Artist Marketing: What Happens AFTER You Send Your Art to a Company

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sending out an email where you pitch your art to a company. It’s exciting because you feel like you’re gaining a little momentum.

But it’s also downright TERRIFYING because it can often be a huge waiting game.

And you may find yourself doubting every detail of your email, thinking you did all the wrong things and wish you could just take it all back. Believe me, I’ve been there!

I’ve sent hundreds of art licensing submissions, pitching my surface design portfolio to companies over the past 5 years and I know all too well the indecision and uncertainty you can feel. So today I’m sharing the 4 types of replies you could get from a company and how to respond to each – hopefully, it will lessen a little bit of your anxiety while you wait for an answer.

Reply #1: We’re Interested

Hooray, this is the result we ALL want! And the first thing you should do is a little happy dance in front of your computer because clearly, you’re in demand! But don’t celebrate too long because it’s important to send them a response ASAP (ideally within 24 hours).

Keep your reply short and sweet and make sure to thank them for their interest. But most importantly, be sure to answer any questions they had for you because that will help keep the conversation going and hopefully eventually end in a deal.

Reply #2: We’re Interested, but Not Now

Although it’s disappointing when a company isn’t currently looking for new art, it’s still a compliment to you that they took the time to respond and say they like your surface design portfolio. It’s also very common as many companies go through buying cycles, so you may have just hit them after they were done for their current buying season.

It’s still important to send them a quick reply though.

You can start out by thanking them for their interest, but then pivot to asking if they have a submission calendar so you can understand when the best times to follow up with them are. This gives you another opportunity to email them later on and hopefully catch them just before or during their next art buying cycle.

Want some more advice on emailing art directors?
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Reply #3: We’re Not Interested

Most seasoned surface designers, myself included, have had this response at least once in their careers. And guess what?

You’re allowed to be bummed about it!

It’s totally natural to be upset, but a company’s lack of interest does NOT mean your art isn’t good enough. So while I know that it may sting, I actually want to challenge you to see this response is a GOOD thing because by telling you right up front that your art isn’t a fit for them, they’re saving you loads of time.

Now you know to put your energy elsewhere and focus on other companies that might be a better fit. And the best place for advice on that is within the rejection email they sent you.

So after you’ve had some time to process your feelings, go back and reread the email and see if they gave you any specific reasons on why your art was mismatched. Not only does this allow you to reframe the email as a learning experience, but you can also use it to help adjust things the next time you research and reach out to new companies.

It’s also a good idea to send them a quick email to thank them for actually spending the time to write you a reply.

And if you’d still like to work with them and think your design style could be a potential match for them later on as your art evolves, feel free to tell them that you may reach out to them again in the future (like you know in a year or so) to see if you’re a better fit for them then.

That’s the best way to turn this negative experience into not only a positive experience where you learn something about yourself and your art, but keep the door open for communication with them later. Win-win!

Reply #4: No Response

I hate to admit this, but the most common response you’ll receive is no response at all. And it totally sucks!

But the biggest thing I want you to remember is that just like the “not interested” reply, not hearing back from a company is NOT a judgment of your talent and it shouldn’t stop you from following up!

Because one of the biggest mistakes I see designers make is when they send one email out, but then fail to ever follow up when they don’t receive a response. The truth is there are a million reasons why an art director won’t email you back and the quality of your art (or lack thereof as you might see it) is rarely the reason.

So as annoying as it is to not hear back, you should still ALWAYS follow up with them! And it doesn’t have to be right away either. Take a break and then after it’s been about 4 weeks, reply to the first email you sent them.

Keep your reply short and sweet saying something like “I just wanted to follow up with you and make sure you received the art submission I sent you last month…”. It’s also important to reiterate your interest in working with them AND including a few more portfolio designs that would be a good fit for their products.

And even if you don’t hear back after the second email, don’t lose hope!

Continue to send them new emails with art from your portfolio every few months because the truth is art directors are busy people and it’s a matter of sending them the RIGHT art at the RIGHT time, so one or two emails won’t do it.

So be persistent and your future self will thank you for it!

I’ve also bundled my BEST emailing tips from my years of experience as a surface designer into a free guide for you!

Pitch Your Portfolio | a course for surface designers
  1. Daniela says:

    thanks for this post, truly informative

  2. Leslie says:

    Thanks for the info. The fortune is in the follow up!

  3. Sally Jupe says:

    Thank you for such great advice Shannon especially for a newbie. I’ll keep this safe!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for this information.
    When you follow up, should you include the link or pdf of your artwork that you sent originally?
    Should you follow up by using your original email as a thread?

    Much appreciated!

    • Shannon McNab says:

      For the first follow up email, I always like to reply to the original thread so they know it’s not the first they’re hearing from me. And for all follow up emails, it’s a good idea to send different artwork (as you never know what an art director is looking for).

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