In any given month I may pursue or pitch to anywhere between 20 and 50 prospective clients. These could be models I haven’t worked with before, magazines I haven’t shot for in the past, or commercial clients who have yet to hire me to do their ad campaigns.
In a good month, I may get the opportunity to work with 2-5 new ones that I pitched to. That is a success rate hovering between 4-and-10 percent. Doesn’t sound like a lot does it?
Truthfully, it is not too different from most creative agents (models, photographers, makeup artists, graphic designers, and so on) when it comes to pitching new clients. I would estimate the highest my percentage has ever been was around 30-to-40 percent (which probably included clients I’ve worked for in the past and was pitching new work to them).
I’ve been on the other side of it too, which I hate being. And have had to write a lot of “thank you but you’re not what we need at this time” letters. It is never fun.
So in an industry where a majority of the work pursued is not won, how does a creative agent best handle rejection?
1. I think we can all better learn how to gauge and measure the clients we pursue based upon the amount of work we win versus the work we chased. For example, if our win-rate was around 60-to-70 percent, then perhaps we are only pursuing work that is too easy to get. Maybe some of our time should be spent aiming for clients that are larger in scope. On the flip side, if our success rate is getting low to the point of depression, perhaps we need to also target a few easier to reach clients as well.
2. Realize that a no-for-now is not a no-for-forever. When I lecture to college students trying to pursue photography I often tell a story about a client I pursued for five years. I was never told no-for-forever, but instead was told “we like your work, just cannot use you right now.” I made sure not to ever shut the door completely with that client. Instead, I stayed in touch, formed and kept great relationships with the employees there, and eventually that no-for-now turned into a yes. Keep the door open with your clients so that you may pitch in the future.
3. Self evaluate. Was there something wrong with your pitch? Could you have improved something? Maybe the portfolio could have been designed better. Perhaps there is a more interested and unique way to reach and pitch the client. Perhaps an in person meeting would have been better than a quick e-mail. Could you have done something better to differentiate yourself? Debrief with yourself to figure out how you can improve the next pitch.
4. Realize there are a finite number of magazine covers, fashion layouts, advertisements and budget dollars available. You won’t get them all, nor will you get most; but work hard to get your fair chunk.