If you want to market yourself and your work, chances are you will have to go out on a limb and send a few cold messages. It can be intimidating, but with a few tips in mind, you can be confident in your ability to speak clearly and get the responses you deserve!
Ask good questions.
Sit down and decide what information will help you most at the stage you’re at right now.
If you’re just starting out, ask things like “how did you get started?” “how do you find clients?”
If you’re further along, looking to grow your business, ask, “how do you manage multiple projects at once while being realistic about deadlines?”
Accept where you are and ask for information that is going to help you where you’re at.
Don’t be long-winded.
Chances are, most of the people you’re planning on reaching out to are very successful. The thing about successful people is that they are often very busy.
Respect their time. If they are willing to talk to you or answer questions, that’s a win in itself.
If a story from your personal life is relevant, share it. But be careful to respect their space and keep your message as short as possible to ensure they read the whole thing!
Make it easy.
Recognize they may not feel comfortable or have time for an hour-long zoom call. Cater to their needs, after all you are after what they have.
Suggest a few ways you could get in touch, remembering to make communication as simple as possible.
Be kind and respectful.
Do not ask for a job or a list of contacts right off the bat. There is nothing as disappointing as feeling like someone is interested in your work only to find they’re trying to use you for your references.
Take a genuine interest in your connection, ask meaningful questions, and show that you care as much about their career as you do about your own.
Every cold message has the potential to turn into a friendship, professional connection, or even a job!
Do your research.
There’s nothing as embarrassing as chatting with someone and suddenly they ask what you like about their work and you have nothing to say because you didn’t take the time to look into it.
And, for honesty’s sake, you may want to know a bit about the person you’re reaching out to so that when you tell them that you admire their work, you’re not flat out lying.
Plus, the more you know about them, the more credibility you’ll have and the easier it will be to carry a conversation if they do respond.
Always say thank you.
Even if you don’t find the information someone gave you useful, be thankful. They have taken time and energy to help you and that’s a valuable thing.
Not saying thank you to someone who has been nice is not a good way to build a stand-out reputation. It’s also not a good way to make and maintain lasting professional connections.
Kindness and thankfulness go a long way.
Give it some time.
Important people are often very busy and do not have time to respond to random messages on a daily basis.
Take some time, wait it out, and keep working while you wait!
As an independent illustrator, I spend A LOT of time waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. I want on emails to be returned, contracts to be negotiated, and clients to send payments- waiting is just part of the job.
Everything takes time and that’s alright.
Focus on one call to action.
For the sake of being concise and not wasting anyone’s time, focus on one thing you’d like for your newly made connection to do.
Of course it would be great for your contact to give you a portfolio review, check out your online shop, follow all your social media accounts, and give you a two-hour call- but the chances of any or all of that happening is slim.
Instead pick one thing that will help you most. If your focus is to grow your social media presence- ask them to visit Instagram. If your focus is to get feedback on your work- ask them to view your portfolio.
Do not overwhelm them with requests.
Do remember to follow up if you’ve not heard back from someone in a week, but do NOT continue to follow up every week for a year. I guarantee, if someone is interested in your work, they will get back to you after two follow ups.
There is nothing more annoying that the same person hounding you with messages week after week. I imagine an art director being sabotaged by emails feels similar to what I felt in middle school when a boy had a crush but couldn’t take a hint.
Not to mention- with every email you send, your heart will sink a little bit more. Quit while you’re ahead- you have talent and you want to work for someone who will see that the first time around.
It’s very easy to sound over-professional and stiff while writing cold messages- wanting to present yourself as “smarter”, “more together”, or “more experienced”. It may even be tempting to tone-down your personality because someone might find you weird or overbearing.
I can tell you, messages that are unique, fun, and even a bit weird will get noticed while everyone else is trying to fit the “professional” mould.
Don’t go overboard. There are some social norms that are good to follow, but don’t let every stereotype about what it means to be professional stomp out your natural flow.
Sending cold messages can be the worst sometimes- especially when you feel like nobody has gotten back to you in weeks.
Take heart, doors will open, and opportunities will come. Just keep going.
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