How to Correctly Find Commercial Clients and Contact Them

Finding commercial clients is a minefield. Working out which agencies to contact, who to contact within the agency, and as importantly, how to do so and what on earth you should say can all be a nightmare. In this video, I cover all of this and more.

Commercial photography can often seem like a bit of a closed club. It seems that those who are in there are in, and those who are not are very much out. However, it isn't as hard as you might think to start breaking into shooting advertisement campaigns. With the current situation as it is, the first part of this video is a great task to be working on right now, so once we return to normal, you will have a head-start on everyone else. 

Of course, your portfolio needs to be at a certain level for this to work, but you won't ever know until you try. The first time I did, I got a wall of nos. However, this shouldn't put you off; a year later, I tried again, and none of them remembered me, and I got a few people booking me for big campaigns. 

In this video, I go over how to find the right agencies for you, how to find the correct person within the agency, as well as what I would say on the phone and what I say in emails to them. For me, the biggest thing stopping me when I started was the fear of picking up the phone. However, once I got over this, I actually started to enjoy making the calls once I realized that I had something that people needed and if they didn't want or need it, they would just politely tell me and that nothing bad would come of it. 

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5 Comments

Dan Cantero's picture

Hey Scott, great video mate! I really appreciate the practical advice. Cheers.

Jon The Baptist's picture

Dude Scott you're on fire posting great stuff

Lee Christiansen's picture

I do love the optimism in this video, and Scott - I always enjoy your vids... :)

However, my (long) experience in the commercial world doesn't quite find the same phone response when I make calls.

If I don't know the name of someone, 9 times out of 10, they're not going to give me the name.
Send it to Hello@ or Info@ etc, usually finds the round file in the corner of the room.
There will often be the response of "everyone works independently" and so there is no "one" person.
When the receptionist asks to send it to them - I've NEVER had success with this route.
When I have a name, that person is invariably "in a meeting."
People will almost NEVER call you back. So leave your details, but call again.

Take care if you do get put through to someone and they're bubbling over with enthusiasm about what you do. The number of times I've discovered I'm speaking with an intern who they've given an inflated job title to is - well, a lot... So I've wasted 20 mins of fun chat with someone who has zero authority / influence for anything.

The scenario where Scott describes being put through to someone who may be working on something that requires someone... it can happen. When they say to be there at the right place at the right time, I'd counter with "be everywhere at the right place and time." I will call a company 3-4 times a year so as not to be annoying but to never give up. I once found my best client after 4 years persistent calling, when they happened to have a big job, they'd just fired their usual guy and the temp receptionist didn't know not to hand out the director's home phone number...!

Research the website for names and job titles. If you can't get them to give the email details, I often make guesses. My Hotmail account will tell me if I've got it wrong, and I'll try another possible combination. Email addresses tend to follow fairly set permutations.

Always push (gently) for a meeting, face to face. Emails and calls are forgotten even quicker than meetings. But alas, meetings are forgotten pretty quickly too, so a follow up mail / call maybe 2 weeks or a month after is useful.

And don't assume the person you've contacted will even be working there 6 months later. My experience is that people move a lot in this industry.

I find, particularly in PR companies, no one can really be that bothered if your work is better than what they have. I've 20+ years working with these guys and I've rarely seen more email-forwarding and responsibility-pushing than anywhere else. If they've got someone who is just OK, but the client doesn't complain, then they'll rarely take any sort of chance on a new face - particularly when many times they're not overly sure of what they're doing.

And whilst I've working with some really great directing and art directing talent, the same is true with this sector. Very hard to swing work to an unknown when their known supplier makes them look good or at least doesn't rock any boats.

Very wise advice by Scott as to who to call. Trying to contact the head of department of a big agency isn't likely to get you much joy unless you've a big client base of major names, or you're a major name yourself. Be realistic as to who will take your call but can do something about it.

Lots of good advice from Scott about persistence and setting up meetings.

Getting commercial work is incredibly difficult. I spend more time on the phone than taking pictures. I often joke I work in telesales with a bit of photography on the side.

It takes huge amount of resilience and a thick skin. When it doesn't come quick or easy, don't give up but persist endlessly. It is extremely hard work.

And when you do start finding results - don't step on my patch... ha.

Cold calling is one of the toughest jobs there is.
I am glad that I don't have to do it.
I've been around it, it's not for the timid, or faint of heart.
It's incredibly competitive in our world today.
Consistently getting a signature on that rectangular piece of paper is an art itself.
Salespeople, love 'em, hate 'em, can't live without them.

Jason Pietroski's picture

Great article always looking forward to your videos. Very helpful points!