KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, December 10, 2004

Of Networking and Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Most freelancers have to do their networking via e-mail and e-mail discussion lists; we're not working in a multiperson office with a water cooler as the centerpiece of the unofficial networking area. I get extremely valuable advice, tips, camaraderie, job leads, and more from two great lists: Freelance and Copyediting-L.

It was on Freelance that I read the tale of a freelance graphic designer who benefited from just that kind of networking and was able to turn a lemon of a situation into lemonade. I present to you, with his permission, Steve Tiano's story:

In telling listmates how he does cold e-mailing to attract the interest of new clients, he wrote:

Right now, I use "Seeking Freelance Book Design & Layout Work" [as a subject line]. On the one hand, I hate that it almost sounds like a personal ad headline—"Seeking tall brunette who likes foreign films . . ." On the other, I figure it tells someone [what I'm writing about]. Mind you, it doesn't go to personal someones, but to business someones (publishers or book packagers—and, if I'm lucky enough to have culled the info somewhere, a particular person at the particular business).

That brought on a discussion of what is and isn't spamming. Steve noted that he didn't send bulk e-mails but individual ones, targeted to the company for which the addressee works. I think what he does isn't spamming; it's contacting individuals who will very likely want to hear from him. I use the same technique. But Steve often includes work samples as attachments, without having asked the recipient's permission. He continued:

Okay, after all my talk about never having gotten a complaint from solicitng a publisher or book packager as a potential client with a cold e-mail plus attachments, this evening I . . . found that someone from [a university press] had sent me an angry message saying my attachment—there were actually three (two > 290 K, and the third a four-color cover weighing in at 2.2 Meg)—tied up their computer for 25 minutes and to never do it again.

Several listmates agreed with the sentiments of the university press contact and suggested asking permission before sending attachments and/or including links to pages on a web site where one's work is showcased. They also suggested that Steve send a short, gracious apology—and not expect that he'd get work from that contact. And here's the delicious ending:

I heard from someone at the university press. She was very nice, telling me that someone on Freelance told her of our thread. She said that while she didn't know who'd sent me the angry e-mail, she believed it was someone who no longer works at the press. She also said that she personally didn't find it so offensive but pointed out that since some in her position at other presses might find it as angering as the fellow who wrote me the angry e-mail, I could be wasting my attempts at marketing. She mentioned that they do sometimes—though not often—use freelancers for design and layout. So I apologized again, and then once more in advance for being pushy on top of everything else, but would she mind taking a look at my résumé and samples—as attachments! And she said yes. It may work out that I never do any work for that press—but what a nice woman! As hokey as it sounds, I still get a kick out of people being nice to each other. Which leads me to thanking all of you for the insights and suggestions you offered in response to my telling the tale.

Hey, I'd want to hire Steve if I were that woman. He 'fessed up to his oversight and was politely persistent. Good qualities to have. You can read an interview with him here.

And now . . . get busy networking!

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