The question about working for free in creative business is probably as old as it gets. I bet there was some douchebag neanderthal not giving the fair share of meat to the cave painter because, after all, the artist would get exposure for his work. However, there is a time and place for “free work”, and this is a story of one of them times.
The story starts a few months back, when my friend Jan Ameri asked me if I want to make an image of Gary Vaynerchuk when he is visiting Finland. Gary is a New York-based entrepreneur, author, speaker and internet personality. Vaynerchuk is best known for his work in digital marketing and social media and leading his companies VaynerMedia and Vayner X. After thinking 0.2 nanoseconds I said a big YES to this proposition, even though I knew that it would be a fully pro bono case -no money in it for me. Why this was an easy call? How do I decide that a project is worth doing? It all comes down to a triangle of Money, Portfolio and Networks. (I remember also Chase Jarvis talking about something similar process)
Money: There is enough budget for creating the best possible image
Portfolio: I know I will be creating an image that will improve my portfolio
Networks: The people I will interact with during the project will be especially good addition to my network, possibly leading to new things.
The ultimate project for me is of course a project where all these elements come together, but I’m also willing to take on a project if I get at least TWO of these elements. Only ONE is not enough. So for example, I will take on a project that brings in the money AND strengthens my portfolio OR widens my network. However, I might do a project totally pro bono if I know the image will improve my portfolio AND the people I meet in the project will be an important addition to my networks. If this is the case, then the money is not an issue anymore. This project with Gary was a perfect match for this category: an amazing image to my portfolio and valuable networks for possible future projects.
Back to the story of Finding Gary V. The photoshoot of Gary took place in a hotel in Helsinki (Clarion), where I had something like 10 minutes to make the shot in the gym. Since I had such a clear vision of the image, I only needed 5 minutes for the photo shoot and the rest of the time we talked about concept etc. We finished with high fives and I promised to Gary that he will receive the image in some form, some time, some place.
Gary teaches in his talks that you should always go that extra mile. Well, I wanted to show I’ve been listening, so I decided to try to find a way to hand deliver the image to him to New York, from Siilinjärvi, Finland. Crazy? You bet. But whaddya know, when I contacted my co-operation company Chromaluxe and pitched the idea, they saw the brilliance in this craziness and pitched in to the project and got me on my way to New York to find the man.
So, after few months I was on a plane heading to NY, my brain still trying to wrap around what is happening. The metallic print of the image with my signature was waiting for me in New York at Chromaluxe partner company Baboo Digital together with additional items: coasters, smaller prints and travel tags that the Team GaryVee (#60secondclub) could hand out to the Fans of Gary. I still didn’t know if Gary could actually find the time to meet me, so I made a good use of my time in Big Apple meeting a bunch of amazing world-class photographers, visiting Adobe NY office and also holding a 3-hour workshop at Google about retouching and creativity. By the way, all of these were possible only because of my earlier networks, built by contacting and helping people along the way! Before my week in NY was over, I got my slice of Gary’s super busy schedule, met Gary himself, and got to meet all the guys behind the man (TeamGaryVee) in VaynerMedia, even took a trip to sauna with one of them (thanks Andy!). Networks and friends. I cannot put a price tag on those, so I’m very happy with how this project turned out, even though I don’t know yet where this project takes me, if anywhere. What I do know is that this mindset has taken me far already.
Here is a video of the whole process: concept, photoshoot, delivery 😀 One of the best trips of my life, hopefully working out getting my images seen worldwide and drawing my dream clients in.
Lessons of Finding Gary V:
1. When you consider taking on a project, think about the triangle of Money, Portfolio and Networks
2. Be persistent. Be crazy. Take a chance. Go an extra mile (or 4000 miles).
3. Don’t underestimate the power of networks! You never know where the ripple effect takes you.
PROCESS OF THE IMAGE: