Listen. I know this business is really freaking hard. There is so much to know and so much to figure out about what it is you need to know. It’s overwhelming, all consuming, and at times very discouraging. You are working hard and you’re reaching out to people you think might be able to help you. You’re emailing leaders in the industry, service providers, and fellow designers. That’s expected; it’s fine. But guess what? It’s only fine if you are actually taking the time to write thoughtful messages.
Designers need to stop sending vague, lazy, and un-researched emails to industry people and expecting any kind of response.
In the early stages of being business owners, we all make mistakes. A lot of them. I know I did. So anything I can do to help clear up the mystery around things, I’m happy to do. And this topic, the “sending crappy emails” topic is one that I feel is really important. So let’s take a look at what I mean.
Here are some made up examples of the kinds of emails I get:
I want to create a line, where do I start?
I need prototypes, what do you need from me for this?
I’m creating my collection and not sure what to do next. How can you help me?
I’ve been dreaming of having a fashion career for so long, I need all the help I can get. Can we please schedule a meeting to talk about my idea and how you can help me?
What are some of the common themes in these messages? They are self-absorbed, they are vague, they are inconsiderate, and they are clear indicators that no real work has yet been done on the part of the sender.
Sometimes I think because it’s email, we can tend to forget the rules of common courtesy. The interaction isn’t live and in person, so we sort of jot our thoughts down and send it off in hopes of a response.
There are several problems with this approach, not the least of which is that the designer is starting off their business with building a poor reputation for themselves.
So let’s talk about how to send a help request email in a way that is thoughtful, respectful of the person’s time, and more likely to get a response.
Step One: Build a Relationship
The best way to get help is to start to build a relationship with the person you want help from. I know what your first objection is: that takes too long. Yep, it does take time. But why is your time more important than theirs? Why wouldn’t you want to spend time showing this person that you are a fan of the work they do by following them on social media, commenting and sharing their content, reading their blog posts and asking thoughtful questions in the blog comments?
Step Two: Do the Work
It’s so important to show that you’ve done the work; you’ve researched your industry and you’ve created a plan. You want to make sure that you convey that you aren’t expecting this person to solve your problems, you’ve worked your butt off so far and plan to continue working your butt off however, a little insight from them would be so incredibly helpful and appreciated.
The other part of “doing the work” is knowing what this person does or what they are an expert in. Can I just tell you how many emails I get requesting quotes for creating samples and production? StartUp FASHION doesn’t offer these services and a quick skim of our “About” page will make that clear. If a designer isn’t clear on the person’s services or area of the industry, then they shouldn’t be emailing them.
Step Three: Be Specific
Get very specific in your email and with your request. What is the one question you’re asking that you truly need help getting clarification on? Open ended questions will get you no where.
Step Four: Why Them?
It’s also really important to link the question you’re asking to the person you’re emailing. Why is this person the person you’re asking? What have you observed or taken the time to learn about them or admire about their work that has caused you to reach out?
Step Five: Keep it Short
One of the biggies when it comes advice on sending this email is to be short, succinct, and respectful of the person’s time. Know that if you’re emailing this person because they’re a leader in your space, then a lot of other people probably are too. So do your best not to waste their time. Don’t go into a long explanation of your brand and your business model and what you’re hoping to achieve.
The lesson here is this: The only way you can expect to get help is by helping yourself first. Sending open-ended, un-researched emails to people who have worked really hard to get where they are isn’t fair to that that person, and pretty much guarantees complete silence rather than the helpful, thoughtful, insightful email you were hoping for.