I'll bet most of us have had this fantasy: Someday someone important will come along and discover us. They'll introduce us to the world, and we'll become famous, a star. In my fantasy, I become a famous writer. Perhaps your dream is to become a celebrated architect. You're doing fine work already; you're just waiting for the world to discover how great you are. Okay. So, here's my question to you: Are you ready to be discovered?

Some famous architects are plucked from obscurity and hurled into the spotlight by dint of genius alone. However, most get there because they brought their talents to the attention of the right people. In many cases, the right people are journalists. We're in the best position to sing your praises to vast groups of people. It's called marketing, and I'm constantly amazed at how bad some architects are at doing it.

all about you

Most journalists would be thrilled to know about you, but you really do have to meet us halfway. It costs some money but, believe me, it's worth it. Put together a little portfolio. Here's what it should contain:

1. A really good photograph of you. Not your passport photo, not a family reunion shot holding a beer, and not some shot by the amateur photographer in the office. Hire a professional to photograph you--one who specializes in people, not architecture. The film should be 35mm color slide film or better. No black and white (unless Scavullo shot it). Make sure you buy all rights to duplicate that photo and to publish it anywhere.

2. Fabulous photographs of your work. Hire a professional architectural photographer to shoot one or two of your best projects. The photographer should use professional lighting, too--available light won't do. The film should be 2 1/4 or 4x5 transparency film. Here you'll probably only secure rights for promotional purposes: brochures, awards programs, maybe Web rights for your Web site. But the film must be available to publications at your request at industry-standard fees. Have color Xeroxes made of the transparencies (never send out originals until a newspaper or magazine is ready to publish them). Write up a project description for each house. Draw up some presentation floor plans on 8 1/2 x 11 paper.

3. Your curriculum vitae. Write a short biography of your accomplishments and background, and a synopsis of your practice.

4. Independent corroboration about how great you are. If your work has been published in local, regional, or national publications, compile copies.

package deal

Now you're ready to be discovered. You're poised for when I or others call to learn about you. You wouldn't believe how many times our editors have tried to include someone in a story, but they had no photograph of themselves or their work available. If I don't call you, well, now you're ready to market yourself. Send a package with the above contents to your local newspaper real estate editor, local and national magazines, and reputable Webzines. At the very least, you'll be prepared to put together a Web site (we editors troll the Internet all the time, looking for new talent) or to teach a potential client about your firm. Could be your practice is rolling along just fine without the portfolio I suggest; could be it's all that's holding you back.

Questions or comments? call me:202.736.3312; write me: S. Claire Conroy, residential architect, One Thomas Circle, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20005; or e-mail me: cconroy@hanley-wood.com.