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Do you know how to sell yourself?

Recently we did an open call for our workshop ‘Crafting a Compelling Photo-essay’ and despite receiving an astounding amount of submissions, unfortunately a lot of them were, well, to say the least, quite disappointing. We have realised a fundamental issue which is many Creatives do not know how to ‘sell themselves’. When applying for an open call, workshop or whatever it may be, you need to write in such a way that you make the organisation that you are applying for literally want to call you right away and say that you have been selected!

How not to get yourself selected…

Despite the various questions we asked, the two important ones which allowed for the applicant to go into details were the following;

Tell us a little about yourself and your practice

Tell us why you should be selected

As you can see I highlighted the words ‘little’, ‘yourself’, ‘practice’, ‘why’ and ‘selected’ in bold. These words should determine what you write next. Lets analyse a rather exaggerated example but an example which will help a creative NOT to get selected for an open call. This response is for; Tell us a little about yourself and your practice

This response is for; Tell us why you should be selected

Now, like I said before, these are rather exaggerated examples but unfortunately resemble some of the responses we have received. Let's look at the first example and analyse what went wrong. Our hypothetical character, Abigail, shot herself in the foot by stating that she is an ‘upcoming award-winning photographer’. First of all, who gave her that title? Second of all, if you are so great then why are you applying for a workshop? ‘Selling yourself’ does not necessarily mean boasting and making yourself look bigger (possibly bigger than you actually are). The second thing that was wrong was her use of a cliche quote, ‘I believe a picture can tell a thousand words and I want to be the one telling those words.’ Can I be sincere with you, this is a quote that many industry professionals considering your application will roll their eyes at and click next without even reading the rest of what you have written, in other words, stay away from cliche statements! The third error was her stating that she takes ‘compelling photos that make people fall in love with my work after looking at it.’ Again, who gave her such a title? Avoid giving yourself such compliments because first of all, this may not truly reflect what people think about your work, and two, a bit of humility can really go a long way!

Now lets move onto why she said that she should be selected.

Without going into too much analysis, we can see that her entire paragraph was an epic fail! Again, she boasted about how many years experience she has, how many workshops she has participated in and how many skill she has acquired, if this is the case, then why does she feel the need to apply for a workshop? She then went on to say how her participating on the workshop will add to the training that she has ‘under my belt’ and how she would like to contribute to the workshop with her ‘various skills’. She then ruined things further for herself by proudly stating that being selected will benefit the person selecting her and she is expecting a ‘favourable response soon’. Now, where do we even start with this? Everything was wrong! If you are being asked why you should be picked, you should be focusing on how the workshop will help you to form and improve as a creative. Again, humility comes in by admitting certain flaws in your work and how this workshop will help you to improve on those flaws.

How to potentially get yourself selected…

Let's look at more appropriate responses. This is for ‘tell us a little about yourself and your practice’

This response is succinct and straight to the point, she states who she is and where she is from, she then goes on to give enough details explaining what got her into photography and what her work revolves around. She gives enough detail to the person viewing her submission to get an idea of her background and her experience without it being boastful.

Lets move onto ‘tell us why you should be selected’

Again, short, snappy and straight to the point. She points out where she has been going wrong and specifically how this workshop will help her to correct her mistakes and improve. She even throws in a statement implying that the facilitators will select other creatives seeking to improve and how this will give her the encouragement that she needs.

To wrap things up, I know at times it may be difficult to ‘sell yourself’ and try to convince someone that you should be selected for a call out, but taking your time to to pick out key words in a question, writing according to it and then reviewing what you have written to make sure it truly gives the individual considering you a well rounded idea of who you are, goes a really long way!

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