Episode 311 — How to Land Projects Through Your Brand
Episode 311 — How to Land Projects Through Your Brand
As artists, we all have a fear that if we do too much of the same thing, we’re going to be known as a one-trick pony and get pigeonholed. But the big mistake we make when we let our careers run its own course. Successful artists have their hands on that wheel so that they don’t fall into that trap because they choose how they want to position themselves and their messaging.
The idea is not to tie ourselves to one niche. The idea is to eliminate competition. By niching down, we can attract clients and position ourselves as the go-to person. In addition, how we niche down — is up to us! We don’t have to be the number one in the world. We don’t even have to be the number one in our city. We just have to be the go-to person in our clients’ rolodexes.
In this Podcast, Allan talks about the difference between niching down and getting pigeonholed, how to continue evolving, how to create several niches in different markets — and how to become the go-to person on your clients’ rolodexes.
[02:33] Why Artists Are Afraid of Getting Pigeonholed
[04:30] Why It’s Important to Niche Down
[09:02] How to Create Several Niches for Different Markets
[10:37] Becoming the Number One of Your Clients’ Rolodexes
EPISODE 311 — HOW TO LAND PROJECTS THROUGH YOUR BRAND
Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay.
Welcome to Episode 311! I’m going to be talking about landing clients through your personal work.
Please take a moment to share this Episode with others. That would mean the world to me!
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:02] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[11:55] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
HOW TO LAND PROJECTS THROUGH YOUR BRAND
[02:33] We all have this fear that if we do too much of the same thing, as artists, we’re going to be known as a one-trick pony and we’ll never get hired for anything. So we don’t want to do too much of that one thing because we’ll get pigeonholed for the rest of our careers. You can get pigeonholed, but really it’s all on you whether you’re in control of your career. If you put no effort into your career, it goes its own course. That’s the big mistake we make when we let our careers run its own course. Successful artists have their hands on that wheel, so that they aren’t falling into that trap because they’re choosing how they want to position themselves and their messaging.
[03:21] As for being a one-trick pony, it is true if you just do that one thing. This is why I hate when people don’t want to share their secrets. This is the reason I started sharing my tutorial early on because it forced me to never get stagnant on that one thing. Because you get so guarded over that thing, you’ll never grow and risk being replaced. That’s ultimately what people see as getting pigeonholed.
[04:05] As artists we always need to be evolving. That means learning new ways to do things, experimenting and being a well-rounded artist. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get your message to resonate by standing out or getting really well known for that one thing; so much so that, yes, you can do that job in all other areas — but you’re the one person they think of to solve that one problem. Everyone is afraid of getting pigeonholed, but I want to share with you how to use this to your advantage.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO NICHE DOWN
[04:30] A lot of us are worried that we specialize, we’ll be known for that one thing. The truth is — and I’ve said this before — it’s important to niche down. And you can have multiple niches and be known for many things. The idea is not to tie yourself to one niche. The idea is to eliminate competition. By niching down, you can attract clients and positon yourself as the go-to person.
[05:13] Here is one example. (And I just note that I never got pigeonholed. I got known as the go-to artist in different areas. I became the perfect person to hire.) In 2004, I got hired to work on a movie called Blade. I got to create a lot of vampire ashing effects in the movie. That led me to another feature film, and another. I kept getting vampire ashing effects. Then I got to work on a movie called Daybreakers and I became the obvious person to hire for that. The filmmakers on that kept mentioning how much they loved the vampire ashing on Blade. I paired up with a friend of mine and we got to pick what we wanted to do on that project. Doing that meant that I kept getting more and more of that type of work. I even turned down a couple of movies because I got sick of doing that.
[06:40] Then I was on set in Baton Rouge in Louisiana. I got a phone call from New York about a Super Bowl commercial. They sent me the story boards. This was for God of War. They came directly to me without considering anyone else. That meant that I could leverage every aspect of the job. God of War would lead me to Avengers: Endgame. I was hired to create the poster and the challenge was that I had to instantly identify what happened at the end of Infinity War when everyone turned to ash. This was Marvel’s baby and the cliffhanger at the end of the movie. I originally turned it down because I didn’t know what the project was. It was only after the creative director texted me under his desk, telling me what it was. That’s when I decided to change my tune.
[08:24] So before the film was even out, they were approaching me directly and referencing the work that I’d done on all these other projects. It single handedly became the most popular poster of 2019, it got nominated for awards. I’ve never worked on movie posters before. I negotiated everything, including flights to Vegas from LA after the job. This was: Blade to God of War, to Daybreakers, to Avengers. Each project built on itself!
HOW CREATE SEVERAL NICHES FOR DIFFERENT MARKETS
[09:02] Could I have done that if I didn’t get pigeonholed? And the thing is: I wasn’t getting pigeonholed. I was doing dozens of other projects and niches. I was working on building destructions, fire shots and so many other types of effects. The difference is that I cornered each market. I’d done a good job branding myself as the go-to person in that market. And I did this for many areas. Since that, I continue to do that: ILM, Rhythm and Hues know me as the fire guy they want to hire when they need fire effects. Rhythm and Hues asked me if I wanted to build their fire department. Same thing happened on Call of Duty: I created a massive library of assets for the game which ended up being distributed to other studios who then wanted to hire me for their projects.
[10:11] Bit by bit, I’m building out markets that I can occupy. So it’s not getting pigeonholed — it’s branding myself as the go-to person in that niche. For each of those markets, I want my fingerprint. So it’s about owning your niche. Think about how you want to do that for yourself.
BECOMING THE NUMBER ONE IN YOUR CLIENTS’ ROLODEXES
[10:37] How you want to niche down is up to you! You don’t have to be the number one in the world. You don’t have to be the number one in your city. You just have to be the go-to person in your client’s rolodex. I wanted to use this as an example to show you effective branding. Bit by bit, you become the person that resonates in your client’s mind. I want you to understand that getting pigeonholed — or being defined as the go-to person — does not cripple you but put you ahead of your competition. This is the way to get ahead and get special opportunities for yourself where no one is competing for that job, unless you turn it down.
Thanks for listening! I hope you enjoyed this Episode.
I’ll be back next week, giving advice for entry level artists. Until then —
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How much should I charge?
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Money, negotiating, probably two words that build the most tension just at the thought of, other than public speaking.
This guide was designed for Artists – whether you’re a Designer, Illustrator, Matte Painter, Animator, FX, whatever! We all need to get hired for productions, and we all need to get what we’re worth.
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