After taking the photos for the Freedom Festival website Anete Sooda and I were invited along to the offices of Sowden & Sowden, a full service and design agency that are marketing the Freedom Festival event. We spent an hour of so with Paul Sowden who showed us around the offices and chatted to us about what a marketing agency might look for in a photographer. Paul is a very experienced marketer who has worked in London and around the world choosing now to run a small organisation, based closer to home and in partnership with his daughter.
Paul began by explaining what Sowden’s does, which is everything from agreeing a brief, planning a campaign, delivering a campaign, brand management and internal campaigns that include staff motivation and continuous improvement. They are happy to work with small local businesses and schools as well as national and international companies recognising that people will only use their services if they can help them to make money.
If we are looking to work with an agency, Paul advised us to remember that the agency will want commercial photographs and not art photographs. He explained that we would need to meet a brief that would sometimes need to be interpreted because people don’t always want what they ask for. He said that we should meet the brief and then go the extra mile – advice that Tom Arran gave us a few months ago.
He said that we needed to be resilient and not to be offended if our work doesn’t match what the agency is looking for. Don’t cry over spilt milk, just go and find the people that we like working for and work with them.
We were told that we have got to make money at what we do. We were advised to charge for our work and then move on to the next job quickly. Repeat business is key but check out who we are doing work for. Many companies go bust, make sure they are capable of paying you before you do the work. Be hard nosed commercially, get credit references, especially when starting out and if they don’t pay, go to court as soon as you can. If they are procrastinating about paying you, they will be doing it with others and that is a sign that things are not going well with them.
Paul recommended that we build a financial reserve as quickly as possible. He told us to get money in the bank and don’t spend it. The job is risky enough without taking on too much debt and financial risk.
For each job we do Paul told us to prepare well. He said that if we were prepared we can use all of our brain power and skill on the job at hand and if we were good at the core skill of photography then we can use our brain power to develop our business.
Paul stated that agencies wanted reliable people to work with. He said that we should work hard and play hard, make it our lifestyle.
Finally Paul talked to us about specialising in a particular field. He said that we had got to be the best in our field as there is no room for second best. We have got to put ourselves out there and get so good that people will pay almost anything for our services. He told us to think about how we might be able to photograph like no one else has photographed before. Do what we like doing, focus and develop a way of thinking that is about solving problems.
It was a really interesting meeting and Paul had some great hints and tips for us. I used to work in a marketing office and recognised many of the things that he was talking about. Being in the office reminded me of the buzz I used to enjoy when I was running a full service and design office. Sadly the organisation changed and I ended up mostly writing press releases which was not my favourite part of the job. I left and took on this photography degree, partly, to add another string to bow.
This visit has made me wonder if I would like to return to a marketing environment. I think I might have a look around at what is available and see if I there is some way I can combine both marketing and photography.