I’ve been a member of Wonderful Machine for over a decade now. A lot of great things (big and small) have happened by being on their roster. And unlike some other source sites out there, I’ve never felt like I’ve wasted money being on their site.
I frequently get emails from photographers thinking of joining up. I did a Q&A email exchange with Brian Stevenson a few months ago and thought it might be useful info for anyone else thinking of joining.
BS: Bill Cramer at Wonderful Machine has offered me a place on their roster of shooters and I’d love to hear your perspective on how well their marketing model is working for you. If you have a couple of minutes, would you mind answering a couple of questions for me? I’d really appreciate any insights you can provide.
LB: Sure Brian! Wonderful Machine is great. It’s like a better version of all those find a photographer websites out there. And they’re all really nice people to work with and get advice from. I’ll answer your questions below.
BS: Has Wonderful Machine helped you increase your exposure?
LB: Depends on what you quantify as exposure. They are consistently in my top 10 referrals to my website. How many of those visitors are potential clients or just other photographers is hard to say. I am of the belief that not one single marketing effort will increase your exposure, rather the more reputable places for a potential client to see your name and your work, the better off your chances are to get hired. I’m also listed on Workbook.com, FoundFolios.com, and CommArts.com, PhotoServe, ASMP, AIAP, and EP; plus all the typical social media stuff. I even do Google AdWords and constantly tweak my SEO. Some of my bigger jobs have come from Google searches.
BS: Do you feel like you’ve been adequately represented in their general marketing campaigns?
LB: I’ve been in a couple of their email campaigns and been on their blog periodically. They have my printed portfolio that they shop it around to appropriate magazines and agencies when they do their showings. My book is one of 20 or more, but it’s still nice they do that. Again, the more your name gets out there, the more likely you are to get work.
BS: Are you able to communicate well with them?
LB: They are always quick to respond when I reach out to them. I usually email, but sometimes I call. They did drop the ball once when I asked them if they wanted to take over my email marketing. They said they would come up with a plan and a cost and then never got back to me. I never followed up and decided to do it myself. I think I’m happier doing it myself and it saves me money. The thing about Wonderful Machine is, the more you put into it the more you get out of it.
BS: Have you had them negotiate any contracts for you and do you feel like they generated more income for you on any jobs than you would have likely generated on your own? Do they respond quickly when you need to put together a bid on short notice?
LB: I asked them to help me on a couple of estimates and both times their numbers were way higher than the client wanted to pay. I have never had them bid a job on my behalf.
BS: Have they generated any work for you in national markets (i.e. outside the NW)?
LB: I’ve shot for mags like Sunset and Parents in the Pacific Northwest, but I can’t say they’ve gotten me work outside of this market (i.e. I haven’t shot outside the area for a lead I got from them). A while back they got an inquiry for a pretty big ad shoot and were pitching me as the photographer. Nothing ever materialized from it, though.
BS: Do you get the sense Wonderful Machine is well regarded by creative directors and editors (I’ve been familiar with Wonderful Machine for a long time and based on their now regular contributions to A Photo Editor, it seems like they are respected)?
LB: Yes, absolutely. Though there is some confusion because they are not reps in the traditional sense, yet some art buyers or photo editors think of them as reps.
BS: Do you think there is any industry bias against this type of representation model?
LB: I don’t really know. Honestly, I think a majority of the WM photographers are at the emerging stage of their careers. So, you’re in that pool and associated with that level of photographer. Definitely some talent in the ranks, but I don’t think it has the same clout as Workbook.com or more exclusive source sites like LeBook. Some photographers are so popular and in-demand that they don’t even have websites. How’s that for cocky?
Again, WM is a great way to get traffic to your site. Then it’s up to you to sell yourself and get the work.
BS: Are there any downsides to signing with them (other than the cost) and has the membership been a good value for you?
LB: I’m paying $150 a month. I’ve definitely gotten enough work each from them to justify the expense. Stats wise, I had 645 visitors from WM last year and they were my #1 source site referral and #3 overall. If half of them were qualified leads, that’s $3.75 per click. About what you would spend on Google Ads.