Thanks, lots to think on...It was a ten-year whirlwind, from agency creative to studio; I think it helped that I was a marketing-minded guy. Back then we'd get marker layouts, and later on computer-made comps. I'd be discussing the shoot and say "if your headline said this" or "you're talking to two different markets, split this into two ads"... I'd end up getting the shoot, and then the next go-round writing and designing the project as well. Ended up sort of a one-man agency with in-house photography, and got photo and illustration work from smaller agencies. Back then it was much more about living in a large market than it may be today though. But I was doing photoshop from version 2 - when it came on a pile of floppies - and became a go-to guy for the color separators when they were stumped with a retouch (my college days were all about illustration so I understood making things look "real"). And the good separation shops knew everybody. I'd do their marketing pieces for scan trade-offs, and I was "the market" so I knew what to say & sell, and I'd get a lot of referrals that way.
I did a lot of promo mailings and follow-ups - I think I got 3 long term clients from that in a decade. You really needed a rep to get any traction. I've never gotten a single lead from my web site either - it's all referrals.
I really don't push shooting nearly as much these days - digital has thrown so many people into the market now. What used to take a year of testing and learning, to get you to where knowing what the difference between a polaroid and final film would be, what film, what filters, what color temp, push or not... just to be able to sleep while the lab was doing snip tests - now it's just "look at the LCD" and if you're advanced, the histogram. That's a simplification, but it's hyper competitive to get a start now. I do more video and lots of design and writing. Video's a little tougher to just jump into!
I still think for most clients it comes down to common sense - what's the message, what does the consumer need to see/hear, and the bottom line is really "how does this affect profitability"? When clients see you're thinking this way and when they describe a job and you re-strategize the whole thing in the first meeting, they can quickly feel you're part of the team. It's like you work there, and it's great for long-term relationships. We're all consumers at some level, I try to think like one - and I have zero marketing education other than "life in America"!
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