Emailing Art Directors During Economic Downturns

Whether now is still a good time to contact art directors is an absolutely valid question to have. I’ve seen it asked in several Facebook groups lately. Most of our lives have been completely flipped upside down by Covid-19, countless trade shows have been canceled, and many of our commission projects have evaporated.

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So it’s completely understandable that we’d also be worried about approaching potential new clients (or even current ones, to be honest) and whether it’s a waste of time.

Is contacting art directors right now a good use of your time???

The simple answer is YES. But it’s a little more complicated than that – isn’t it always?

The truth is that everyone has slowed down a bit. Many art directors have likely had projects postponed or reduced and artists are dealing with canceled contracts, plus a lack of motivation. With that in mind, I don’t think there’s any problem with slowing down your marketing efforts slightly in this new “normal” and focusing on other areas of your business that also need your attention (like those website updates you’ve been planning for a year). But what does slightly slowing your marketing efforts actually mean?

Well, the answer is different for every artist. Maybe you contact clients once every 6 weeks instead of your usual 4. Or reach out to brand new contacts once a quarter instead of your regularly monthly routine.

What you DON’T want is to let your email marketing stop completely!

It may be tempting to let it all go for the next few months, but if you do, you’ll lose any momentum you’ve built. Given the fact that many of us have already lost a considerable amount, it’s extremely important you don’t make things worse by stopping now.

Related Article: 10 Reasons Why You Didn’t Hear Back from an Art Director
P.S. It has NOTHING to do with the quality of your art!

Instead, you should aim to be as strategic as possible with how you approach your email marketing right now. Here’s a few suggestions to help:

Respectfully acknowledge the current situation with every email interaction.

Maybe that means asking how they’re doing or mentioning you realize their projects may have changed. For example, I’ve been signing off every email with “Stay safe.” It’s an easy, compassionate way to state the obvious without getting overly wordy about it.

Keep sending art newsletters to your mailing list every month.

Yes, EVERY month! You craft one email that gets sent to many people at once – I’d say that’s an efficient use of your time. Don’t have a newsletter??? Now’s the perfect time to start one – Mailchimp offers a free version and it’s really easy to use.

Focus on your top clients.

Your favorite clients are usually those who give you the most business, so it makes sense to serve them first. Even if they aren’t currently buying/needing art, they will be eventually. And you want to be one of their first calls when they do!

Look for companies that are in high demand right now.

Or find those who are most likely to ramp up in a few months. Markets like fabric, crafting, editorial, and fashion are great places to start. Research on social media to see what people are buying/selling. Use that as a reference for whom to reach out to.

The freelance and art licensing business is a long-term game, so even though it may seem futile to be proactive in sending out new emails right now – it’s not!

By staying connected with your clients now, they’ll be much more likely to go to you in a few months once the stay-at-home orders have started to lift.

But what if you’re new to the industry?

If you’re at the very beginning stages of your career, you may wonder if the advice I’ve given above is only for those already working in the industry. But it’s not – it’s for EVERY artist, even the newbies!

Marketing yourself can feel uncomfortable as a creative. Believe me, I know. You’d much rather spend your time building your portfolio or adding posts to Instagram, but you can’t wait for the work to come to you. If anything, it’s even MORE important for new creatives to contact potential clients right now!

But I know you’re still worried.

Reaching out to art directors is intimidating. You’re concerned they won’t like your work or you’ll say the wrong thing. But I’m here to tell you that sending a less-than-perfect email is far better than not sending one at all.

And I’ve got a brand new PDF guide that can help: 5 Tips for Crafting Better Emails to Art Directors.

Click here to download your copy. Inside the guide, I cover not only my top strategies for what to say and which designs to showcase, but also how to make your emails memorable and much less likely to end up at the bottom of an art director’s inbox.

  1. Tracey Wirth says:

    Thanks Shannon! I just want to tell you that you are breath of fresh air in an industry that is so inundated with SO many teachers- you are honest and personable- I feel like you are talking directly to me!! Thanks for sharing all this valuable information!

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