Keeping clients happy in the collaborative economy

multi-tool.jpgWhen I started out as a freelance photographer, that’s all I was thinking of doing, and clients didn’t expect me to offer more. I was a sole practitioner, offering a specific, in-demand service and that worked well for me and my clients.

But much as I love the art and craft of photographing people at events, or observing and documenting groups learning and networking at conferences or creating thoughtful portraits of professionals, clients today need – and expect – more.

Much – maybe everything – has changed about how companies communicate over the past fifteen years. The technology is different, the channels for publishing and sharing content are different, the ways in which content is created and shared is different, the speed and frequency at which content is expected to be produced and distributed has accelerated, and clients today need their creative suppliers to be able to respond to all of these changes, quickly.

The average product marketer, comms director, event manager or conference planner today has to feed content to a dozen different channels from social media to micro-sites, advertising, social media and emailer campaigns all while maintaining and developing a brand their target audiences can recognize and love.

The band’s back together again

Perhaps the biggest change has been the explosive growth in the collaborative economy, in which independent gig workers and freelancers come together for projects and share and grow each other’s business through a web of interrelated referrals and service offerings – and there is more work than ever thanks to the never-ending maw of the internet that creates a constant demand for images, video, graphic design, graphic notation for illustrating ideas produced in a workshop or at a conference, written content and more.

This demand for more services has been a stimulus for growth for my way of doing business, and over the years, I grew and expanded on my main offering to satisfy the needs of my clients as a way of rewarding and maintaining their loyalty.

And it’s provided me with a chance to learn new skills, and stay relevant in a competitive space where there is always a new up and comer, right behind me willing to do what I do for close to nothing.

Photography, videography, podcast production, & more

Today I am happy to be able to offer videography through curated collaborations with skilled directors and videographers I regularly work with; photobooths for events and parties through my side hustle at LePartybooth.com; design and podcast production in collaboration with Media Mercantile; as well as copywriting and content creation.  (I even wrote a book about freelancing based on everything I’ve learned living it over the past fifteen years, Gigonomics: A Field Guide for Freelancers in the Gig Economy ).

By offering a wider range of services, my clients are able to find what they need for the event and conference needs, and I am able to grow and develop new client relationships.

While some event managers and communications coordinators may prefer to work with different teams of vendors, I’ve found that most find it more efficient and satisfying to have one main supplier who can handle the full range of their content creation and coverage needs. This keeps things simpler from a project management perspective, and it is more efficient, as my team and I are able to leverage our learning and understanding of a client’s brand, company, culture and industry across related projects.

Adapting to rapid technological and cultural change is a necessary skillset for freelance content creators in today’s gig economy. Luckily, it’s also a fun way to keep learning and stay on top of your field. Developing and building a professional team of talented freelancers who fill out your offering to provide clients with the full suite of services they need to help them complete their mandate is increasingly becoming the new normal for the kind of work I am doing these day. The projects are bigger and more  complex with more moving parts to coordinate, but the end results are often even more satisfying than just sending out a link to an online gallery. Creative services like the ones I manage and offer are an integral part of what many clients need to deliver on to satisfy their own internal and external clients. Having the support of a curated collection of people who’ve worked together, who can be trusted to deliver quality service on time and within budget is a precious commodity and one I’m proud to be able to provide my clients.

Got a project you’re working on now you need some creative support on? Let’s connect.

Using Pinterest to share ideas with your photographer / client

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Secret boards are only viewed by people you invite to see the board. You can invite them to view or participate in image curation by giving them edit rights. Photographers can start boards and invite clients to contribute, or vice-versa. Clients can also share in-house with staff and management who will be involved in the upcoming shoot.

When you are meeting with a photographer to discuss an upcoming photoshoot at your office or one of your facilities, using Pinterest boards can quickly bring you and your photographer’s vision for the shoot into alignment.

When I meet with a client to discuss an in-office corporate portrait session, or plan out a day-in-the life type shoot where the aim is to build up a bank of customized (client owned) stock photos, I often find creating and sharing a “Secret Board” on Pinterest is a useful tool.

 

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Creating a Secret Board is easy, Just like creating any other Pinterest board. Just toggle the Secret switch and then invite collaborators/viewers.

From a photographer’s point of view the method helps stimulate ideas and allows you to show both your experience and skills in collaborating with your client. From a client perspective, the method can help generate concepts and be an easy way to share the vision for the shoot with everyone else in the company who needs to get on board.

Why not just use your own portfolio? Of course you can add some of your own images to the mix, but by the time you are having a client meeting, odds are your client has already viewed your portfolio or you’ve been recommended to them and they assume you have the skills to do the work you are being asked to do. Using images from your body of work that are relevant to the kind of photoshoot you are planning won’t hurt – but by sharing a “Secret Board” with your client and inviting them to collaborate on it you help ensure stronger engagement from your client and give him or her the opportunity to collaborate creatively in the planning sessions – which is actually a fun part of the project. You can also include a broad range of images – some of which may just be there as a means of showing what is possible, or to get people’s creative juices flowing.

The success of an in-office photo shoot relies in good communication.

As a photographer, your job is to walk your client through a typical shoot: How long will you need for set up? Where are the best places in the office to do the shoot? What should people wear? When will they receive their photos and what’s included in delivery? And of course, how much will it cost?

Your client, meanwhile, has the double task of meeting and coordinating with you but also communicating to the employees being photographed everything you’ve explained about the shoot and more. They will need to coordinate schedules (no small feat), and send reminder-“Tomorrow is photo day!”-type emails to employees much like the notes parents get on the eve of school photo day. (This is surprisingly important: you’d be surprised at how many professionals I’ve had to photograph in morning shifts who show up unshaven, unrested and with a look of dazed confusion claiming they forgot it was photo day).

 

 

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One very useful way for the client responsible for coordinating the shoot to communicate with the staff being photographed is to share with them a set of images setting the vision for what they are trying to achieve. If you create a board in Pinterest, then (ideally) gather up the employees for a brief meeting with the board projected on the wall you can quickly bring everyone onto the same page (literally).  Again, this becomes another opportunity for engagement and collaboration and can be done with or without the photographer being present. It can also help mitigate nervousness about the upcoming shoot and provide context for why it is important.

In portraits especially when dealing with non-professional models (ie most of us), people actually appreciate being told what to do, how to stand, where to look and what to wear. All people think in terms of narratives. If you can show your employees where the photos being taken will fit into a story – “we’re using this photo for the header image on our careers page to show people what it’s like working here”, it helps them understand their role and also alleviates their self-consciousness.

In corporate photography you have to think about what the photo will be used for, and how well it communicates the firms’ brand and culture. A conservative lawyer’s office is not likely to have their team stand out in the street in front of a graffiti covered brick wall for their team photo (which an ad agency may well consider as a great backdrop). You can be creative with the looks you try to achieve but in the end, what matters most is whether or not the photos help – or distract – from their core purpose.

Using Pinterest boards to discover, curate and share visual ideas with everyone involved in an upcoming photoshoot helps make photo day a success. The people in the photographs are likely to enjoy the process more, and the marketing or communications team is more likely to end up with images they expect and will be able to use for their intended purpose.

Give it a try. Create a free account on Pinterest and start pinning. When you’re done you can just delete the board or keep it if you think it will be helpful again. (Just be forewarned – Pinterest can be slightly addictive and you may wind up like me creating boards to match all your interests like reading, cooking, travelling, freelancing, etc, etc…)