Get me some work.

18 Jan

In getting psyched for the Life After Assisting discussion held on January 22 at Studio East (1006 S. Michigan, Chicago) I will be focusing my blog posts up to this event on how to go from being a photo assistant to a wardrobe and prop stylist.  The #1 question I get asked by friends and family that aren’t in the business is, “How do you get work?”  Well… Good question.  You should have a seat and get comfortable because this may take a while.

Being a crew member in the photo industry isn’t a job you apply for on Craigs List.  In fact, if you see someone posting a wardrobe styling position online you’re usually safe to run the other way.  The other conundrum is that there’s not a 5 step method for getting work that works for everyone, it’s not even a matter of taking steps.  I guess the quickest response is that it’s about positioning yourself to be in line when opportunities arise and then capitalizing on each of those opportunities.

I think it’s safe to say that every crew member get’s at least 70% of their work based on referrals.  The other 30% comes from online marketing, mailings and photography resource lists.  You can send out e-mail blasts and postcards all you want, but the best way to get consistent work is to focus on the job that lies in front of you and knock it out of the park.  The photographer and producer are not the only ones that will remember you and how well you did, but also the other crew members.  You need to remember that you’re not only representing yourself, but you’re also representing the entire crew.  If you fall flat or have a bad attitude, the client remembers you and holds those who hired you accountable.  You don’t want to taint your hard work by making these avoidable mistakes.  People do talk in the industry.  You want to keep the gossip positive.

The other thing  that is good to remember when you’re going off on your own is that photographers and producers already have their favorite crew members they work with.  For the door to open for you, their top 3 stylists they usually work with all need to be booked on other jobs so you can be the next in line.  If you’re like me and can’t sit around waiting for things to happen, you can approach photographers to test or offer your help on one of their personal projects.

It’s tough because getting consistent work doesn’t happen over night.  Hiring is based around trust and trust takes time.  Furthermore, time means financial sacrifice.  When you make the jump, it’s best to have a good chunk of savings and as little overhead as possible.  It’s easy to keep taking the assisting jobs because it’s good money, but you need to stop showing yourself in that role if you’re looking to gain trust and be known as a wardrobe stylist.

There are plenty of ways to find work out there and there are plenty of jobs out there to be had.  You really have to do the research and make the connections, even if you have an agent.  Many wardrobe stylists sign with an agency because it alleviates the time and energy it takes to find work.  Finding an agency is something I will only brush upon because it isn’t a path a chose to take.   I like to have the control of doing it all myself.  I actually enjoy the business side of things and take great pride in doing it on my own.  There are pluses and minuses to both sides, you just need to find what area of the industry you would like to focus on.  If you decide it’s more fashion and catalog, then hooking up with an agency may be for you.  Another deciding factor can also be where you live.  Having an agent in LA and NYC is much more common.  In Chicago it isn’t always necessary.

2 Responses to “Get me some work.”

  1. dressingmyself January 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM #

    It sounds a million miles from any work I’ve ever done. However, there is one bit of relevant knowledge I’ve gained. You said that people in the industry talk to each other. My tip is to never pass on a single bit of bad gossip, or to say anything negative about someone you have worked with – it can get back as quick as a wink.

    • courtneyrust January 18, 2011 at 3:28 PM #

      That’s so very true! Thank you for the great tip!

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