Portfolios From The Edge; Websites As Marketing Tools Page 2

SB: But it is not enough just to have a web presence anymore; what other marketing tools make online portfolio sites cutting edge?

DK: For photographers looking to keep their contact lists informed of recent projects and developments, our ePromo tools have proven to be quite effective. Many gravitate toward tools such as this as opposed to just the traffic generated through the website. Having a self-managed website (see Andrew Weeks' comment below) and access to the low cost ePromo is very attractive and provides added value.

SB: What are the biggest obstacles that photographers run into when transitioning to online portfolio websites?

DK: One problem is the expectation for immediate results. One must be realistic about the curve for this type of marketing channel. Most in the business would suggest that you should give at least one year to any online portfolio service to see results. This is a "time of need" business. If someone sees your work, but doesn't have an immediate assignment for you, make sure your portfolio is still there when the need arises. While many members have received great leads and jobs in their first few months of service, the norm is a longer cycle than that.

The other misconception is that online portfolios take the place of a sound search engine optimization and search engine marketing strategy. We are not here to rock your servers with referral traffic, just to send qualified leads. If only a handful of leads come through in a year and you sell to most of them, you will pay for the service many times over, not including repeat and referral business from those clients. Finally, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you are too busy to take on more work--plan for months ahead when you might not be so busy. Prepare a budget for online promotion and make sure you have enough allocated to online portfolios to enable you to spread your wings across a few websites.

SB: I noticed that most photographers have their own website portfolio and a portfolio on your website.

DK: With all of the online portfolio options that are currently available, each with their own frequent user bases, today's photographer needs to have a presence on multiple websites. The Portfolios Partner Network is a means of placing our members' portfolios on several industry-leading websites, expanding their reach to new buyers and into new markets. However, we do not claim to own the market. We recommend joining a few portfolio websites as different sites have different followers and it is a relatively small investment in your career.

SB: When talking to photographers about website portfolios, it has been said that the biggest downside is the constant need to update. This was true, even before the web.

Andrew Weeks (http://www.portfolios.com/profile.html?MyUrl=AndrewWeeksphotography): I update the content--both text and images--as studio news develops and new work is created. For example, if I shoot a new campaign I am sure to update the site with the news of it and, of course, my favorite images from it. Updating the Portfolios.com site is quite simple; I love it. As soon as the images from a given shoot are retouched and developed I can immediately upload them. I do not have to wait for my web guy to update the page.

DK: True! Stale portfolios are not compelling and buyers tend to bookmark pages to see what you are up to from time to time. Many websites favor recently updated portfolios in search results. So, if you never update your portfolio, you will find it slipping in search results, which reduces visibility.

SB: What other tips can you offer our readers to improve their online portfolios?

DK: One needs to approach an online portfolio the same way as a traditional portfolio--as a cohesive body of work that highlights a specialty, with high-quality imagery, and frequent updates. Here are some highlights:

· Be specific about your services. Don't highlight a specialty that isn't reflected in your body of work. Who wants to hire a car shooter who displays a portfolio of botanicals?

· Spend at least a month reviewing your portfolio to get it right.

· Ask for help and opinions from peers.

· Spend as much time on your online portfolio as you would to prepare your physical portfolio for an interview.

· Finally, spend the most time on your biography/professional details. Present a professional account of who you are, what you do, and your experience. Make sure to include all the relevant keywords to be found in searches. You could have a stellar portfolio, but if it is not searchable, what is the point?