Friday, January 4, 2013

Reader Questions: Emailing clients

A while back I asked readers of this blog to submit questions they would like me to answer about art, working as an artist, or anything else relating to the industry. I received several great questions and it is long over due to start answering them. Today we have a question from Vinter…

Vinter asks:
"I wonder how on earth you send out mails to future clients? I never know how to start a mail… What should I write to not sound full of myself but still come off as someone wist self confidence? And I never feel that I have a strong enough portfolio to ever get work…"
Thanks for the great question and I hope my answer will be helpful. This very topic came up during the lecture Jon Schindehette and I gave at Illuxcon, so I will be able to give my thoughts as well as some of the things Jon touched on. You will be happy to know that less is more and that there is a straight forward answer to your first question on emailing.

This is what you need to include…

• Your NAME
• What you do (I make monsters, concept work, landscapes, tech, etc)
• A LINK to your online portfolio or NO MORE THEN 3 attached samples of your work
• MOST importantly… an OBVIOUS way for the client to CONTACT YOU BACK!

That is it. No epic tale of your love of art, why you are perfect for the job since you have played the game for 20 years, how your mom said you were a good artist… NONE OF THAT. Jon Schindehette says he looks for three things, Name, link, and contact information. PERIOD. You miss any of these and you are sunk. If you include anything more it is just going to be ignored. The extra stuff is great for a face to face review or in a conversation at a convention at some later date. For your first email contact, be straight forward and to the point…

"Hello, my name is… . I make… . Here is a link to my portfolio… . Here is my email address and phone number… ."

You have just emailed an art director in a straight forward and professional way that they themselves have said they prefer. Every art director is going to be a little different and might not mind more, but as long as you give them these key elements you have covered your bases and given them what they need to see if you are right for the job.

EVERY correspondence with a client, no matter if it is one I have worked with for years or if it is the first time talking to them, my email signature includes my name, my email address, my website, my blog, and my phone number. This provides two methods to contact me, the link tomy online portfolio, and a way to see what I am currently up to. My own email that I send out has changed very little over the years but has stayed true to this formula. Earlier on I would include a VERY BRIEF work history, but that has since been removed because my online portfolio has a resume and the work should speak for itself. 

The keys that have launched a 1000 emails...

Now for the tougher stuff…

You are emailing a client looking for work, make sure you are showing the right client the right work. Do your research, make sure the client you are approaching makes work that you want to do and that you make work that they can use. There is no point sending Jon Schindehette your anime or spaceship portfolios. Though he might enjoy seeing the work, he can't use that work for any of the projects he oversees. You make monsters and elves? Send your portfolio to Jon. Want to make Star Wars art? Do your research, find out who produces Star Wars projects these days and send that art director your portfolio and make sure it shows off your ability to paint an X-Wing and a Stormtrooper. Want to do Star Wars and elves and anime? Then you will need to make separate portfolios and send out the right one to the right art director. Art Directors can not afford to take chances, their jobs hinge on the quality of artists that they hire. You might be able to paint a kick ass dragon, but if you show the art director a kick ass Darth Vader they will not assume you can do that dragon. This is all especially true with a new client. After working with the same AD for years and have built up a working relationship you might not have to do all this, but starting out, you have to show the AD just what they need that you can do for them.

As far as feeling that you portfolio is not strong enough… well, welcome to being an artist. Self doubt and being your harshest critic comes with being an artist I am afraid. There are a couple things that can help you, but they do take time and experience. I learned this when working in the film industry in LA and it holds true in the illustration industry… Find the client you want to work for, make sure they make the work you want to do, look at the work they are actively using, and then make work that is as good, or preferably BETTER then the work they are using. It is that easy and that hard. It can be a rather sobering thought, but it is the reality of this industry. But PLEASE, don't let this stand in your way to submit work to clients. There are lots of clients out there and they need a lot of work and they use artists at every stage of their carriers. As far as advancing, the hardest thing to learn is to look at your own work objectively, or as objectively as you can. When you can look at your work objectively you will be able to make the greatest improvements because you can see what really needs to be fixed, improved, or otherwise worked on. This comes from experience, looking at other artist work, and having other artist talk to you about your work. Learning how others see your work will help you see your work for what it is. (I talk about this more and some related topics in my 2012 year in review post!)

I hope this answers all of the questions and addresses all of the topics. If there are any additional questions on this topic or if anyone would like anything explained further, please feel to leave them in the comment section below. Also, if you have any other questions for me please feel free to send them my way!

That is all for another exciting week on the blog, see you back here on Monday for something from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website:

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