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Connecting clients with photographers

At the end of last year, Christopher Chong found himself in an unusual situation
The Business Times - June 28, 2014
By: Rachel Loi
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Connecting clients with photographers - PHOTO: AIRCLICK.CO

At the end of last year, Christopher Chong found himself in an unusual situation - having just exited from his successful company Groupon Singapore with his co-founders for a reported $24 million, he was unemployed and faced with the possibility of early retirement.

"But I loved working, so an early retirement was never an option," says the 25-year-old with a chuckle. Instead, within a few months of "soul-searching", he found himself itching to dive back into the startup industry with a brand new venture.

"An idea came to me when I needed to make more money while I was unemployed and tried looking for freelance photography jobs," says Mr Chong. "I realised the industry is so hard to get into as a newcomer, because it's intensely competitive and hard to get noticed, unless you have a reputation."

So that's when he came up with the idea for AirClick.co - a website that allows freelance creative professionals such as photographers and videographers to post their portfolios for potential clients to browse through via a uniform platform. Consumers can find details such as per-hour rates for each photographer, package prices for specific events such as weddings and birthday parties, or even the specific equipment that the photographer carries.

He adds: "I had talked to a few friends who had nightmarish experiences as customers trying to find the right photographer for weddings, and I soon realised that if I could connect the dots and make it easier for professionals to find more jobs across a wider network, as well as for customers to have a more convenient way of finding the right photographer, I just might have a business."

To put a profile up on AirClick is free, because Mr Chong only makes money by charging a commission whenever transactions are completed; and just like the Airbnb model, transactions are finalised only 14 days after the actual event to help protect the customer.

Prices are determined by each individual photographer and currently ranges from about $75 to more than $250 per hour. Over 30 available hands are available for hire since the website was launched earlier this month - and this number is gradually increasing.

Says Mr Chong: "We are trying to change an industry which has seen very little innovation over the last 10 years in terms of finding new customers.

Traditional classifieds and forums are inefficient, time-consuming and laborious, so I see myself soon having to pick up the phone and manually call from a directory of professionals to convert them one by one."

And while he grows the database of photographers, he also promises to grow the community of potential clients as well, by putting his life's savings into various marketing channels. "One of the many things I share in common with other creative professionals is this belief - what good is a beautiful image, artwork, video or website if you don't have an audience to show it to? I want to be able to give them that audience," he adds.

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