Proper Networking Technique by British Model Jen Brook

Proper Networking Technique by British Model Jen Brook

I’ve been sent a few messages asking how to get noticed by the people we want to work with and how to approach them. I’m never sure I can help because I’m no expert, but I do try as best as I can. In order to keep my advice consistent, this article sets about the rules I made for myself. By no means are they perfect, you may not agree with many of the points and I know for a fact that I sometimes fail in following them myself. But in general they work for me and I don’t mind sharing what I’ve found. This post is meant for all of us in the photography world, not just models…and I believe there is only really one trick to it; put yourself in their shoes.

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1. When there is someone I really want to work with, I find a way of approaching them that I hope might stand out from others.

Sometimes I do it by expressing my love for their work in more detail, by focusing on my favourite pieces. Or perhaps by telling them about a similar experience of my own that I can relate to through theirs. It’s nice to hear ‘hey, love your work’, but that additional personal touch will mean so much more to the artist reading it.

2. I try to offer something.

If I really want to impress someone, I try to bring something to the table. With the backing of a designer or a make up artist, teamed with an idea that the person doesn’t already have in their portfolio…my chances of them wanting to work with me increase. Asking if they would like to collaborate is often not enough.

The brilliant people who gave up their time for free to help make my Dreamcatcher picture titled ‘Face Your Fear' with Von Wong and I:

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I know a lot of people (as above) who have done selfless acts; offering to assist on a shoot, writing a blog, sharing pictures, retweeting sales pitches…not matter how small, offering supportive will be always gratefully received. Something to make your name a regular in their media and therefore more memorable when it comes to contacting them can only ever help.

3. I never hold back with the pleasantries.

Reading nice words spoken about the hard work put into creations never goes disliked…just be careful not to be a bum sucker, it’s a very fine line! I try to be honest but tactful without being too intense too often.

4. I tend to like their pages and follow them on Twitter before sending them a friend request or emailing directly.

I believe it is acceptable to do a little research on the person you want to work with. Having background knowledge of how they market themselves, what they shoot, how they shoot and the types of concepts they’d produce proves an invested interest in their brand. Reading their blogs allows me to know them better. It’s good to do your homework, without becoming a stalker!

I was a keen follower of Adrian Sommeling's work before approaching him to work together. Now we are friends and I am looking forward to modelling at his Train to Create workshop plus a sneaky collaboration for our own portfolios this Christmas in London:

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5. I never beg people to ‘like' my page or to 'follow' me.

I’d rather keep my dignity than plead for social acceptance. I think it’s ok to send invites out, to let people know about your page, heaven knows I’ve done it before. But I aim to do it no more than once a month at most. I do however, make the most of opportunity by mentioning my media on my profiles, networks and blog. This is just my personal preference, perhaps a typically English approach.

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It’s also worth remembering that likes and followers are only valid if they are potential collaborators or customers. These are likes, not friends. Facebook restricts the percentage of reach on each post you make, it would be a damn waste of say a casting call, to fall on the deaf ears of a group of bakers(?) when you wanted the models(?) to hear it.

6. Manners.

I cannot stress the importance of P’s and Q’s in my life. If I ever see a status that says 'go like my page people'…even if I have already liked it, it is not uncommon for me to go out of my way to un-like the page due to that one missing word…PLEASE. Take note, thank you makes a nice condiment to a please pudding and can never be heard too much.

Ironically (before it’s pointed out), at the end of each of my blog posts I often write ‘Follow me on…’ and include my top three network links to Facebook, Twitter and my website. I don’t write ‘please’ because it is intended as ‘you can follow my adventures at…’ as opposed to a plea. It also fits nicely onto two lines…but hey, whatever ;)

7. “To assume makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me’”.

I really try my best not to assume anything. Once I have secured a shoot, I ensure as much detail as possible is shared in writing, collated in one place. This way we can both see what has been agreed, avoiding confusion over dates, times, locations, levels and of course payment. The pre-comms is vital for both of our diaries. I always try to finalise details a few days before the date itself, leaving little room for error.

8. Doing the leg work.

If I am hoping to work with someone regularly and still struggling to get their attention (much like point two) I will often do as much as possible for the first shoot, without taking full control. Humans are generally lazy creatures; if I can gather together a team and an idea allowing for that one person I want so badly, to mostly just rock up on the day with their skills and gear, then this might give me a head start.

This is not always the case as most people enjoy the collaborative process, but having something to offer in the beginning will never be frowned upon. I might approach them with my proposal and see what they say in terms of negotiation. Not guaranteed, not always possible, but worth considering.

9. Big one. Biting my tongue when I want to shout.

Recently refraining from a status update of “Dude, you’re an a-hole”, replacing it with “You don’t have to blow out somebody else’s candle to make your own burn brighter (…feeling like the bigger person)" made me feel terrific and I imagine the person it was meant for, felt very silly.

Trying to withhold from having an opinion on absolutely everything unless I am specifically asked, is one I should follow more often. But I do have respect for my peers, regardless of talent, age or gender…something some people in all walks of life lack too often.

It’s also worth pointing out that if I am being paid, I shut up and put up (within reason and my levels) because that person is my client and my reputation is everything. If I am collaborating, I feel much more at liberty to say my piece in a polite and professional manner to ensure I get what I came for. If I am working for image use (TF), I consider my portfolio to be of equal value to everyone else’s involved.

10. Is it worth my time?

I learnt quickly where I can and cannot get a return on my work. For example, it’s highly unlikely to receive portfolio worthy pictures from a runway fashion show or a catalog shoot for brands such as ASOS and Etsy. I won’t be convinced into doing them for free.

11. You really shouldn’t pinch ideas without referencing your source of inspiration.

I always try to give credit where it’s due, even if it’s just the style. I’m not sure Brooke would agree that the below picture is exactly ‘her style’, but to me I felt like she had influenced my thought process, so I gave her credit regardless.

My source is more likely to feel flattered than ripped off. You never know, they may even wish to work with you themselves because of it…

Besides this, the likelihood is that if you have seen it, then so has somebody else…and if you copy it without acknowledgement, someone will point it out. I guess it’s just good manners.

I’m sure we all remember this LOVE cover by Mert and Marcus. At a similar time we saw Rihanna in her Stay video…then bore witness to the sea of green baths in portfolios (albeit some very good ones) that followed…

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12. Understanding that refusal to work TF doesn’t necessarily mean 'I don't like you’.

I always feel so disheartened when offence is taken because I have turned down a TF shoot. It’s often a lack of time, a lack of money and the fact that my portfolio is current and perhaps already showing a similar concept; not because I don’t like the person or their photography.

‘I can’t afford to shoot unpaid right now' does not mean 'I think you’re rubbish’. I have been turned down for TF, there is no shame in that. As a human I respect their predicament and don’t complain about it in a ‘woe is me' self pity plunge. I thank them for getting back to me and dependant on the wording, I take the hint or approach them again at a later date.

13. Network, network, network!

When I first started modelling, I went to group shoots, mixed in online forums, went to socials, commented on others work (photographers, mua’s AND models) and joined all the industry based websites I could possibly find! I soon worked out which ones worked for me and which ones didn’t. I made a lot of useful contacts by making an effort not to burn too many bridges along the way.

14. I should always be prepared for the lows and humble about the highs.

Rejection is inevitable and the lulls of quiet periods will likely bring me down, especially if I’m enduring a creative block. If I’m ready, then I know how to deal with them better. This is a blog all of it’s own, but I can at least say to myself to be prepared.

When greater things happen for me, of course I want to shout it from the rooftops! But not because I want to show off (because they usually don’t mean anything to most people), but because I’m excited! It’s good to be excited. Isn’t it? Alas I must remember it can come across as conceited.

Note to self: show decorum. I probably fail at this too often. I just hope the people I associate with recognise genuine shock and excitement over arrogance. Ranging from ‘OMG I FOUND A FIVER!’ to ‘OMG I’M GOING TO SHOOT IN CANADA!’…it happens. Sorry.

15. Being aware that you are not everybody’s cup of tea creatively, personally and for models; physically.

Something I hated coming to terms with! Accepting you are not always suited to every job is just the life of a creative. You have to learn to deal with it…and sulk inwardly.

16. Have confidence in yourself…but ye be not a smart arse.

Haughty people are so unattractive. Remember, when we watch talent shows, it’s the coy ones that we root for.

17. I have to take heed from the mistakes of others.

I must tell myself not to be shaped by encouragement into a person that I’m not. There is no pressure to be naked on a wrecking ball or to be the man or woman taking those pictures just to make people talk about you. I shouldn’t be encouraged by the imbeciles chanting ‘More! More! More!’.

I regularly say to myself ‘STOP, take a look at what you’re doing, is this who you want to be?'…alas sometimes I make the mistake anyway. But I learn quickly.

18. The choices I’ve made in image selection represent me.

I avoid diluting a good shoot by posting several shots from the same set. I try only to show my best and make my current portfolio my strongest and most diverse. They represent my path - where I’ve been, where I am and perhaps where I’m heading.

19. The rules.

I am tax registered. I did this as soon as I started to make money (it’s not worth the fine if you get dobbed in). Also understanding the law regarding copyright and always reading contracts/model release forms before handing them out or signing them, is good common sense.

20. Finally…don’t be a douche.

What I try to say to myself everyday is; use your head. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…

[Originally published on Jen Brook's Tumblr, republished here with permission]

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14 Comments

David Vaughn's picture

What about the notion of forced genuineness? Personally, I am a fairly cynical person who suffers from mild-moderate dysthymia. I want to be genuine, but I don't know how to be without seeming like someone nobody wants to be around. I mean, it's not like I'm that guy: the one who is always down and out. I'm great with face-to-face communication, and I love good, optimistic conversation, but when it comes to Facebook I just don't know where the balance is between saving face and expressing what I'm really thinking.

I see so many popular photographers in my area (90% of them are family/child/senior photographers, no exaggeration), and they just lay it on so thick with the "GORGEOUS" and "STUNNING" and "PRECIOUS" adjectives that, to me, seems like they're just trying so, so hard.

People seem to eat it up. They love it.

But...if everyone is precious, or gorgeous, or so beautiful I cried upon first glance, then don't those words lose their meaning?

I don't understand it. In this time when the ability to "keep it real" is valued highly, why are people still drawn to the vague and generic?

I can't seem to gain any traction with social media in terms of consistent followership. I know it probably wouldn't amount to much fiscally, but even so, the people following and liking my stuff tells me that people care enough about my work that they want to see more.

And then there are those who don't really do anything unusual or extraordinary. Their work might be average and their presence is pretty plain, but people connect with them. HOW do people make this work? I don't understand it, and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe my personality is defective to this end.

Side note: Yes, I'm aware that I sound like a whiny bitch.

If it's forced then it's not genuine. If it's not genuine then you would not wish to work with them in the first place.

David Vaughn's picture

Well, what I meant was that it must appear genuine to those who pay for the photographer's services. However, to me it just seems so heavy-handed, but that heavy-handedness seems to be what attracts people. People just confuse me, or maybe I confuse myself because I'm just wrong.

Social media makes no sense to me.

Oh I get you.... I get confused when I meet people in person and they are so quiet and reserved, but then I see the way they express themselves on FB (the many compliments, smileys, xoxoxs, etc) and they seem like totally different people!. I'm not usually a hugger, so you won't see me write xox after every comment ;)

You left out the part how being a pretty girl automatically gets your foot in any door.
There's no denying it played a large role with your success in networking.

Jen Brook's picture

Hey 'guest',
Isn't "you are a pretty girl, automatically gets your foot in ANY door" not too dissimilar to "oh you have tattoos, I cant employ you as I am sure you must be a useless lawyer despite of your degree and proven good results"? Assumptions.
I wrote a blog for you: http://jenbrookmodel.tumblr.com/post/65090501272/dear-troll-kindest-rega...

:)

There are a lot of pretty people in the world. What's more important is being smart about what you are doing. Jen you got the smarts hon. That pretty face comes with a steel toe boot.

There's nothing special about you. And your link will not be clicked.

Jen Brook's picture

I think while he is definitely very sour about it, he isn't completely forgone from the truth in a way either. If you look at the business world, at least in my experience, it is much easier for an attractive woman to get her foot in the door which is why so much resentment forms.

I look at a friend of mine, she recently decided she wants to get into photography. Within 2 weeks of buying a camera she was getting more shoots than I can after spending years building my brand.

Why? She has no portfolio, no experience, no real technical expertise. But she is a small, attractive, young woman. She isn't asking men for shoots. She is asking woman.

She is able to walk up to any mother on the street and ask to take pictures of that mother's small child. She is able to walk up to any attractive woman and ask to schedule a shoot without the woman assuming she is being "hit on". She is able to walk into fashion stores and they instantly trust her with their clothes.

While a big portion of that is how she conducts herself it also comes from a tremendous social stigma that woman simply are not threats. Whenever I, as a tall guy over 6 feet, walk directly up to someone and ask them to do a shoot I am almost always turned down because that person either assumes I am a predator or making a sexual advance. Instead I have to spend weeks, if not months, gently networking with the person via public networks like twitter before I can build up enough social proof for them to trust me.

While I'm not saying that this is a wall that I cannot overcome it sure is a different experience that for me I must invest heavily in building trust with each and every person I wish to shoot, where as an attractive, young woman, is given that trust instantly by virtue of her gender.

The other benefit that attractive woman enjoy is that they are constantly surrounded by "nice" men trying to help them. Hell, I'm even guilty of it myself and I see it every day. I work with a ton of actors and actresses and it is amazing how all the pretty actresses have constant, and instant, help any time they need it where as the guys must overcome every challenge on their own.

But that doesn't really tell the whole story. Despite this theory that woman have it easier virtually all industries are still dominated by men at the highest rungs of the ladder. Which is why I would argue that as you rise higher and higher the stigma inverses itself and all of a sudden talented woman have to work twice as hard to prove themselves as the people at the top automatically assume that they only rose so far because of how they look.

The reality is simple. Everybody stereotypes. Even if it is only at a subconscious level and that stereotyping will ensure that the rise in any given market is never a fair one but just remember that a bias against you one day most likely will transform into a bias for you on another.

We all have our own set of cards dealt to us. Those cards are not all the same. There seems to be no benefit to complaining that someone else's hand is better or different all we can do is focus on making the best choices with the hand we have.

Jen Brook's picture

An excellent response Ryan, thank you for taking the time to read the post

Sounds like jealousy to me.

Not being pretty, or a girl, maybe does not make me the best judge, but I think that such a person 'may' get a "foot in the door" but without all of the other qualities covered in this blog entry you will not get the door to fully open.

The one quality that shines through here, but is not mentioned, is intelligence. Being able to be so easily articulate trumps beauty, unless you are maybe a 'super model'.

9. Photography is not my vocation; computer programming is. There's this person that fancies herself as a project manager, which she doesn't have the skills for. She likes to have the last word, so when I see an email conversation going nowhere, I let her have her pleasure in having the last word. It's not worth my time responding to her. I've lost plenty of sleep planning my counterpoint response to her. Life is just too short.
13. Networking. I'm on LinkedIn. I have unlinked from people that I don't want to be associated with. In an official capacity at a contest, the handler for the 4th contestant wanted the wireless microphone equipment even though the first and second contestants hadn't been miked. She demanded the equipment, out of order, and she was in my face demanding the equipment. She showed her ass and after that weekend, I unlinked her. Another situation, an employee of a certified public accounting firm bounced a check to a club's renewal dues; I asked her to cover the check, but she said "Oh, I don't want to renew". Her bad check cost the club in expenses charged for a bad check. I decided that is another person that I don't want to be associated with.