Yes, long-term is the best way to make clients that are good for you. Trouble is, many competitors are also playing that very same game; it, of itself, is no guarantee.
I do believe that more important is a single, great, break that provides you with the publicity and kudos that will interest other possible clients. It’s how it worked for me. I trudged along for years doing bits of this and bits of the other; then, following the example you quote of long-term contact building, one ad agency began to give me regular work. That kept me afloat, more or less, and then by a stroke of fortune, I was introduced to the manager of a retail chain, who instantly gave me regular half-page ads in an evening newspaper (fashion stuff) based on nothing more than my portfolio of what was, basically, model test shots, as I had yet to break into fashion itself.
That exposure created more fashion work, and when that began to die in the Scottish cold (financial) the model work led to calendars, and that was it.
Yet, even that was simple but complicated. My very best calendar client came to me from an early connection. The industrial in-plant photo unit I worked in allowed me the opportunity to meet the company’s PR chap, and when we had both gone freelance, he came to my studio to get me to do some industrial shots for one of his clients. I met the client head honcho that way; we clicked, and a year later I popped him a mock-up of a calendar I designed for his own firm. It was totally on spec – I hadn’t been asked to do it, but I did notice he sported a Pirelli in his office. I’d already produced two or three humble ones for fashion manufacturers, and that certainly added confidence (to us both) but I shall never forget the day he eventually accepted an asked-for quotation and gave me the go ahead. I left his office in a dream, got into the car, and as soon as I was out of sight, I let out one hell of a rebel yell. It can be good.
As for a new, quality loving world coming back any time soon… who can guess? I have my doubts, though, because I fear that the next thing in the evolution of this state of affairs is going to resemble mob rule more than stable governance. You just have to watch the university ‘student’ riots (students so illiterate they can’t address the press? Really? Students?) in Britain, France, Greece, Italy and the way that the police are instantly blamed by the tv reporters for the violence, despite the evidence of the same tv images – and you have to conclude that the press is actively conspiring to encourage, if not create mayhem because it fills the screens and the minds of the couch potatoes out there. Does a real student take a Molotov cockail to a demonstration march? Turn a policeman, a guy just doing his best to keep control of things, into a ball of living fire?
Take the ‘Leaks guy and the way he’s been turned into a celebrity – the mind just boggles. It’s like that biblical thing, about the release of Barabbas; the same with immigration restrictions they are trying to introduce in Britain – the friggin’ legal system comes out on the side of the future mobs seeking to live off the system, the system that’s supposed to protect the incumbent populace, believe it or not!
Good times ahead? I wish!