In my last post I mentioned how Bernard Friel has a distinct networking advantage in the realm of having learned to be a social creature through his work as an attorney, unlike many photographers who struggle in isolation. Friel shared that there is another area in which he struggles with great difficulty: self-promotion.
Self-promotion is arguably the most critical aspect of business success in photography, and a skill set with which most of us have great difficulty. However, Friel’s level of concern seemed even larger than normal. Not only did he not know how to go about self-promotion, the very idea made him seem to cringe.
“You just didn’t do that,” Friel told me of self-promotion in “his day” as a lawyer. (He’s now retired.) “You earned business by doing good work, by building your reputation through your actions.”
In an email exchange today, I encouraged Friel to think more positively about the possibilities of self-promotion. I wrote:
“I completely respect your desire not to promote yourself directly, and the background that has given you such a predisposition. But sharing a link to a blog post hardly goes in the category of even ’subtle marketing.’ It’s just being social.
“Sharing galleries of images, reports from trips and so on is also being social, just keeping in touch.
“Sure, it is also one of the greatest ways to market oneself, but the people who have the greatest success at it are the people who do it from the desire to be social, not to gain business, even indirectly.”
Right after hitting send, I found the latest post from Copyblogger in my inbox. “The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion” is a winner by Nathan Hagan. I suggest you read and think about it in terms of your own images. The crux of Hagan’s point is:
“The reason that self-promotion works and self-adulation doesn’t is because self-promotion is the art of spreading ideas, concepts, and a greater vision. Self-adulation is just the promotion of accomplishments, deeds that have already been done.”
Bernard Friel and Nathan Hagan share the same visceral aversion to self-adulation. Hagan, however, recognizes and embraces that self-promotion (in the form of spreading ideas) is not the same self-adulation.
Hagan does not suggest that self-promation is easy:
“If you implement this plan successfully, you’ll probably take some flak. People might label you over-confident or cocky.
“That’s good. Define yourself in such a way that people either love you or hate you.”
As you read Hagan’s post — he’s got four, great action points you should check out – I suggest you do by thinking about Hagan’s “ideas” as “images.” (After all, your images are the concrete manifestation of your creative ideas.) Take Hagan’s last paragraph:
“I know it sounds a bit ‘out there,’ but I firmly believe that ideas are living things. They need you to get over your self-adulation, to get out there, and to fight for them. Are you ready?”
It doesn’t sound “out there” to me. The most successful photographers often talk about their images (and the ideas behind them) as living, evolving things. And the best are worth fighting for.
Shameless photography self-promotion is not easy, and never will be. But perhaps we can make it easier for ourselves by trying to take ourselves out of the self-promotion equation. It’s not about promoting us! It’s about promoting our ideas (our images) and our services (our ability to make those images to best meet a specific client’s needs).