The Reality of Marketing as an Independent Visual Storyteller

In the dynamic world of independent visual storytelling through photography and video, one often hears about the creative aspects of the job—the beautiful moments captured, the artistic vision realized, and the stories told through the lens. However, there is a less glamorous side to this profession that is rarely discussed: the relentless and time-consuming task of marketing. It’s an elephant in the room that every independent visual storyteller has to acknowledge.

As a visual storyteller, your journey begins not just with capturing stunning visuals but with the intricate art of marketing. You must build your brand, attract clients, and create a reputation that separates you. However, the harsh reality is that despite your best efforts, most of your market audience may not be interested in your services. These are just the standard marketing numbers, and it’s a tough pill to swallow.

The time it takes for marketing efforts to yield results is even more challenging. It’s not uncommon for independent visual storytellers to invest six to eighteen months or even longer before clients start booking their services. This extended timeline can be attributed to various reasons:

  1. Timing Issues: Your marketing material might be exceptional, but potential clients may already have someone booked for their next event or project. They may express interest in your services but commit to working with you on a future project.
  2. Budget Constraints: Clients may love your work but must align their budgets with your pricing. Sometimes, this means waiting until they have the resources to hire you.
  3. Repeat Business: Building a loyal client base takes time. Clients who have worked with you once may be more likely to hire you again, but this relationship-building process doesn’t happen overnight.

This slow and often unpredictable flow of clients can lead to periods of “famine” in your business. During these times, anxiety can get the best of you. In these moments, it’s crucial to have a financial reserve that can cover your bills for at least six months. Financial stability eases your mind and allows you to focus on your craft and long-term growth rather than worrying about immediate financial needs.

On the flip side, there are “feast” periods when you become exceptionally busy, and the work is pouring in. These are the times when you can build a financial cushion for the leaner months. However, during these periods, you may find yourself overwhelmed and need help managing the workload efficiently.

So, why am I writing this? It’s not just for you; it’s also a reminder to myself. In those challenging times of famine, anxiety can indeed be overwhelming. But I’ve learned that the best response to fear is action. Instead of dwelling on what’s not working, focus on what you can control.

During the slow periods, invest in personal projects that you can turn into marketing pieces. Dive into your past calendars and identify clients who hired you at certain times of the year; check in to see if they have upcoming similar events. Stay proactive and keep refining your skills and your brand.

Remember that anxiety often stems from worrying about things beyond your control. While it’s vital to acknowledge your fears, it’s equally crucial to accept the limitations of your influence. Instead, channel your energy into making yourself better for your clients.

Ask yourself, “What can I do now that will make me better for my clients?” Are there skills you can improve, new services you can offer, or innovative approaches you can take? By focusing on self-improvement and value creation during tough times, you’ll weather the storms and emerge more robust and resilient as an independent visual storyteller.