I seriously don't know how to do this.
August 23, 2011 10:22 AM   Subscribe

A question about etiquette for freelance designers:

A little background: I've consulted books, searched online and I've asked people about this and I've found that much of the advice I get is geared toward the business/corporate world. I'm a freelance designer (visual display, set design, retail windows, photo styling) which can be all over the place in terms of work culture. The places I've worked range from very professional to laid back/anything goes. As well, to add to my confusion, I spent the first five years of my career in a staff position at a marketing firm so, I never learned how to market myself/freelance. I am naturally polite and can be perfectly professional if I need to be. I can also be relaxed at work. Either way, I'm fine and being myself, but that's in person. I am uncertain mainly in how to appropriately deal with potential employers via email.

My question: A person in a high position in the visual display department of a national department store told a mutual friend that they'd like to see my portfolio for a potential position in window display--or (the gist was), at the very least, to direct me to other design/visual display people in the area. An email introduction was made. I responded politely, kept it brief, thanked everyone and included a link to my portfolio. Two weeks have passed without a reply (not even to the original introduction). As well, I'm aware that they haven't looked at my portfolio yet (via sitemeter). My question is, do I reach out again? If so, how do I word it without being pushy? Also, since it was an introduction, may I reach out again (email introductions being tricky, I don't want to goof this up!).

My other, more general question: For anyone who freelances especially in the visual display/photo stylist/retail window design world--how often can a freelancer email, call and send out promotional pieces to potential employers before it starts to work against them? I know that firms tend to use the people they know, but I've seen freelancers get a foot in the door and I have to think that their conduct was a large part of the equation given how many talented candidates are out there looking for work. Any tips or ideas would be greatly appreciated, thank you!
posted by marimeko to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm not a designer, but I work in a visual area of film and entertainment. I make sure that my professional email account (I use Gmail) has a signature that links to my credits, my reviews, my LinkedIn profile and so on. I write like I talk, and I try to make my emails lively and fun to read, rather than Dear Sir/Madam.

I use social media a lot to market myself--tweets, FB, LinkedIn--if I get a new project, I tell people. If I find a company I'd like to work for, I introduce myself. I don't have a website, but I know people who do, and they update pretty often as well. (I should, really, get one.)

And when I hear about new things I'd like to be part of, I contact the producers, introduce myself and pitch 'em my skills. If someone contacts me for a resume or to meet me, I send what's required, follow up about 4 days later, and stay in touch generally. Even if they don't need me right now, they might later.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:47 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, it's fine to follow up. I e-mail at least once a week if a reply is expected (it is not in your example), and just a couple times over the next month if none is expected, but I would feel free to send more. I mean, as long as they aren't reading them you aren't bothering them anyway, right?

If you know you are dealing with an action-oriented person who prides himself or herself on efficiency and not being bothered, you can send too much, but if there's any chance that the question of hiring you is languishing while other matters are addressed, push and push until you get a reply.
posted by michaelh at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: I usually make a phone call a week after sending a link to my portfolio to follow up. Don't go into it with, "Did you see my web site!?", especially if you know they haven't. Try to find out more about the project they need your services for and try to get an in-person meeting. I don't know how it works in the design field, but for me I very rarely get any response to "here's a link to my portfolio" emails - I just use the emails as a point of reference for when I call them.

After that I try to follow up at least once a month. For freelance work they probably don't need you right this second, but they will eventually, so you want to stay on their radar.
posted by bradbane at 11:00 AM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: I have sold creative services (web and print) several times in my career. Corporate people are really busy, and many of them are really, really, bad at email. I can't even count the number of times corporate managers have apologized for not responding to an email by mentioning that have 9500 unread emails in their inbox. Some of these people get so much email, and have no clue that Outlook has a filter option, let alone know how to use it, that your email was probably was pushed below the fold in a matter of hours.

Call them. If you get voice mail, leave a brief message and include the fact that you will be emailing too. Then do so, almost immediately. Repeat weekly until you get a response. If they are busy, they'll appreciate your persistence. If they were purposely ignoring you, well, you aren't any worse off for trying, right?
posted by COD at 2:02 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: I just wanted to thank Ideefixe, michaelh, bradbane and COD. I've got so much great information from your answers! I'm marking them all as best. Thank you!

I'll leave this open in case anyone else wants to chime in.
posted by marimeko at 11:39 AM on August 27, 2011

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