A few months back I wrote an overview on How to Approach Art Directors. I am happy to have heard a lot of feedback that it was really helpful to people, but I’ve also heard from some artists that they’d like me to go more in-depth. So here we go…
The Cold Call. Awkward, ineffective, always poorly timed, and thankfully almost completely extinct.
I am unbelievably thankful that I am an Art Director in the post-telephone age of email. I can’t speak for every AD, but I feel very secure in saying that no one wants a real cold call anymore. Honestly I don’t even pick up the phone if I don’t know the number. I pretty much reserve the phone for discussing projects with artists once they’ve gotten the brief and want to brainstorm. Sometimes for getting yelled at by Production when a cover mechanical is late. Other than that, the phone is for talking to my grandparents. I definitely do not want to stall my day with an artist calling and asking if I have work available. It feels a little too aggressive, honestly, and it’s also very inefficient. I can’t see any of your work attached to your phone call. I can’t click on a web link to your site. Email does all of this so much better, and it also allows me to think about you and your work when I have the free moment to do so.
Onward to The Cold
Ok, first of all, can we come up with a better name for this? “Cold Email” just doesn’t have the same ring to it (pun intended). If someone comes up with a catchier name for the Cold Email in the comments I offer a prize of any Orbit book they want mailed to them with my heartfelt gratitude.
The Cold Email is a much better way to introduce yourself, show your work, and politely say PLEASE GIVE ME WORK NOW.
What you need:
1—Art Director’s Email
There are 3 ways to get this. 1) Meet them in person and get their card. 2) Beg another artist to share their contacts with you. 3) Google skills. I’m not going to post a list of email addresses here, but really, between company websites and social media, you really should be able to figure this out. You find out the name of the Art Director, you figure out their company’s email naming convention, and you work it out.
2—Jpegs of Your Work
If this is the first time you’re emailing an AD, pick 3 pieces from your portfolio that have some relevance to the product of the company you are emailing to attach. If it’s a book publisher, send pieces you think look like book covers. If they are a gaming company that specializes in science fiction, then send either gaming work and/or science fiction themed pieces. Or you can always play it safe and send your 3 favorite portfolio pieces overall.
Use “Save for Web” in photoshop. Save as 72dpi jpegs that are between 500-1000 pixels wide. Attach them to your email, do not embed them in the body of the email.
If this is not the first time you are emailing the AD, feel free to send 1 new piece when you have completed it. More on that later.
I’ll do a separate post just on websites, and all the blog vs. tumblr vs. pro site questions, but for now, make sure you have a place on the internet that has your portfolio pieces, your name, and your email (no contact forms).
Now you write a short and sweet to-the-point email. I generally like something more than a completely impersonal one-liner, but I also don’t need to read an essay here. Make me feel like you know what my company does and have considered what we’re looking for.
Now put it all together, and spellcheck it. Get up and take a bathroom break. Come back and read it again to make sure it makes sense.
And now, to make it absolutely fool-proof for you, I give you a customizable Cold Email Template:
Dear (Art Director),
My name is (your name). I am an (illustrator, concept artist, photographer, etc.) who is a (student at X, recent graduate of X, breaking into the industry, a working professional). I really enjoy the (product) that (the company) produces. I would love to be considered for freelance assignments when you have commissions available. I am happy to do revisions as necessary, and pride myself on (keeping on schedule, working quickly, taking direction well, etc.). I think my artwork could be a good fit for your needs.
Please find a few samples of my work attached to this email. My (full portfolio, blog, behance page) can be found at (http://www.yoursite.com).
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. I look forward to working with you and (company) sometime soon.
(your phone number)
Ultimately, it’s your work that’s going to get you hired or not. But this is all about getting your foot in the door, it’s all about proving to someone that you’re worth the risk of hiring them for that first commission with you. As an AD, you are putting your job on the line every time you hire an artist, and the more they can do to make you feel like you’re hiring a reliable, thinking, sane human being, the better. Remember the “Being A Successful Freelancer” Venn Diagram. Be Good, Be Nice, Be On Time. Your cold email tells a lot about the kind of person and businessperson you are. Don’t flub it.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Newsletters, Distro Lists, and Mass Emails ok? I don’t have a problem with being on an email list or newsletter list. I appreciate getting your new pieces, but I also don’t feel like I owe a mass email or newsletter a personal response back. I do try to answer back (eventually) every artist email that is written specifically for me. I even go through my spam filter weekly and try to fish out anything that looks like a real email from a real artist. It is way more common for newsletters and mass emails to get caught by the spam filter, so take that into account too. Also if you are mass emailing the old fashioned way, you’d better be putting those precious AD email addresses in the BCC (Blind Copy) window, or instant fail.
How Often Do I Email? I like once every 2-3 months, or whenever you have new work that you want to show off. If it is a new work email, then add a line that says “I just finished this new piece for X and I wanted to show it to you.”
What if I don’t hear back? You might not. But that doesn’t mean the AD hasn’t looked at your work and shortlisted you in their mind for a project. You don’t have any way of knowing, really. Just stick to the plan. Email every 2-3 months, or when you have a cool new finished piece to show.
Illustrations by a combination of Shutterstock bits & design by me.