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Why we don’t always respond to Bark.com

As a commercial photographer in Shropshire, you may find our details on a couple of commercial, corporate headshot and video/photography sourcing websites – typically bark.com and bidvine. I’ve used Bark quite successfully in the past and I have a some great long term clients as a result. But let me explain the process from my perspective because a lot of commercial clients who use these services don’t realise how expensive it really is and how important a clear requirement is to securing our interest, and ultimately our services. Alongside that, a lot of photographers are very dismissive of the service and consider it to be “fake” which is unfair. I think photographers who have failed to secure work are either not filtering out the requirements properly (e.g. bidding on absolutely everything) or simply don’t have the skills to engage a client with a good quote supported by a high quality portfolio of work.

How Bark works

A client looking for a photographer or videographer will enter the details of their project onto Bark. Bark then send an email to photographers and videographers who are servicing the client’s location and they will have set a pre-determined price for the photographer/videographer to pay to respond to the client – this is typically around £30 for a requirement that’s going out nationally. More local requirements are charged at a slightly lower rate. Photographers buy packs of “credits” (in units of 100) which enables them to respond to around 4-6 requests. It’s a free service for those looking for photographers, and an expensive one to respond. Not everyone realises that it costs money.

Additionally, Bark displays websites of photographers, so prospective clients who like the look of a photographer (I mean the look of their services, not their appearance!) can ask for the photographer to contact them directly. This costs a photographer £30 to respond.

So in practice, if someone puts a requirement into Bark, it may attract the interest of 10 photographers. The client chooses one, and (in this case) Bark will make £300. The client gets their photographer, the successful photographer gets some work. The ones who responded but didn’t get chosen lose out to the tune of £30, but that’s life. In some cases the client may change their mind and drop the requirement, or go with a photographer who isn’t on Bark, e.g. through a google search.

Example requirements

We do respond to Bark requests, but only if the requirement is sufficiently clear enough and when we do respond, nine times out of ten we secure the work. Before responding we consider two very important things: 1. That the client is serious about what they want and not just fishing for a price for a project that hasn’t even got off the ground, and 2. That the client has a clear idea about what they’re looking for and has given this some thought – at least enough to quote against. Throwaway requirements that are very vague simply won’t attract our attention – we’re not going to waste money on those. Perhaps the fact that the service is free for those looking for a photographer is part of the reason why requirements are often vague. Let’s face it, if you were paying to put a requirement into a service then you’d take the time to use your money carefully.

So let’s take a look at some of the requirements that recently hit our inbox and hopefully you’ll be able to see what we’re up against in terms of deciding whether to respond or not. We receive up to 50 of these a week. I’ve anonymised these of course:

Which industry does your business operate in
Whisky 
What is the target length of the video?
2-3 minutes
How many videos will you need?
Several videos
When do you need this service completed?
In the next few weeks
Which element(s) of are you looking for help with?
Film Crew, Editing Crew

So…. that’s it. How do I know what this client actually wants? Drinking whiskey? Manufacturing it? Delivering it? Talking head video about the business? Several videos – how many? Editing takes time. I can’t possibly give a quote so despite the title catching my eye, that one went in the trash. Here’s another:

Which industry does your business operate in
Healthcare
What is the target length of the video?
1-2 minutes
How many videos will you need?
Several videos
When do you need this service completed?
I’m flexible
Which element(s) of are you looking for help with?
Storyboarding, Scripts, Filming Equipment, Editing Equipment, Film Crew, Editing Crew

So this one is equally vague. 18 words in total (and the majority of those are selected from a drop down menu). This gives me no idea what the client is actually looking for. Perhaps they don’t know themselves, so a little research is called for up front.

Let’s try another:

Which industry does your business operate in
Travel
What is the target length of the video?
More than 30 minutes
How many videos will you need?
Several edits of the same video
When do you need this service completed?
As soon as possible
Which element(s) of are you looking for help with?
Film Crew

No chance. How much more than 30 minutes? Several edits – how many? And on top of that it’s apparently urgent but there’s no information about what’s actually wanted. This client may have huge expectations and this needs to be a lot clearer. Impossible to quote for this although it could be interesting, what a shame.

Here’s another one:

Which industry does your business operate in
well being coaching
What is the target length of the video?
2-3 minutes
How many videos will you need?
I’d like to discuss this with the pro
When do you need this service completed?
I’m flexible
Which element(s) of are you looking for help with?
I’d like to discuss with the pro
Additional Details
I am looking to have a main video of no more than 3 minutes via email to potential clients to raise their interest in my services. I offer Life Coaching Sessions to companies in xxx with the goal to reduce absenteeism in the work place by helping the employees to strike a work/life balance. I do have the relevant information that I need to be relayed to the potential clients and would like the input of a professional that would create a clip to showcase the information and the benefits of my services in the long run.

At last! Now this is an example of a well thought through and viable requirement. There’s enough information there to at least visualise what the client actually wants and certainly enough for us to consider responding. With a few clarifications we would put together a good quote and be confident about securing the work. Sadly for us this one was too far away!

Why specifications need to be clear

Generally I find that less than one in twenty requirements have enough information to quote against, so I can understand why some less experienced photographers get frustrated when they pay to respond and either don’t get the work or nothing happens – they think it’s a waste of money and give up.

We fully understand why clients use Bark or Bidvine, it gives them a range of responses which they can evaluate, particularly if they’re driven by price above quality. But If you’re a potential client, or know someone who’s going to use Bark to reach out for a photographer, please make sure that the specification is given enough thought and detail – then we’ll be more than happy to look at responding and we’re confident that we’ll secure the job. And remember that people pay to respond, so the better the specification, the more responses are likely to come in.

Alternatively if you’re looking for a photographer or videographer and you’re reading this, consider contacting us directly.