Commercial Advertising – Best Bang for Buck on Mailers.

According to a myriad of sources, including “Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers” by Elyse Weissberg, the best way to get your work in front of potential advertising clients is by sending out mailers. Bulk mailing is the predominant way of getting business as an advertising photographer. I will write a post, or link to some great posts that explore this topic in more detail (probably both). The gist of getting results from mailers is to send them to a lot of people, and send them regularly. This can require a significant investment of time and/or money.

First, you need a mailing list. If you buy one, from say, Agency Access, be prepared to spend at least a few hundred bucks. However, I managed to build a great list of my own. Atlanta based OZ Magazines publishes the truly awesome Creative Index. It’s chockful of contacts, but most of them are in sales. I’m not interested in sales, though. I’ve found that, by digging around on ad agency websites, I can extrapolate good email addresses. If the sales rep listed in the Creative Index is named Jim Walker, and his email is, it stands to reason that Jane Simpson, the Art Director you want to reach, i Do a little digging, and save yourself some serious cash on putting together your mailing list. This also gives you the opportunity to look at the ad agency’s work, and figure out what you can offer them.

Second, you need mailers printed. Actually, no you don’t. Emails work, folks. Plenty of PEs and ADs prefer getting images this way, and frankly, it’s only going to become more and more the norm. Send out those first few mailers by email, and save yourself hundreds of dollars on printing (admittedly) fancy-shmancy cards. Sending an email has other benefits as well. There’s no arguing that organizing images on your computer is easier than it is in a file cabinet. If they like your image, they will keep it and use it to find you again. So send emails with a single picture that links to your website. Utilize the EXIF data on that jpeg image (I’ve got a post cooking on this topic, too) and you will show up in your client’s Spotlight or Google Desktop searches. And, naturally, digital images reproduce infinitely, for easy passing around to colleagues. However, there is no telling how your image will look on a client’s screen. Hopefully, it’s calibrated.

Third, you need to repeat and follow up. “Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers” tells us that they begin to pay off after about 3, so be prepared to send at least 5. Send them regularly, but not too often. I am starting my campaign in April, and I will be sending 8 images, one sent every two weeks, for two months. I will be sure to report on the process as it comes along!

So, with careful research, you can build your own mailing list. Maybe your city has its own creative index! Save some money and send emails, not card mailers at first. An email isn’t as sexy as a nice, printed card, but you’re broke. Don’t let being broke get in the way of getting business. Send as many as you can, and at regular intervals. After 8 emails, call anyone who hasn’t called you yet. Hopefully, you get some business. There are no guarantees in advertising. I’d like to hear your thoughts on getting commercial business. Feel free to post in the comments.


  1. I couldn’t agree with you anymore about not printing cards when your staring out.

    I’m in the process of starting my own mail list as in the UK creative directories are out of date in public libraries and expensive to buy.

    Good luck with your April campaign.

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