How to write an effective outreach email
by: eleanor whitney
*editor’s note: i Love this post by eleanor. i constantly have to write outreach emails and it’s one of the tasks i dread. i know the people i’m reaching out to are crazy busy and i want to keep it short but also provide all the information they need. it’s a fine art and i’m still far from perfecting it. i’m looking forward to using eleanor’s tips when i set out to craft some effective outreach emails next week. -nicole s.
“What is one tool that makes running your business easier?” I asked during the DIY business panel I was facilitating. Danielle Maveal, the maker behind Creative Little Beasts, responded, “A really well written email.” In this world of 1001 productivity mobile apps and “life hacks”, her answer was so simple it took me completely by surprise.
As I reflected on her advice I realized that a well-written email is a tool that I have used again and again to open up new connections and create new opportunities for my creative projects. Over time I’ve developed a systematic approach to writing these emails so that they are friendly, succinct and contain all the information needed to start a conversation.
This summer I toured all over the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast to promote my book Grow. In many of the cities I ended up visiting I did not have an established connection or network, but needed a like-minded business, organization or handmade community organizer to connect me with an audience for my book. After doing research to identify the local DIY movers and shakers, my next step was to write an email to introduce the book project, and myself and to explore how working together could be mutually beneficial. I previously honed my skill at crafting this type of outreach email at two of my full-time jobs: one was booking speakers and public programs at the Brooklyn Museum and the other was doing national outreach for an artist services organization.
The key to a good outreach email is to write it in a welcoming tone that is true to your personal voice, but is succinct and clear about why you are reaching out. Below is the basic outline I’ve developed for an effective outreach email that ensures you say what you need to say in a way that is crisp and inviting for your future collaborator!
Dear, Hi, Hello… (depending your style and the type of person/business you’re addressing). try to address an actual person by name.
Paragraph 1: Introduction
One sentence introduction: who you are
How you got their contact information/how you found them
One to two sentences: why you are writing
Paragraph 2: Description
Craft 3 to 4 sentences with more information about your project or business or you as a person. Summarize your mission and experience, highlight major accomplishments, especially ones that would resonate with your particular reader, and provide a link to a website where they can find more information.
Paragraph 3: Proposal and mutual benefit
Describe in 3 to 4 sentences what you’d like to work on together, your timeframe, why you feel you are a good potential fit to work with them, and how working together could be beneficial to them personally or to their project or organization.
Paragraph 4: Closing
Summarize the information you’ve provided above if necessary and thank your reader for their time and consideration. Invite them to follow up with you with any questions or to discuss further.
I tweak this format to fit specific circumstances depending on my level of connection with the personal I am writing to. Also, remember that when you are utilizing and customizing pre-written text always proof read your email to make sure you didn’t leave in old information and ensure that you don’t have any typos!
I hope this outline serves you well whether you are booking an event, reaching out to new potential retailers, searching for collaborators, and just curious to learn more about someone and their business.
How do you use email in your handmade business? What types of emails do you actually get excited about receiving? We’d love to hear your tips for outreach emails too.
Eleanor Callott Whitney is a writer, rock musician, educator, and arts administrator raised in Maine and living in Brooklyn. She finds joy in bringing order to the chaos of creativity, empowering artists with the tools they need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs and in managing and facilitating creative projects with panache. She is the author of Grow: How to take your DIY project and passion to the next level and quit your job! and writes extensively about art, culture and nonprofit management. She published the personal, art zine Indulgence for 15 years, as well as co-founded the Portland Zine Symposium and has worked for the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and P.O.V./American Documentary. She is the proud recipient of a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College where she learned to stop worrying and love statistical and budgetary analysis.