In this months podcast, we’re looking at how you can promote your services as a creative in the increasingly-populated freelancing marketplace. Andy talks to Scott Belsky of Behance, an online portfolio platform catering specifically to freelancers working in creative fields, about how they can utilise their service to better market their service. He also interviews portrait photographer Andy Deighton about the realities of promotion online.
Andy: Hello everyone and welcome to episode 31 of Freelance Advisor. In today’s show I’m talking to Scott Belsky, the man behind Behance, which is an online platform for artistic freelancers. Then I’ll be speaking to Andy Deighton who is a freelance photographer and he’ll be telling us about some of the online ways he promotes himself.
All coming up in Freelance Advisor.
I’m absolutely delighted to be speaking to Scott Belsky who is the founder and CEO of Behance. Hello Scott.
Scott: Hello, how are you?
Andy: I’m very well. Now Scott, tell me about the story behind Behance.
Scott: Sure, well our team has been working together for about five years to help organise and empower creative professionals. We developed the Behance network which first launched in 2007, and over the years become the leading online platform for creative professionals to showcase their work – sort of like a LinkedIn for the creative world. And over the years we’ve started to work with LinkedIn to power creative portfolio displays for them as well as other websites, galleries, schools and organizations around the world to help them use portfolio display capabilities. At the end of the day we’re helping a creative professional put up their portfolio and showcase their work on many different sites, to effectively millions of people who come to our properties every day.
Andy: How long has Behance been going?
Scott: We’ve been operating for about five years now.
Andy: How does Behance actually work? How does it help creative type market themselves?
Scott: It starts with users creating a free portfolio, you can upload an unlimited number of projects. A projects consists of video, the imagery text, whatever the user wants to put in the project. Again, it’s completely free, you can create as many projects as you want, with as much media as you want. When you upload the project you can also enter information about who the client was, what tools you used to create the project and what creative field it’s in. Once these are published, you can choose to show them on your LinkedIn profile, you can push them to Facebook, you can use other social media sites to promote the work, you can even pop it into your own personal portfolio site – it’s on your own branded domain name, and you can have all this work stay in sync, all the time. For the first time ever we have work being managed by an online presence of creative work and a portfolio that stays in sync on many different sites all at once.
Andy: So it links to other media sites does it, Scott?
Scott: Yes, if you go to LinkedIn and you see someone’s profile if they are using Behance they’ll have their portfolio of projects visible within their LinkedIn profile. If you go to http://be.net you’ll see many different projects being published every single minute from users round the world. If you go to some of our search sites it’s just a gallery, a showcase of projects from people’s portfolios that are especially popular in the community. We also create portfolios to display for other schools and organisations around the country but the notion is that this platform keeps every website in sync, so you never have to keep your work updated in more than one place.
Andy: So effectively Behance becomes the hub, if you like?
Scott: Exactly and that’s what we think has always been missing in the creative world. There’s so many different places that we put up static images or we have these static portfolio sites that get outdated from the moment we create them. The ideas is, why don’t we create a hub that keeps all of this stuff in sync and fresh and is very easy to not only promote and publish your work, but also for people to find it. On Behance now, given the infrastructure, if you search Nike, you can see every piece of Nike around the world in the past few hours and you can sort by country and really get an understanding the creative world at work.
Andy: That leads into my next question because I was going to ask how Behance is different from other portfolio type offerings such as Flickr and Vimeo and perhaps your personal website. Is that the main difference then, it updates the others automatically?
Scott: Yeh, it does two things. Firstly, users an embed their Vimeo and Flickr galleries within Behance projects, so Behance is a way to broadcast their work and get it out there. We really think the era of the static portfolio site is over. The idea of putting all of your work up on a website, where only the people who know you will see it, and otherwise it just stays there and it sits there static. It’s not an efficient way to build a creative career over time, so what we are developing is what we call the connected portfolio. Every time you put a project not only does it live there, but it lives elsewhere, you can control the privacy settings of some projects and not others, you can have real granularity around how you showcase your work to the world. Some of the biggest agencies have told us that Behance is their number one source for new talent these days because of how easy it is to filter and sort through the work. Similarly a lot of creative professions and freelancers especially, have told us that the platform has really made an impact on their career because the feel that people are finally able to find their work through their projects – you see their project then you see the person’s profile then you contact them that’s the logical progression.
Andy: So Scott what sort of people, what sort of creative freelancers are using Behance?
Scott: We have a real diverse group of creatives and freelancers that are using the Behance network and I’ve also registered for the new portfolio product called Prosite and they range from graphic designers, illustrators, web designers, we have a lot of people in the world of fashion and photography especially is very large in the Behance network. We have architects, we have a lot of folks that are doing development and programming as well. Everyone who feels like a portfolio of work is a better way to present their potential than a resume, that’s the area that we’re targeting with our technology and product.
Andy: I’m just looking now at the website, I’m looking at some amazing, well I assume they’re paintings, they look kind of really retro, almost medieval. Presumably, say for example, I was a programmer or I wrote iPhone apps, could I display those on here as well?
Scott: Yeh, we allow in a project setting for people to upload video, audio, imagery or text and embed pretty much anything else from around the web. So people are very creative on how they display their talents, whether they’re developing applications for the iPhone or Android. Web designers and web developers often are publishing a project and they’re sharing the project with other people they’ve worked with, so that same piece of work shows up in two peoples’ portfolios, which is a more efficient way to showcase your work and credit the people you work with often. We’ve seen some incredibly creative ways for people to showcase their work on Behance.
Andy: Fantastic. And presumably, say I was looking for some talent here, it’s fairly easy to make contact with the various artists is it?
Scott: Yeh it is. We don’t ever get in the way of people contacting people, in fact we don’t charge anything, we really want to empower creative professionals to get discovered based on the quality of their work. You can see on Behance.net you can type in any sort of search query, you can contact the creative from their profile, you can look through their projects you, can follow their work and get notified every time they do something new. It’s an exiting opportunity for talent discovery.
Andy: It is – it’s quite remarkable. I’m just looking at an iPad application here that looks absolutely amazing.
Scott: People don’t realise that the network now receives over 35 million pages from around 6-7 million people per month and that’s just http://be.net, there are dozens of other sites that are running of the same platform showcasing work from specific fields – it’s exciting – we’re trying to get the word out, we’re a technology company and we don’t really spread the word as well as we should.
Andy: No. A couple of weeks ago I was directed to a really great online project management piece of software – was that you guys?
Scott: Action Method?
Andy: That’s the one, Action Method.
Scott: Yeh. Action Method is a tool that we designed originally for ourselves to help manage tasks and be more action oriented in our workflow. So Action Method is a very well designed but simple way to manage tasks and collaborative task management amongst out team. Actionmethod.com also streams with the iPhone, Android and the iPad – it’s a task ecosystem…
Andy: Yes I had a look at it and you taken the Apple approach haven’t you trying to keep it as simple as possible.
Scott: We’ve tried to keep it very simple, eliminate all unnecessary features, but it’s also a very powerful application, it keep your tasks in sync across all of your devices.
Andy: And the URL for that again is…
Scott: Yeh, the URL is http://actionmethod.com, and then Behance you can go to just http://be.net
Andy: And have you got some success stories of people that have been using Behance Scott?
Scott: We have quite a few. Just recently I heard from a guy who started a great iPad application called Flud, and he was telling me that he was full time working in a creative agency, and he started getting so many freelance opportunities through Behance that he ended up leaving his job and started doing that full time, and he was doing that for a few months then another enquiry came in from Apple who had discovered his work on Behance. Then Apple hired him for a contract period of time to redesign their iAds product. So when to work for Apple and there he met another guy who he wanted to develop this iPad application with. So they started developing this application then launched the project on Behance and and received 15,000 or 16,000 downloads in the first 2 days that they launched, the attributed that to the Behance project, it had so many views because so many people were already following his work on Behance. He’s now running a company full time with his partner and he reached out to me just to tell me how many times Behance had had an impact on his career.
Andy: Wow. And presumably Scott, is this used by people all over the world?
Scott: Yeh, in fact about 32% are from the US and then the vast majority are international, the UK is especially a large part of the network as well. We have incredibly large numbers of folks from towns in Rumania, Russia and certainly elsewhere in the world, little creative hot spots we call them, that have incredibly talented groups of people working there.
Andy: Well Scott Belski, founder and CEO of Behance, thank you very much indeed.
Scott: Oh, thank you and you’re always welcome to check it out at http://behance.net which is the network’s location.
Andy: I’m absolutely delighted to be with Andy Deighton and we’re in the Freelance Advisor offices hence the hubbub in the background. Hello Andy.
Andy D: Hello.
Andy W: Tell everyone what you do, Andy.
Andy D: What do I do? I’m a photographer. Simple as that… (laughs)
Andy W: He’s being modest, he’s a portrait photographer.
Andy D: Yes. Something which has been a love of mine for quite a few years but really on the commercial side, not until recently. So I effectively turned professional in the last three years or so. And prior to that it was really a hobby – which happens a lot to people in my business, they start things off as serious amateurs they enjoy doing what they do and a lot of people basically stay there, because of a lack of confidence generally. Because there’s a lot of photographers out there, you feel you can’t compete with them because they’re well known , they’re very expensive. In Brighton in particulate there’s a lot of them.
Andy W: There are, aren’t there…
Andy D: There are lots. So I was playing around as an amateur for quite a while, started off doing clubbing work – doing pictures of DJs, happy clubbers, I was being paid to go around the country and stay up very late and listen to lots of dance music which was good fun.
Andy W: What? So you were literally taking pictures of people dancing and enjoying themselves?
Andy D: Yes. Dancing and enjoying themselves, going into the green room, getting pictures for record labels and doing that sort of promotional work. But that took it’s toll.
Andy W: Right. You mean the late nights?
Andy D: The late nights definitely took it’s toll and also the pay wasn’t too good so despite the VIP access it doesn’t really pay for you petrol and your costs and you post processing, so I gave that up.
Andy W: So you’re no a fully fledged freelance portrait photographer.
Andy D: Yeh. I’m definitely a five to inner, in that…
Andy W: Now we had a joke about that earlier, is that 5AM to 9AM?
Andy D: Yes it can be, I’ve got 3 children so that’s definitely is one option but I have to hold down a living as well. My aspiration is to take this thing full time but it takes time.
Andy W: Sure. Yes.
Andy D: So I’m working on that.
Andy W: Now what we’re interested in, Andy, is how you promote yourself, specifically on social media. So have you got a strategy that you use, you’re willing to share with the audience?
Andy D: It’s probably nothing secretive or magical that I’m doing. First, I started off putting a lot of my work on Flickr. Flickr’s a great place if you want to share photos; have people comment on them. It’s a good place to get inspiration as well, because there’s so many. But I was quite active on Flickr for a couple of years but I found that it wasn’t really going anywhere – it’s a great place for sharing and saying, “Look at the pictures I’ve taken,” and “What do you think?” But, even though it’s a massive community, in terms of professional work and commercial work it wasn’t the vehicle. It’s not really a vehicle for promotion because it doesn’t allow to brand things or turn it into a server that’s simply holding your photos, it is the Flickr brand and you can’t get away from that. I also found that the audience was just other photographers…
Andy W: Yeh. Not potential clients?
Andy D: Not potential clients. So I’m still on Flickr and it’s fine but I decided late last year – I did try to come up with a strategy and I’m still learning that strategy – but what I’ve decided to do is I’m learning WordPress, I’ve decided to create a new site, integrate it with the blog, and use the site as a means of telling people the creative thoughts I’m going through, sharing some of the pictures I’m working on…
Andy W: I’m with you; more of a blog then, really.
Andy D: It’s definitely more of a blog and it seems now with the tools that you can use, like WordPress, you can create some really good quality blogs which also act as your portfolio because they’ve got galleries and slideshows and stuff. So late last year I decided to take that plunge, totally ripped out my old website, started again. Whereas the old website was running for a good couple of years, probably getting one or two visitors every year, all of a sudden I’m now getting comments…
Andy W: Ah! Interaction.
Andy D: Yeh, exactly – which surprised me – it’s only a few but it’s definitely trickling in. I’ve integrated that with… each time I post something new on the WordPress site it’s Tweeting under my particular ID and again that’s starting to work as well. So I’m getting people following me I wasn’t expecting.
Andy W: Are you using any particular URL shorteners with that Tweet so you can see where your traffic’s coming in, or when it’s coming in?
Andy D: No!
Again, because I’m doing this in my spare time I’m still picking up the books and seeing what I need to do to increase my SEO, but at the moment my love for photography is starting to turn into something which is looking less than an amateur effort and more as a professional thing. I’m really enjoying that and it’s making me think harder about what it is I want to talk about. I’m not really into the hard sell, so anything I tweet about is really my thoughts on this subject, here’s my thoughts on this subject, here’s a picture I did and here’s how I approached this, so it’s more of a sharing thing.
Andy W: Brilliant. Yeh. And there’s a few of those online, I’m following an American chap who’s name I’ve completely forgotten, and it’s nice to see the pictures but it’s also nice to know the thoughts that went behind them – “I took this picture because…”, or “These are the circumstances”…
Andy D: And that’s my passion too. I visited lots of galleries and I’ve seen lots of pictures just called “Untitled”, and…
Andy W: It’s a very common title that…
Andy D: It’s a very common title yes. I’ve looked at those and a lot of people say that it should just be about the picture, but for me, also being a technician, I really like to know what the thoughts were that went into that picture…
Andy W: The story behind it…
Andy D: The story behind it – which adds a new dimension to it. This is what I like to share as well. If I post a picture I always make sure I talk about how I came up with it, and why I framed it the way I framed it and those sort of sharing things…
Andy W: And when you talk to potential clients do you find it’s better now that you can refer someone to blog as a website?
Andy D: Oh definitely, definitely. In fact there was a time where when I was offered work and I would be very reluctant to accept it because I had now way of showing the people in a quality way what it is that I had already done. So I found it a little bit embarrassing that I couldn’t point them to a website of any quality.
Andy W: So presumably when you just on Flickr, were you sort of embarrassed to send people there to look at your stuff?
Andy D: Yes, because Flickr generally full of personal stuff and it’s got comments, and unmoderated comments on there and it’s not really professional enough really. I still love Flickr – I’ve built up lots of friends on there too. In fact lots of pros on on there and they share their work, but ultimately it is about your own brand.
Andy W: Absolutely. And on your WordPress site are you using any fancy photo plugins or anything like that?
Andy D: I’ve actually took the plunge, I actually bought some themes, I thought I may as well pay for some quality themes. So I found a really once theme, learning how to customise it, I’m using one called Autofocus which is a really good quality theme – there’s a bunch of plugins but I’m trying not to go overboard on all the sexy stuff because I think that, for me, a photography blog should be about the content and not about the fancy widgets and things so I’m trying to keep it simple.
Andy W: OK so basically your blog is now presumable the central hub of your online or social media strategy. Are you using anything else – you mentioned Twitter, what about Facebook or anything like that?
Andy D: No I haven’t gone for Facebook. I was a little bit put off Facebook, my account was hacked late last year – I had a warning come in from Facebook saying there had been an illegal attempt to access it and it put me off a little bit, I know I should be and I’m rethinking that side of things. And it’s compression techniques for when you upload a jpeg and it does things to it in order to display it – it kind of ruins the picture somewhat. As a photographer I wanted to show quality and I found that Facebook isn’t really a good mechanism for showing off photographs – but it will come. For now it’s Twitter which I follow every day; I always make sure I follow people who saying some interesting things – the great thing about Twitter is there’s so many people that are sharing their ideas, especially on the business side, they’re talking about photography but also about how a photography business should be run and the sort of ethics that are there as well. I’m learning every day and I’m hoping I can learn things and the share those with other people too.
Andy W: That’s the name of the game isn’t it. Now you mentioned that is was late last year that you started this blog? Can I ask you the 64 thousand, million dollar question? Has it brought business in – or are there indications that it will do?
Andy D: There are indications that it will do – I can’t lie and say it has…
Andy W: I know it’s early days for you isn’t it…
Andy D: Definitely early days. But what it has done is give me the confidence to be able to say to people “Go here, you can see what I’m up to.” I’ve got a couple of plugins that let me host videos as well because I’m also doing a lot of cinematography work, and I host all my videos on Vimeo, which is another sort of social networking type place but for videographers. I’m loving Vimeo.
Andy W: Now can I ask you, do you prefer Vimeo to YouTube? And why?
Andy D: Totally. Totally. Vimeo is more about movie makers. It allows enormous files, you pay for that, like $60 a year, but the quality of the work on there is just… I mean there’s stuff on there that’s been submitted to the Canns film festival – it’s real quality multi-minute length movies whereas YouTube is clips for me. I do have a YouTube channel but Vimeo really is the thing for me and it sings quality…
Andy W: Sure. And not being familiar with Vimeo, I’m more familiar with YouTube, presumably it has similar features, people can comment and you’ve got your own channel and things like that.
Andy D: Yeh it has all those base features which you’d expect from video sharing site but the difference is that you have all sorts of ways of customizing how you can embed videos so if people want to share my work, they can embed it and I can dictate how they embed that video clip so for example I can choose to not show my avatar or not show my company name. Whenever someone tries to embed my video, I dictate how that video will look when it’s embedded…
Andy W: So you’ve got more control basically
Andy D: Yeh. And again there are people on Vimeo, just amazing people that are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make films and they share them so, for me, I’m always looking for inspiration, and these places give me that.
Andy W: Now just as a final note, would you be happy to give advice to would be other photographers that are coming in behind you?
Andy D: Yes. Definitely. Although I’m not the king of photography yet…
Andy W: You’re that step ahead…
Andy D: It sounds a little bit corny but you really do have to believe in your own work. Early days I was put off by the shear numbers of photographers that are out there, and you think “Well I’m one of them and I’m never going to be noticed.” But you have to believe in the work that you produce because it’s highly likely that no one else is getting close to you. If you’re confidence that the style you’re producing gives you a buzz, it’s highly likely that it’s going to give someone else a buzz and you have to keep believing that. It’s so easy to believe that “ I’ve seen fifty others doing the same thing and there’s no point in me doing it” My wife and I did some exhibitions other the past couple of years and we had work come in from that because we were showing our work on our walls and people would say, “Hey I really like this – would you do our wedding for us”, even though we weren’t showing any wedding photography. It scared the hell out of us because we’d never done that sort of thing before but we thought, “Well if they like it, we should give it to them,” So you have to jump in.
Andy W: Well sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone a bit to expand and grow – it’s a leap of faith.
Andy D: Yeh it is a leap of faith. This year I’ve had some commissions come in, I’ve had some videography work come up, which I’ve never done before, and I’m a thinker so I sit down and sketch things out, and the delivered product was exactly what I was expecting. So you have to just close your eyes and jump in.
Andy W: And finally Andy, the URL of your blog?
Andy D: Very simple http://number88.co.uk
Andy W: Spelled out “number”, then 88?
Andy D: Exactly, yes. Then from there, there’s loads of pictures, ideas, little links you can go off to and check out other people’s work – and it’s growing.
Andy W: Fantastic. Andy Deighton, thank you very much indeed.