Hiring a Photography Representative

(Last Updated On: February 2, 2016)
Photography by Rosh Sillars

Photographers like to create photographs. That’s no surprise. However, business and marketing activities are usually at the bottom of creatives enjoyment list. If only you can find someone to do it for you.

The Good News and Bad News.

It’s common for photographers to feel once they hire a creative representative, it will solve their problems. While a sales representative is helpful, It can create a new problem. It’s called complacency. Thinking you now have it made, it’s all taken care of for you and the jobs will now magically come rolling through the door. This is the wrong mindset.

If you team up with an established representative, you are lucky. A good rep can help find new opportunities and audiences for your photography. Unfortunately for the photographer, the reality is you can’t stop marketing your work. Having a representative on your team is only part of the equation, especially if they represent other photographers.

The fact is the more you actively support your rep the greater your chance of success. You must be part of the process. You can’t quit your photo marketing day job.

What To Look For In A Representative

I’ve hired and trained many representatives over the years. A warm body is not the answer to your sales needs. Based on my experience, the following criteria must be met before I consider training a new sales person for my businesses:

  1. They must have successful sales experience.
  2. They are good at following up.
  3. They have creative ideas.
  4. They understand how to open new markets.
  5. Friendly.

Take note of how they handle the interview with you. Did they confirm the appointment? Are they prepared with good questions? Did your prospect follow-up by sending a thank you card?

Before you hire someone, ask yourself: Would I buy from this person? Would my current customers like this person? Will this person represent my company well in the marketplace? If you have a good prospect, take them around to a few of your clients for feedback.

Although I list friendly as a criteria, it is at the bottom of the list. I know a lot of friendly people who have a many friends and can’t sell. Still, people buy from those they like and trust.

Don’t worry about their photography experience; just make sure they have enthusiasm about your photography. You can train people in the basics of your craft. Remember, you need a sales person not another photographer.

If your rep is home-grown, make sure you have a plan for training your new sales person. Teach him about the sales process, your style, pricing, philosophies and workflow. Make sure you put these ideas in writing. It is important to set expectations for your rep. This also means be realistic on your end. There is a lot of photographic competition and it takes time to develop relationships.

This is why an established agent is so valuable. Their connections and network are already in place. If you want to earn a spot on a reps roster, it takes research. It’s a balancing act. You need to find a representative who represents your style of work, but doesn’t have exactly what you do in their line up. In other words, your work complements and not directly competes with the work of the other photographers they represent.

The right attitude

Based on my experience, representatives usually receive 20 to 30 percent commission on the photography fee. In the case of my rep April, she receives 20% of all photography fees. Not just accounts she lands or closes. This helps to keep her going while working on bigger opportunities. When I represented photographers I charged 25% for the jobs I brought to the table. There are many ways you can approach fees and commission.

It’s common for business owners to feel their sales team is making too much money, especially after the agent finds success. If you feel sales people are costing you money and not earning a deserved commission for a job well done, you have the wrong attitude. Good sales people work hard. Commission sales people work for free until they earn a sale. They are not making 25% for answering one phone call. It’s their fee for the months or years of work it took to earn such a phone call and the ability close the deal.

If you want to have a good relationship with your representative, develop the mindset that you want to help her earn more income. If you find yourself, at any point, trying to figure out how to avoid paying commission, having a representative is not right for you.

Remember, if a rep sells $100,000 worth of photography in a year for your business, she is only taking home about $25,000, before expenses – hardly a professional living if your agent only represents you.

Collaborate with other photographers. Consider hiring a representative to work with you and other professionals in your area, each specializing in different photographic or creative disciplines. As a team, negotiate and develop a base salary or a draw, plus commission for the rep. A diverse group of photographers gives the agent a greater opportunity to sell more photography.

There are many possibilities. Few people have the same passion for your work as you do.  A sells representative is helpful, however, you must be part of the process and never stop marketing on your own. It’s a team effort.


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