The No Response Response

You’ve carefully chosen the potential clients that you have always dreamed of working with. You’ve developed a portfolio you are sure will resonate with one of them. It’s based on your research of their company, current trends in the market and how your work would dovetail with their product lines or editorial viewpoint. You’ve crafted a succinct, personalized email addressed to a specific person you want to reach, and after carefully proofreading it, you hit “send” with a flourish. Then you go make yourself another cup of coffee and pat yourself on the back. You’re feeling good. You love everything about what you do and can see all the possibilities as you build the kind of business you’ve been planning for. Sigh. And then some time passes (a week, two, maybe three…) and you realize you haven’t heard back from them yet. “Oh, well,” you think, “I’ll just send another quick email with a few more carefully selected visuals and a nice follow-up note. Let’s see if that helps them understand what I do.” But you don’t hear back after that either. So, you:
  1. Decide that you are a total hack and never deserved this career in the first place.
  2. Go back into the studio and draw more pictures while ignoring all marketing efforts since they apparently never work anyway.
  3. Increase the frequency and volume of your emails to this person because now it’s personal, darnit!
  4. Decide “well, it’s their loss,” and keep moving through your list of potential clients.
Now let’s sit on the other side of the desk for a moment and review some of the reasons WHY you haven’t heard back from your potential client. Things like:
  1. They are uber crazy busy and get so many requests from artists that they can’t possibly respond to each one. Responding to your submission lands somewhere below prepping for their next production meeting, dealing with their assistant who is crying in the lady’s room again, finding a container of product hung up with customs, picking up their sick kid or dealing with their crazy boss.
  2. They like your work but don’t have a place for it right now, and they hope they’ll remember you when the time comes, but right now they don’t have the time to craft an email telling you that (see #1).
  3. They are too nice to say, “Your work is not right for us and I don’t think it ever will be,” so they just hope you’ll get the hint if they don’t respond to you at all, and you will go away quietly.
  4. They just may be kind of rude and figure, “meh, it’s just another artist, there’s always another one.” (No! That can’t be true!)
  5. They have a policy that they only respond to art that they want to move forward on.
And since you have NO IDEA where they are on this spectrum you don’t really know how to proceed. But here are a few options you might consider:
  1. Keep following up on a regular basis, because you never know which piece you send might turn into “the one” (or when, so don’t attach emotion to the outcome of that follow-up activity or you will drive yourself nuts).
  2. Try one last time but this time with a non-confrontational but direct question. Something like: “Hi Joan, I’ve been sending you some artwork to consider and I haven’t heard back from you. I know how busy you are, but could you let me know if you think there’s any potential for my work at your company? I’m happy to keep sending if you do.” Joan can either look at the previous work you sent and get back to you with a “Thanks, but no, I don’t think this is right for us.” type note OR… a “You know, I like your work, but I don’t have the right project right now. But keep me posted on new work, okay?” Of course, old Joanie can ignore that email too, and now you can feel free move on—until of course, you have something new and different to send. Then send that.
  3. Keep them on your email list for announcements or invitations to shows etc. (if they have signed up, of course) but stop the personalized chase for now.
  4. Stew over it until you are so cranky that the only remedy is consuming salty snacks while whining to everyone around you how unfair the world is.
  5. Acknowledge that if the work you sent was right for them straight out of the chute, you would have heard from them already. Heavy sigh.
And here’s a little note to our beloved Art Directors (and Agents, actually): Would you consider establishing some quick email responses to artists who have reached out to you? The artists who are working so hard to present their work to you will be ever so grateful! And because I know how busy you are, I’ve written a few that you can feel free to cut and paste into your response emails: To the artists whose work is pretty cool, but not right for you right now: Dear Artist, Thanks so much for reaching out to me with your work. Although I think it’s great it doesn’t quite fit what we are looking for right now but do stay in touch in the future. To the artist whose work will never, ever be right for you: Dear Artist, Thanks so much for reaching out to me with your work. I don’t think your style is a good fit for our company, but I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. To the artist whose work is amazing, but your company would never consider that look or style: Dear Artist, Wow-great work! Although I personally love it, this look isn’t right for our particular customer; I am sure you will find a place for it in the market. My best to you and do stay in touch. And every artist’s personal favorite: Dear Artist, where should I send the contract and the big bag o’ money? So, there you have it. It’s either about you—or it’s not. They either like your work—or they don’t. It can be really frustrating and definitely dis-heartening to not get any response from your efforts. But after a period of time (and only you can be the judge of what that is—6 months? Two years? Before you turn 67?), and despite your best efforts, you have never gotten a response, you probably need to re-think some things. Either the list of people you want to work with, the market you are going after, or the art you are offering. And who know what will happen if you face that fact and make some adjustments rather than staying put at any cost? You may discover a company or a market out there that thinks you are the most awesome artist ever. I just hope they let you know.   PS. If you’re interested in a simple approach to finding clients, take my short Skillshare class called: Getting Clients—The 5 X 5 Plan to Get Focused, Reach More Clients & Stay Sane  

4 thoughts on “The No Response Response

  1. This is so helpful Ronnie! I have sent three emails to a dream client and never heard back and it is so helpful to read these strategies. But oh it would be SO nice to at least get some sort of response so I can move on!

  2. Hi there, great piece of advice! Once I am home from vacation I am taking your Skillshare class too! But I would like your opinion on this: I had no email address of my dream client and sent a DM on Instagram to an artist that has worked with them. (I am following her and commenting on her gorgeous work and she on mine for a while.) I asked her if she could give me a name or email address of someone who I can approach for a presentation,but no answer yet. I did get likes on the bits of my presentation I showed on Instagram from her, but no direct message back. What do I do?

    • Hello Helene–Sorry I didn’t see this til now, I was on vacation too! There could be a couple of reasons. One is some people don’t see their IG DM messages easily so she may not have seen it (possible) or she feels uncomfortable sharing the name with you and hasn’t figured out how to tell you that (very likely). Names and emails of hard-won clients are often not shared—no matter how much you have connected with each other. Either way, a bummer! I would just continue on as you were (following, liking, getting to know each other better) and move on to finding your dream client’s info from another source like LinkedIn, etc. My best to you!

Leave a Comment