This year, Visual Connections is pleased to partner with The Workbook. Thought we would take a minute to chat with Bill Daniels, Workbook CEO about The Workbook and their staying power – 37 years plus!
VC: Workbook has been around for a long time. Tell us about your history.
Bill Daniels, Workbook CEO: First let me say from everybody at Workbook, we are really looking forward to collaborating with Visual Connections. I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me about Workbook. It’s a fun story that started thirty-seven years ago when our founder Alexis Scott misplaced her address book. In an instant she saw how valuable those names and addresses . She set out to build a directory of all the Los Angeles commercial art buyers, and Workbook was born.
LA Workbook was an immediate hit. Photographers saw this as a way to connect with the art buyers . Art buyers loved it too. Initial expansion included all of California. In 1990, Workbook went nationwide. By 2000, the annual Workbook was a set of tomes: three volumes and 2,500 pages.
Today Workbook is more than a beautiful coffee table book. We embrace new media, and the company has become an all-purpose resource for the creative community. Our website is the go-to destination for creatives looking for the best commercial artists. Our blog and social media help tell the artists’ stories in powerful ways. The printed Workbook continues to be important, becoming easier to handle and publishing twice per year. All told, we will publish more pages in 2015 than any year in our history!
VC: How do you find out what buyers need?
BD: The Workbook has an ongoing dialog creatives in our industry. For thirty-seven years, we have talked to the community about what they want and need. We also conduct regular surveys of the industry to detect and stay in front of the trends. We take a lot of pride in being an integral part of the creative process. That’s our secret sauce—this strong connection and deep understanding of the business.
VC: How do you work with photographers, reps, etc., to help present their work?
BD: A talented group of sales representatives and support staff work with our clients, the photographers, the illustrators, and their reps. Workbook people have a lot of experience. Most of our sales reps have been in the biz most of their careers.
This experience of our staff really pays off—they are the best at what they do. They are committed, smart, caring, and they really know what the buyers are looking for now. Since the beginning, we have been involved in the image selection for ads and portfolios online and believe these must reflect a photographer’s or an illustrator’s body of work in order to be effective.
VC: Being a bridge between the client and vendor, Workbook has always had a presence in the worlds of both. What are your observations about the current market?
BD: I feel like we have a pretty good view of the industry. There’s good news and bad. On the downside, commercial artists and photographers in particular face a lot of challenges today that didn’t exist before.
Our business ebbs and flows with the advertising industry. So, as the economy has improved over the last six years, and advertising has picked up, so have assignments for most commercial artists. Photography seems to be doing well. About equal numbers say things are better and have gotten worse (about 40% each) the rest say business is about the same. Illustration tends to move independently of photography, and things are less rosy. The majority of illustrators polled (56%) say things have gotten worse over the last five years, but they are looking forward to better times and expressed more optimism than last year.
VC: Talk a bit about the directory – always a strong point with the Workbook.
BD: We remain true to our roots. Our Directory is at the heart of what we do. We still have a staff devoted to calling the art buyers and making sure that we know where to send their Workbooks and find out if there is anything else we can do to help them with their jobs. We take the time to listen to the buyers so we know what brands they are working on. We see a lot more buying being handled in-house versus the traditional ad agencies, and we reach out to that group as well. We respect and guard the trust buyers have in sharing their information with us., We also maintain a directory of artists, a valuable tool for the art buyers.
VC: Going forward, how will Workbook remain a go-to place for creatives/vendors to meet?
BD: Our role with Visual Connections is part of the answer! It’s a wonderful chance for our clients to network. In addition, we sponsor numerous events throughout the year that offer other networking opportunities, including FaceTime, our portfolio reviews, and sponsorship of local APA chapters nationwide.
We often receive calls from buyers requesting help with sourcing talent. We formalized the approach recently with a tool called Workbook Shortlist. We also send monthly newsletters and our InFocus series, and these help creatives keep up with the assignments our clients are working on. All of this is necessary to help our clients get in front of buyers and keep the buyers informed.
We continually look for new ways to help put buyers and artists together. Keeping our website up-to-date is an ongoing task. We recently launched our mobile version, and earlier this year we launched an enhanced portfolio viewer that makes it easier than ever to peruse and enjoy all of the amazing images on our site.
Social Media is another great way to get the word out about our clients. We now have thousands of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook followers. We know the world is changing and we keep working hard to stay relevant!