Hunter Freeman Went to Chicago in February. Yes, February. Here Is What He Learned While He Was There.

On a recent trip to Minneapolis for the Portfolio Show Community Table, an art producer told us that if photographers and reps visited in the winter, the agencies would be so happy.  “No one ever visits us in the winter.  Can you blame them?  If you come in the winter, we will treat you like a rock star.”  I told Hunter Freeman this and since he was already headed to Chicago to celebrate his anniversary, he made sure to call on some agencies too.  Here are some tips for your winter portfolio road show.

1)  Bring a big, really warm coat.  
When the weather in Chicago gets to -3º, PLUS the windchill, everybody in Chi-town thinks about keeping warm, and not about how fashionable they look. No one wants to become a popsicle, and end up like the icebergs in the Chicago River.

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2) Call ahead.
My fabulous rep, Heather Elder, (aw schucks!) helped immensely by contacting tons of people well ahead of my trip, with whom I had some excellent conversations even before I got there. People need time to see how their schedules will play out.

3) Keep it flexible.
Even though I had scheduled meetings, I needed to leave free time available. A couple of art producers didn’t know, until just before we met, when they would be available. Try to be accommodating.

4)  Stay right in the middle of it all.
I found a hotel right near the Loop, and for a good rate – I mean, it was February in Chicago after all. Getting to all the agencies was easy that way. When the weather is brrrrrrutal like it was, walking was not really an option. Unless I didn’t want to be able to talk when I got to my appointment. Cab rides were short. And warm.

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5) Bring baked goods.
It’s winter. It’s too damn cold. Everyone is tired of winter. Everyone enjoys a treat. And nobody didn’t like the cupcakes I brought. If you’re wondering, yes, absolutely I bought some extras for myself. They were that good.

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6) Don’t waste their time.
Everyone is busy as hell. I tried to make sure I knew what they all worked on, and match that with my presentation. Knowing what an agency’s clients are is so important.

7) Bring a warm hat.
Do I need to elaborate?

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8) Bring a warm scarf.
Any questions?

9)  Have some fun while you are there.
Anytime is great to see the Blackhawks play. Even though I am a Red Wings fan, hockey in Chicago is the best. The fans are great, and so is the team. Love love love their passion. And, they have two of my all-time favorite players: Jonathan Toews and Marion Hossa. Go Hawks! (but Go Red Wings, first!)

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10)  Follow Up!
I have to follow up. The meetings were great, but they are just the initial step of the effort to connect – and work – with these wonderful art producers. Following up with email (or snail mail) thank you’s was my next step, and then staying with them over time comes next, as I stay in touch.

It took time and a lot of planning, but it was worth it to connect in person, face-to-face. Nothing beats that. It allowed all of us to get to know each other a bit better, and to have relaxed conversations, and ones that are not always just about work. Everyone I met was very happy to make the time to see me and my portfolio, and I’m grateful for that.   I may have flown back to (much warmer!) California, but the connections are still there in Chicago. My job now is to strengthen those connections. I’d love to go back and work with all of them. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get them to come out here when it’s so damn cold in Chicago.

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