One of the realities of being an artist/designer/maker is that in order to sell your work, you have to put yourself out there. In putting yourself out there, you have to be ready to face rejection. The more you put yourself out there, the more chances of selling your work but the more rejection you will have to face. It’s just the way it goes. I’ve discussed with many friends in similar businesses how when they pitch, how often do they never hear back, get rejected and sell and it seems we all have pretty similar experiences.
The majority of the time, the process goes like this: you gather a list of stores, editors or whomever and spend a few hours emailing say 10 people (I am using this number for ease of math). Then you usually follow up 2 weeks later with anyone you did not hear back from. Typically you will get a reply from 1 or 2 of the emails overall. Most likely not a straight sale, but at least 1 really promising lead. Maybe 2 more “love it, but not right now” replies and the rest are rejections…almost always by lack of response. To receive 2 replies from 10 pitches within a few weeks of the 1st email seems to be a pretty great rate and what I hope for.
Recently, after a round of follow-up emails that contained what I thought was a pretty tight and quick sentence and the original email below, I had responses unlike any other round of pitching. Within 2 hours, I heard back from over 25% of the list. I don’t think I’ve ever heard back from anyone that fast! One loved the jewelry, but the store was full, so she added me to her prospects list (this is a solid lead, I can now follow up again with new line sheets when I have a new collection coming out). Five let me know that I was not the right fit, which is solid feedback, as I was pitching somewhat blindly around the country with only their websites to give me an idea of their style. And one gave me the email of the new buyer as she was no longer that person. Besides still being in shock over how fast so many replies came in, I was also amazed that I was actually excited to get five rejection emails. So much of the time you just throw yourself out there and get nothing back, it felt kind of sweet that five people took the time to send a quick note letting me know that it was “not me, but them”.
I found myself thinking about how I would have viewed this situation over a decade ago when I first began Manic Trout. I probably would have felt discouraged, although I would have eventually shaken it off (obviously, as I’m still doing this years later). I would not have seen it as such a positive thing though. Now I look at the 5 emails where someone took the time to reply and thought, wow, at least they didn’t just ignore the email and move on. That’s great. I also took it as an indication that this round of follow up emails had a wording and tactic should be used again and maybe the day of the week and time sent were also good for catching shop owners at a time when they can sit down and actually read and reply to emails. All great pieces of information for the next round of follow-ups which I will be doing very soon.
Somewhat along these lines, this weekend I was chatting with a few girlfriends who own businesses and we were talking about there is really no such thing as a “big break”. You need to be constantly hustling, pushing, pitching and trying to get your product and brand out there. It will never end, but it doesn’t have to make you feel bad when you are rejected for trying something. I have been trying hard to get over the fear of approaching people I have no connection to. It’s more a desire to not annoy them than it is of rejection, but so often, I will hold back from reaching out. Understanding that I have something to offer them, that they need products to sell, pitch and use has been helpful in getting over this weird block. It’s also been bringing great opportunities to the table. Having a thick skin in business is essential for sure, but sometimes it takes time to toughen. It only toughens if you keep you trying and failing though. I will sign off the same way I started off, with wise words from Michael Jordan: “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.”