The photo book I sent to five organizations in my first-ever print campaign to reach potential new clients. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

The photo book I sent to five organizations in my first-ever print campaign to reach potential new clients. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Last year I did something I’ve never done before for my business: I created a small marketing booklet of my photography and writing work for humanitarian organizations and sent it to five potential new clients — my ideal clients.

What is an ideal client?

First, let’s define an ideal client. It’s the person you’d love to work with and who wants your skills and services for solving their problem. Some questions to ask yourself about your ideal client are:

  • What is their gender?

  • How old are they?

  • What is their race?

  • What is their level of education?

  • Where do they live?

  • What are their hobbies?

  • What do they value?

  • What are their daily habits?

  • Where do they shop?

  • What is their job?

  • What are their pain points that your service could help solve?

  • What do they worry about at night?

I know some of these questions may seem odd. I felt the same way the first time I wrote down all the traits of my ideal client. But once I did this exercise the first time, I found that I gained real clarity on exactly who I wanted as a client and why they would want to hire me (or not).

The process of creating my photography booklet

I’ve known for some time the identity of my ideal client, so I quickly moved on to making my photography booklet. The process was fun and creative and collaborative, which made it feel simple. It was also time-consuming and sometimes maddening, which made it feel difficult.

Over three months, I spent spare hours working on everything, which included:

  • Selecting the pictures and the one written story I would publish 

  • Hiring a color correction specialist, Shelby Leeman, to prepare all my photo files

  • Editing the photo captions

  • Designing the book based off a free InDesign template

  • Hiring a designer, Tippi Thole of Bright Spot Studio, to fix my design mistakes

  • Convincing like 47 friends to look through the book for errors (thanks again, friends!)

  • Printing the book via

  • Printing an accompanying postcard via

  • Selecting the ideal clients I wanted to target with this mailing

  • Creating a marketing plan for pitching these organizations, including a postcard message and follow-up email message

Guess which tasks I spent the most time on? You’re right if you picked the last two.

I was selective and methodical about the organizations — the ideal clients — I targeted with my mailing.

I wanted a high chance of success, which I defined as landing a face-to-face or phone meeting with someone at the organization. I knew I had less of a chance of this happening if it looked like I sent out a mass mailing.

Finding people’s email addresses

I found four very easily on each organization’s website. The fifth one I searched and searched for. I’m talking hours of Googling, scrolling through dozens of the organization’s press releases to see if this person’s name and email address was on it, searching through conference programs for a name and email, etc. I finally found the email address of someone else at that organization and used that as a model for the communications director’s email.

I started this project with a list of about a dozen organizations I’d always dreamed of working with but never had. Over a couple weeks of delving more deeply into their websites, social media and financial statements, I selected five NGOs that I thought would be a good, mutually-beneficial fit based on my skillsets and ethical values. More recently, I decided to send out one additional book this past January to a potential client that put out a request for photographers and videographers to join their freelance roster.

Before this process, I thought I would probably be targeting 10 organizations. But I wasn’t set on that number. I made an Excel sheet listing each organization and its mailing address plus the person I would mail everything to (usually a communications director) and his or her email address. I also created columns to track when I had reached out to each organization and what the response had been.

I tailored each postcard message to each organization.

I’d been following the work of most of the organizations for years, so I had a good idea of what I would write on each postcard:

  • a greeting and opening sentence about why I admired the organization’s work

  • two or three sentences about my skills and the organizations I’ve worked with

  • two or three sentences about why I was contacting them

  • one sentence inviting them to connect with me in person or over the phone

  • a sign off

I edited and re-edited these messages to hit the right tone before committing them to each postcard. Then, about two weeks after I sent out each mailing, I emailed each person a short follow-up message. 

I used consistent branding in all my marketing materials.

The photo on the cover of the book was also the photo on the postcard and the main photo on my website. The postcard had my rectangular logo on the back, printed quite small. The envelope in which I put the book and the postcard was very close in color to the yellow that is part of my logo. I searched so long for that yellow envelope! The sticker that I put on each envelope enclosure was a round version of my logo. 

What were the results?

Out of the five original mailers I sent out, I landed two in-person meetings and didn’t hear anything from the other three organizations. I consider that a win. I had good meetings with both organizations. One person complimented me on my brand cohesion and nicely-written captions. The organization I contacted in January tentatively hired me for a shoot in March but I canceled it because of the coronavirus.

Although I haven’t landed and carried out an assignment yet, I have no regrets about the time and money I spent on my campaign. I learned quite a bit in those two in-person meetings. I’m thinking long-term professional relationships here. If even one of these organizations hires me for an assignment one day, that assignment will more than pay for the costs of the mailing. I also learned quite a bit in the process of creating and sending this mailer. All those lessons will make it easier the next time I do this.