this. This works for any photography discipline, not just food.
I talk about getting photography clients heavily in my Food Photography Club membership site with several courses and webinars about the topic. There’s a lot to this. I realized that I haven’t written much about this on the blog, so this will be a helpful series for you.
Before we get into this first part – I do need to clarify something. I will be talking about working with businesses as your clients, commercial clients. This is called B2B (business to business).
As a commercial photographer, I am never taking pictures for the general public. This is called B2C (business to consumer). If you do portrait work you can have both kinds of clients.
So let’s dig in!
Prospecting takes time!
First, this is something that you have to realize – with any business, finding clients is not instant. This takes time. You are looking for clients that have a problem that you can solve. You are also creating a relationship.
This is also a matter of timing. They might not need your photography right now, so you want to stay top of mind with them. This takes repetition of your marketing efforts. You don’t just send one postcard or email. I’ll cover marketing strategy in another post.
There are no instant, sneaky tricks to get commercial clients.
You will have to spend some money
In the Food Photography Club Facebook group I run, it seems almost weekly that someone will post that they are struggling to get clients. There could be a few reasons why, but one reason is they don’t know HOW to find them.
The fastest way to find clients is to buy marketing lists of targeted prospects. These are called Prospecting Lists. Every type of business has them.
Now, don’t get me wrong – you can absolutely use Google and look up directories containing the types of clients I’ll be telling you about in a bit. How much time do you have? Those free directories you find online – how often are they updated?
Also, many of the companies that I go after have horrible SEO on their websites – this means that when I google, “advertising agency in Chicago”, as an example, there’s a ton of agencies that don’t show up in that google search.
There are companies that have staff where all they do is create business lists and attempt to keep them updated. We are exchanging our time in doing this task for money to buy these curated marketing lists.
Getting B2B Photography Clients Using Special Marking Lists
In this post I’m only going to be talking about one type of list. These are marketing lists made for creative businesses like ours. These are curated lists of businesses that hire photographers and artists regularly.
These are NOT the traditional business lists based on SIC codes or NAICS codes. I’m going to be doing a separate post about those lists, as that’s an entirely different animal that I have spent a lot of time learning about.
When you Google, “business mailing lists for photographers” you will not easily find the kind of lists I am talking about either. Many of those lists are of other photographers that our vendors use to promote products to us. Obviously that is not what we are looking for.
The companies I am talking about curate very special lists for photographers and artists. This is what you are paying for. In theory, they call all these companies regularly (they claim every 3 months or every 6 months) to make sure their data is up to date. You use their websites to access these databases.
They also offer other marketing programs that you can add on, but it’s not necessary.
Before the pandemic, these lists really were not that accurate. It’s just not possible for these companies to have 10’s of 1000’s of lists and update them 100%. During the pandemic, the lists are definitely not very accurate with so many of these people now working from home or actually laid off, sad to say.
But that’s ok, because what I do is get the company names from these lists and then do my own research to verify the contacts. You just have to do this with any list you buy.
The advantage of using these companies is that when you are using their emailer, we are able to spam the prospects legally (that is what we are doing after all), because these companies claim the prospects on the lists want to receive these emails.
I say, “claim” because each time I do an email campaign I always get one person who asks me how I got their email, and they’ve never heard of the company I used to get their contact info, in my case Agency Access.
As far as I am aware of, there are three main companies making these lists and have the marketing services I am talking about for photographers and artists. If you are aware of any not listed, please let me know in the comments.
THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST. THESE COMPANIES HAVE NO IDEA I AM WRITING ABOUT THEM. I AM NOT BEING PAID FOR THIS POST.
Please note: There is no perfect list company and there is no such thing as a 100% accurate list.
Agency Access – formerly Ad Base, has been been in the business since 1996. I’ve been with them on and off for years. I have a love-hate relationship with them (I will talk about how I clean up my marketing lists in the next post).
They finally now have enabled a monthly contract. Their plans used to be a yearly program that was impossible to get out of. They got a lot of flack about this.
You do have to purchase email credits though so you’ve got your monthly fees plus email credits.
They also offer a lot of other marketing services which I have never tried, just FYI. I’m more of a DIY gal.
The additional price you pay is based on how many email credits you want to buy. When I’m doing an email campaign, I tend to do a large amount of emailing. Some months I might send only 500 or 1000 emails, other months I’ve emailed 6000 contacts. I’ll talk about strategy in another post but when starting out, you do not need to do this many emails.
You can also just buy access to their database – no emailer. I have some words of caution if you plan on using something like MailChimp to do the emailing on your own (hint – this is NOT allowed by MailChimp to use purchased lists) that I will cover when talking about strategy.
Here is a screen shot of my dashboard:
The type of companies listed in their database are:
- Ad Agency
- Design Firms
- Fine Art
- Media Companies
- Production Companies
- Record Companies
When looking under Corporations – these are the types of client titles they have listed. The different businesses listed have different titles available:
- Art Director
- Art Producer
- Creative Buyers
- Creative Directors
- Graphic Designers
- TV Producers
They have gotten much better at listing someone’s title, but as you can see by that list – we are missing a few titles like, “Social Media Manager” and “Social Media Producer”, etc. for certain company types, so they don’t have every title used. Those lists do have sub categories finally, but there’s still some titles missing.
You can get specific about the kind of photography you are shooting. So for food photographers we could pick Beverages, Fast Food & Restaurants*, Food, and Snacks and Soft Drinks, for example.
Note about the restaurants – this is NOT a list of your local mom and pop restaurant, we have to use SIC codes for those. These are large chains and franchises.
Yodelist has a lot less contacts than Agency Access, but they claim their lists are much more accurate, AND that the people on those lists really do want to be on those lists.
I have not used them, but my previous rep did and really liked them. I have talked to them over the years and I do love their customer support.
The product you would want as a photographer is the Buyer and Agencies List that starts at $62 a month.
Like Agency Access, you can have an emailer where you can send email campaigns using the Yodelist platform.
Yodelist has a series of videos you can check out that show demos of their platform.
Bikini List The last list company to mention, is based in the UK. This will be for all our EU folks along with any US shooters who want to target the European market.
There’s a huge data protection law that deals will email compliance regulation that all EU shooters have to deal with called the GDPR and they claim to be compliant with that.
They also cover several Asian countries as well.
BikiniLists is the newest player in the creative/photographer marketing game. They do not disclose their pricing on their website. You have to set up a call for that. I really don’t like that. Always makes me feel like they will have different prices for different photographers for the same product. Why not disclose your pricing?
They have an emailer platform as well.
They do say on their website, “Our ever-growing database is updated daily by our industry-savvy team of researchers to maintain our renowned level of accuracy.” They can’t be updating 50,000 contacts every day. I don’t know how that could be possible.
What they should say is something like “the researches are working every day to update contacts”. But this does imply they are working on updating their lists, which is obviously necessary.
This is the Bikini List dashboard. So if you are in the EU, give them a call to see what kind of contacts they have for you and get pricing.
Working With A Photographer Marketing Consultant
There’s one last way that you can get a nicely curated list just for you. That would be working with a marketing consultant that works with photographers.
Wonderful Machine is one of those companies. Wonderful machine was started by a commercial photographer, Bill Cramer, and you can tell by his blog posts that he’s a very accomplished and ethical photographer. His company has all sorts of resources for you with your business.
You can also work with individual consultants. A good friend of mine and a total sweet heart is Mara Serdans. Mara worked at a huge ad agency in Los Angeles for many years, then decided to branch out on her own. So Mara knows the industry from the inside as she used to be one of our (photographers) clients.
You will pay more for this type of service, but you are working with industry professionals who know how to curate prospect lists.
Ok, we covered a lot today, but this is a good intro to the world of photography marketing lists. I’ve been using them since 1993 – no joke. Back then we bought floppy disks with these lists on them, printed them out on labels and mailed promos.
Now with the digital era, it’s 10 times easier for you to gain access to companies that hire photographers regularly.
Please join our conversation about food photography in my Food Photography Club Facebook group. I’m there every day answering questions and helping out other photographers. We’ve got over 5000 awesome photogs in there.