Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The False Promise of Directory Listings

Do you feel like there's a new photo directory popping up every other week and somehow you've received an "exclusive invitation" to be one of the first ones to list your service and website on it?  Does it mention how revolutionary this directory will be compared to the hundreds of others out there that already exist?  Isn't it funny how no one else is raving about it?  Isn't it weird that they're contacting YOU to sell you a listing, rather than you finding them and thinking they're awesome?  Funny how that works.

My first experience with the directory listing business model was actually with a publishing house that held a "poetry contest" and sought to give me an award for my poetry and publish me in a book when I was about 12 years old.  At that age, any opportunity to receive recognition for my original work, especially in a national outlet, felt like a major achievement!

When the "award letter" arrived announcing that I was "being selected for publication" with a special offer for me to purchase the book I was going to be featured in for $50 (cleverly listed as 50% off of $100 as a "discount for contributors"), my parents didn't think that the price being asked for the book was appropriate for my contribution, and simply refused to buy it without telling me why.

Once I got over pre-teen emotional let-down about not getting to own my "first publication", I slowly realized that it was actually a money-making scheme all along that preyed on young poets wanting to be published, and the families that would be excited for them.  My family didn't seem to have the heart to tell me directly, but I came to realize that no one else in the world would actually end up seeing these books on bookshelves or would actually buy a book of poetry by randomly selected amateurs for $100, let alone $50 unless they were the ones being published in it.  That was the year I gained wisdom into the crafty world of directory sales & marketing tactics.

Unfortunately, artists tend to be easy prey for these ploys of visibility.  Often thinking that the promise of being published, featured on a website, or part of some larger directory will help them gain more visibility, and that more visibility will lead to more clients, when in reality it's just another pay-to-play scheme.

I'm not saying that ALL photographer directories are worthless.  Some are useful for reasons beyond having a listing alone- and I'm sure that you will easily be able to figure out which ones those are.  I'm just saying that if you've never heard of the directory and they're calling you or emailing you to tell you how much you need their directory, or how awesome your business will be after signing up, they probably aren't actually that awesome, which is why they are always searching for new customers.

Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems.  Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

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