“What I really need is for someone to share my work – someone everyone knows. Then my business will really make some headway!” Hands up if you’ve had this very thought before – and the other hand up if you’ve dismissed the idea as being impossible to fulfil. Okay, now give us those wrists and let us give them a slap – because you’ve turned your back on chasing down amazing opportunities!
You’re right – working with prominent people does make a big difference for a small business. But if you think it’s impossible to connect with famous people, or if you think you’re too insignificant to matter, that’s where you’re totally and utterly wrong. As a wise man once said, we gonna break this thang down for just a few seconds.*
First of all, let’s take a look at the different ways our potential subject might be worth working with. They might be a really famous rider, or they might be a normal person with an abnormal number of social media followers, or they could simply be a well-known industry professional (a trainer, a livery yard owner, or a vet) with an expansive client base. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to them all as influencers, because they all, well, influence people.
Some of these influencers could lead you to new clients because those clients will see your work online. Others will create new leads for you through word-of-mouth. Either way, it’s well worth doing some research on your person of choice, and trying to get an idea of who their target audience is. Does it match up pretty well with your dream client? If so, it’s time to make a plan of action.
Your influencer might be a world-famous rider, festooned with medals and used to appearing on the cover of major magazines. And that’s fine! They might be amazing at what they do and totally in-demand, but they’re still human beings, and you can still pitch to them. There’s nothing to be worried about, and that’s because of the collaboration golden rule:
The worst that can happen is that they say no.
And if that happens, nothing has actually changed for you, has it? You haven’t lost a booking, or any money, or any potential clients – and a no now might not be a no next year. ‘No’ doesn’t mean you’re not any good – most of the time, it just means that there’s no room in their busy schedule. But you won’t know until you ask.
Before you slide into the DMs, though, do some brainstorming. If you had access to this person and free-rein to unleash your creativity, what would you love to set up? Maybe you’ve got a highly stylised concept shoot in mind, or maybe you want to capture some emotive black-and-white portraits. Whatever it is, take notes and start to create a mood board.
Why is your idea so important before you even pitch? Because having an idea with a foundation is exciting – and that excitement will be contagious. When you get in touch with your influencer, you don’t want to be a wet flannel in their inbox, making vague requests to work together – you want to be a confident, talented creative, pitching a solid idea that your subject will be able to visualise and get on board with.
Contacting your influencer isn’t tricky. Most people can be easily contacted through their social media pages, and many will provide details of their representatives on their websites or social pages. We like to start with a sweet and simple direct message (a DM slide if you’re down with the kids!!) introducing ourselves, explaining our idea, and linking to our work.
More of a hands-on person? That’s great! You can find horse people in their natural habitats – at the yard and at competitions. As long as you remember the number one rule of shows (don’t speak to riders until after they’ve competed!), this can be a really great way to make new connections. Just make sure you’ve got your card and a portfolio to hand.
Whether your target is an industry professional or a social media celeb, they’ll be in need of high-quality images for their business. While we don’t advise offering your work up for free in the long-term, a gifted influencer shoot can be a worthwhile investment early on, which can lead to new clients and further work with that influencer.
That might seem counterintuitive – surely, if someone has already had a free shoot, they won’t be willing to pay for one in the future? This is where it pays to be a bit savvy: your gifted shoot should show off your talent and vision, as well as your subject’s personality, but it should essentially be a normal shoot. That is, it shouldn’t have commercial elements.
If, after your initial shoot, your influencer wants a batch of images showing them tacking up a horse with their saddlery sponsor on full show, or beautiful photos of them modelling some kit or feeding their horses, that’s fine – you can offer to book them in for a follow-up shoot, in which you aim to take a variety of shots for them to use throughout the season on social media. At this point, they’re committed to your style and your work.
If you’re worried about approaching a rider in the first instance, you can play the long game – that is, photograph them competing and tag them in the image on social media so that they start to become familiar with your work. The problem with this? You’ll be one of many doing the same thing – and a photo of a horse jumping a fence is miles removed from a gorgeous portrait.
Another option? Contact the editors of equestrian magazines and pitch your services to them – often, these magazines rely on freelancers, and if they see that you’re fairly local to a rider they want to work with, you could get the gig taking snaps for a magazine. Again, this won’t generally be the same as portrait photography – but it can be a great way to make new connections with both riders and publications.
Whichever way you approach it, there’s no doubt that working with an influencer is a great way to inject some life into your client base. Have you enjoyed a successful collaboration? What did it lead to for you? Let us know in the comments!
*thanks, Andre 3000. Let us know if you want an equestrian photoshoot sometime.