May 7, 2021

How to kickstart your career with no experience

How to kickstart your career with no experience

💯💯💯 "If you never learn anything about creative fees, intellectual property licensing or amending contracts for the rest of time, but you consistently do these reactions, you will set yourself up for tremendous success as your talent and experience grows."

EP 19:  When you start your creative career, the big first hurdle is convincing people to trust you even though you have no experience.  It's a classic "chicken and the egg" scenario.  You need the work to get the experience, and you need the experience to get hired to do the work.  So what can we do to kickstart our career that requires no industry experience?   In this episode, I talk about 3 simple principles to start implementing now to accelerate your confidence as a professional. 

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All right, what is up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of entrepreneurs. Thank you for joining me today. This episode is for those of you who are looking to kickstart your photography career for the first time with little to no work experience. I mean, talk about a tricky stage to be in because you don't know what you don't know. And when I first started, I didn't understand contracts. I didn't understand pricing strategy or intellectual property. I didn't even have the portfolio yet. But I did know that I wanted to start working. And so the question is, what can we do in lieu of this lack of experience? Is there a seat at the table for new photographers looking to get a piece of the pie without a client resume without high-pressure jobs under our belt, and no referrals and a beginner's portfolio? Well, that's what I'm going to dive into today. So if you are feeling a little bit ill-equipped to compete in the market, don't stress about it too much, I'm going to give you three actionable steps that you can implement today to get the ball rolling. 

Now the best part about these steps is that they don't require any work-related experience. They don't require a great deal of talent. And they don't require any connections in the industry. It only requires diligence and a little outside-the-box thinking so let's get started. 

So step number one to me is to create a small contact list of clients that you would like to work with. Now, I did just launch an episode last week called how to generate leads through client lists. So if you want a more in-depth look at creating a full list of potential clients, be sure to check out Episode 19 when you have a little bit of time. But for now, you don't need all of that we're gonna get hyper-focused on a small list of prospective clients, I would start between one and three publications that you want to work with. Now there are two things that you should emphasize when coming up with your three prospects to help you narrow your focus. 

The first one is to establish what type of work that you want to do, and find publications that match that style. So I would recommend not casting such a wide net by listing sports magazines with political newspapers and commercial ad agencies that specialize in food photography. Instead, get focused on what you want to shoot and seek out those who have the same interests. 

The second point of emphasis is to list down attainable points of contact, the names you write down on your list, you will be responsible for contacting. Again, this episode is all about the actionable steps that we can take right now with no experience. I'm all for listing Nike or Vogue or the New York Times as your top three options. But it may not be that easy. For one that might be overly ambitious if you have zero experience. But more importantly, I just want you to be able to actually find the contact person at that publication that you need to I'm looking for the path of least resistance here. By all means see clients that you want to work with. But if you can't get ahold of the photo editor at Rolling Stone, maybe start smaller, seek out local newspapers, magazines, and small businesses. 

Alright, so now that we've gotten a shortlist of people that we want to work for, let's move on to actionable step number two, which is to create content for those clients as if you're already being commissioned to do it. It is my belief that a lot of publications are actually hoping new ideas and new content drops on their desk, as opposed to them having to create content from scratch. So if you do the heavy lifting for a publication, you increase the chances of getting hired. So this comes down to three basic principles to me, identification, creation, and amplification. identification is all about identifying what the client needs. You've already identified that maybe your photography style matches theirs. But what kind of content do they need? Is there a story or a creative concept that should be told by this publication, but usually isn't. editors and creative directors are great at what they do, but they can't come up with every single story or every great idea. We need to think about what is missing from this picture. If we can identify what our clients need, we've taken the first step to become an asset, the next step is creating it. 

So a lot of people identify with being creative, but rarely do people put the work in to earn that title. To me, it is a call to action. If you're not creating things, you are not creative. So if you want to work for the LA Times, don't wait for them to hire you and assign you a story. Just cover your own story. If you want to shoot lifestyle work, you have to create lifestyle work. And if you want to get hired to shoot portraits, you have to build up a portfolio of portrait work. This should be obvious, but it needs to be stated. Now the great thing about creating your own work is that there is almost no downside. Even if the images don't turn out well, during your project. You haven't wasted a client's budget, you haven't lost out on any big opportunity or ruined your reputation. You simply spend time on learning your craft. And with that we are one step closer to securing our spot with a client. 

that next step is about amplification. So think of this as an extension of the creative phase. What more can you do with the content you've already created to really stand out with a client instead of doing a day project? Can you assign yourself a multi-day project that you keep revisiting?

So instead of just making pictures, can you amplify it with video or writing or podcasting. I mean, not only will this create a richer catalog of imagery, but it's going to highlight your passion for a subject that you really dive deep on. So I want to cite a few photographers I know who have done a great job at this. So the first creative who comes to mind is our friend Alexis Quaresma, who I interviewed in Episode 14, be sure to check out that interview as well. He spent years working on a visual essay with world-class ballet dancers. And because of that breadth of work that he did, he could then amplify that beyond just an Instagram post. So he didn't just stop with creating great images. He also produced a short film, multiple YouTube videos and a soon-to-be-published book on the whole artistic process. 

And another photographer, I know Josh Jordan spent months on creating street portraits of people whose stories are never told. And as a result, not only was he able to make an impact in his community by donating all his proceeds from print sales, to the homeless outreach, but I'd bet my life savings that he learned so much about connecting with strangers, about making people comfortable, and how to tell a story through portraits beyond that he amplified that work by talking to schools and workshops about how he created this project. 

And then the last creative that comes to mind is another friend of the show, James Patrick, who is our episode 12 interviewee who amplified his reach beyond photography, and instead wrote articles or publications that he wanted to work with. This immediately got me to think about how photographers could leverage this in their own pursuits as well. Can you augment your photo story with an article that you write? Could you attach an interview from the subject that you photograph, these are just a couple of things to consider when you're producing your own project, you have the power to be a force multiplier. Instead of shooting a personal project in one day with no direction, try considering how you can leverage that work that you've already done to other avenues of exposure.  And sure the photographers that I've named are already talented and have plenty of experience. But what they did relied more on their thought process and more on their approach, as opposed to the work experience that they had. 

Okay, so now that you've done steps one and two, you're almost all the way there. The last actionable step is the simplest in theory, but for some the hardest to execute. And that is marketing all year long. Yes, Instagram is great. But the reason I spent almost zero time focused on Instagram marketing, is because you have to assume that people looking at your posts are the people who already follow you who you really want looking at your work are the people you wrote down on that list. And to ensure that we need to be more direct with our marketing, I find that any sequence of email, phone call and print promotion works really well. And if you can't find the email of the editor or the art director that you want to connect with, start with a phone call to ask who was in charge of photography, if you're lucky enough to get someone on the phone, make the conversation short and sweet, but let them know who you are and what you've been working on. Let them know that you'll be sending some work their way either in the form of an email or print promotion of this project. And after you do give it a few days, and then follow up. And that folks is really it when it comes to marketing. If you've gone through steps one and two of client research and content creation, you don't need to do much of a pitch. The work you've already put in is doing all the heavy lifting your job from here on out is to simply keep repeating the process. 

Don't get discouraged if someone says no, if that is the client that you want to work with, keep identifying what they're missing, produce and amplify the content that they need. And then keep letting that publication know that you're here. Don't wait for people to reach out to you. We are trying to establish proactive habits instead of reactive habits. And it doesn't require any artistic skill or industry experience, your experience is going to come through actions just like this. So if you are just leaving school, or you're starting out your second career as a new creative, don't worry about where you are in the race mile number one is actually a great place to be in terms of accelerating your learning of this industry. And I truly believe that if you did this just once a quarter, you'll actually outpace a lot of the creatives out there with more experience than you. 

So to review, step one is to start off by writing down one or two perspectives that you want to work with and get their contact info. Step number two is to create a project that satisfies a need for that publication, and then find ways to multiply or amplify that project. And then step number three is to get that project on the desks or desktops of the people you want seeing it. And that is it. It seems very simple, but it actually works. If you never learn anything about creative fees, intellectual property licensing or amending contracts for the rest of time, but you consistently do these reactions, you will set yourself up for tremendous success as your talent and experience grows. And so that is going to wrap things up for us today everybody I wish all of you photographers out there looking to get started in your careers, a fabulous and fruitful beginning and I hope entrepreneurs can be a small part of that journey. Thank you for tuning in everybody. My name is Michael Der and entrepreneurs season one continues with new content each and every Friday. Stay focused everybody and have a great week.