Episode 309 — Why You’re Not Landing Clients
A lot of the time, we don’t care about building relationships. We just want instant results. We just want to get a response from the first person to whom we reach out. We don’t want to introduce ourselves to a client and make us the priority. We don’t even want to concern ourselves with the value we can give to them. This is called a transactional relationship. We don’t even realize how many people are doing the same thing: They fire out result oriented emails.
There is that naivete about the job approach. A lot of us don’t think about other people. We’re so focused on our needs, we’re creating more space between us and that other person. The key thing here is: The more we build connections, the more we build relationships, the stronger they become. You become more favorable and dependable.
In this Podcast, Allan McKay deconstructs the main reason why you may not be getting the response you want — from your clients or potential employers — as well as how to avoid transactional conversations and how to stand out in your outreach emails.
[02:35] Allan Breaks Down the Most Common Questions He Gets
[04:14] Email Teardowns
[07:13] Avoiding Transactional Conversations
[10:19] How to Stand Out
[13:31] Building Relationships
EPISODE 309 — WHY YOU’RE NOT LANDING CLIENTS
Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay.
Welcome to Episode 309! I’m going to be talking about landing clients and the bad habits that are preventing clients from responding to you.
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Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:05] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[18:25] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
WHY YOU’RE NOT LANDING CLIENTS
[02:35] I want to talk about freelance for a moment, in particular landing clients and how to get repeat questions. Easily, the most common question that I get is, “How do I get a job?” “How do I get my first job?” or “How do I switch careers at 40 years old, after I’ve been an architect?” They are the same question in a way that asks, “How do I get a desired result?” This is where outreach is so critical: making calls, firing out emails, making connections possible.
[03:15] A lot of the time, we don’t care about building relationships. We just want instant results. We also don’t want to play the numbers game. We just want to get a response from the first person to whom we reach out. We don’t want to introduce ourselves to a client and make us the priority. We don’t even want to concern ourselves with the value we can give to them; instead we make it all about us. This is called a transactional relationship. We do that all too often. We don’t even realize how many people are doing the same thing: They fire out result oriented emails. In the end, not only do we come off as asses, but our emails get lost among all the other emails from other asses.
[04:14] I want to talk about email teardowns. Occasionally, I would put out a Podcast reading some of the emails I get from people asking for jobs (anonymously, of course). Some of the examples are well written, others are terrible. The sad part is that the terrible ones are typically the majority. Most people make the bar so low: “Hi, you don’t know me. You don’t owe me anything, but you need to give me a job. Here is my work, drop everything, look at it.” They follow up with, “Hey, you haven’t responded, so here is my link again!”
[04:56] This reminds me of the first time I ever walked into Weta in New Zealand. Before I even opened the door, the guy on the other side of it got immediately angry at me because I hadn’t replied to an email he sent me. And I’m talking really aggressively and yelling at me. And that was my first impression of Weta. It’s becoming a bit of a joke in [our staff meetings] that if I haven’t replied to an email, I try to do that so that I don’t get attacked two years later for neglecting it. Most of the time, I have every intention of responding to every email and I do read everything I receive. But it does fascinate me when someone can get this irate because a complete stranger hasn’t answered a technical question that he had a couple years ago.
[06:10] If I were to guess why I haven’t responded it was because of how the email was composed. It most likely showed zero understanding or care for the other person (www.allanmckay.com/246). And instead of making that email stand out and get attention, the email was all about him. If you were to assume that the other person is the decision maker, they’re busy with putting together teams, hiring people, attending meetings, talking to clients, receiving shots, etc. They also get a lot of emails. For them to stop everything to respond to a complete stranger about whether they’re a good fit at that studio. Multiply that by dozens of the same emails they receive every day. If they were to reply to each of those emails, they would not have much time left to do their job.
AVOIDING TRANSACTIONAL CONVERSATIONS
[07:13] But that is also because so many people are making it all about them. They don’t care about the person on the receiving end. They just want their desired result. If that is the case, you should expect the same outcome every time.
[07:25] There is that naivete about the job approach. A lot of us don’t think about the other people and think about transnational conversations. I always think about my female acquaintances who tell me about getting approached by guys. The problem runs deeper than that. The problem is that the guys don’t approach the situation with respect. They don’t take the time to build trust and put pressure on the person to get what they want. That’s why I say that business and dating aren’t that much different from one another. When you haven’t spent the time to communicate value, it’s harder for the other person to give you the commitment you want. But you’re so focused on your need, you’re creating more space between you and that other person. Eventually, after getting rejected over and over, you’re going to say that the industry (or dating) sucks and give up. Instead, you could put yourself in the shoes of the other person and figure out what they need.
[09:25] Just to elaborate on that: I think it’s important that two strangers can have a fling. I hope that doesn’t get misinterpreted. But what I am trying to say is that when you approach a stranger without being genuine, you’re just saying, “Hey, let me hit on you because I want to go home with you.” It becomes a one-way conversation. Which is exactly what happens when we approach someone looking for a job. “I’m looking for a job. I don’t care who you are. I’ve cut and pasted this email to 50 other people.” In this way, we’re blending in and not making any effort to stand out.
HOW TO STAND OUT
[10:19] This is exactly why I created those email teardowns: Because most of us know how much minimal effort is being put into people’s job search. Most artists are simply saying, “Hey, here is my stuff. Take 30 minutes to click through it!” And that’s exactly how long it takes to stop everything and look at someone’s stuff and give constructive feedback. That’s never going to incentivise the other party to do that. They have so many other things they are dedicated to. So when I do these email teardowns (www.allanmckay.com/176), most you have a chance to realize that most people put very little work into their job outreach. It communicates that even if you put out the minimal amount of effort, you’re going to stand out.
[11:45] And that’s the truth! If you want to stand out, just putting in some work will make you stand out because most people put no effort at all. That always makes me think what if I did put in that extra effort:
- What if I try to give some value?
- What if I make this an easy to respond to email?
- What if it wasn’t as wordy and it was respectful? It’s not focused on getting the job right away.
[12:38] In other words, over 3-4 emails, you could build that relationship. That’s so important! No one is doing that. Those people who are taking the time to build those relationships, when suddenly there is opportunity everywhere. But staying in touch with everyone, we’re on the front of everyone’s mind. This is not just true for landing jobs. It applies to getting partnerships, 6-figure jobs, etc. Every single time I’ve gone out to a lunch meeting with a studio, there is this instant traction frome.
[13:31] Because most of us don’t talk this way. You could be saying, “I want to help you. I want to create more opportunities for us to do collaborative things. I want to invest in you.” Keeping with the dating metaphor, another thing that comes to mind is that when you meet someone who’s had a string of short-term relationships, it fires off that warning bell. It is something that resonates when I see a string of short term jobs with different clients on someone’s resume, never repeat clients. They’ve worked somewhere, then 2 weeks later they’re somewhere else. Did they get fired? Were they not welcomed back? There are so many questions that start to arise. On the contrary, when someone who’s worked for 5 (or 50) same studios, it becomes reassuring. That means that they’ve built a lot of healthy relationships with those studios.
[15:25] The key thing here is: The more we build connections, the more we build relationships, the stronger they become. You become more favorable and dependable. A good example is Kevin Bailey who runs Atomic. I always jump at a chance to work with him. He has a strong relationship with Director Robert Zemeckis. He has that relationship. Because of that relationship, every movie that Zemeckis makes Kevin supervises. If I want to work on a Zemeckis film, I need to go hang out with Kevin. I’m not saying this in an opportunistic way.
[16:25] That is what studios do as well. One of my friends is friends with Neil Blomkamp. Because of that, studios want to make sure they have a connection with him. That is how you build your social capital: Because you’re building and maintaining healthy, strong relationships. That also means that they can recommend you to other clients. The more they like your work, the more likely they are to recommend you to other people as well — and that makes a massive shift in your career. And suddenly, you become inbound, which means that all you need to find a job is check your email or voicemail.
[17:20] With everything in business, it’s all about that r-word. You’re building a relationship with that client. If you ever have a bad project, you have an opportunity to fix your reputation with them. And they aren’t going to do that with a complete stranger. So getting work is easy when you stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about how you can stand out from others: When you can give the other party what they care about the most, getting what you want becomes much, much easier.
- So how much effort are you putting into your outreach?
- How much time are you investing in your relationships?
[17:51] Put in the work and realize that their needs are your needs. That will better your chances of getting a response, getting a job and getting repeat work and recommendations for go-to clients who want to work with you and choose you over anyone else. So, just some food for thought.
I hope you got a lot from this Episode. Thank you for listening!
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Next week, I’m interviewing with the Director of Chalk Warfare Sam Wickert. Until then —
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