I got to be a theatre investor/producer, thanks to a simple blog comment, which lead to an email correspondence, that eventually lead to a meeting with a Tony Award winning producer. While there were a few more steps along the way to the place that I am in now — that of a young producer — my early experiences in this industry were a powerful lesson in the power of one email to change the entire direction of your life.
These days I am on the receiving end of many similar emails. I am sure that many of them are from talented, passionate and hard working individuals. But often, it is difficult to see that because they first impression they make is less than desirable.
I realize there really isn’t a class on this, but its something every young and aspiring actor/theatre professional should know. Heck, it is something every young professional needs to figure out. How you represent yourself in first encounters, even through email, has a HUGE impact on how you are received, and the kinds of opportunities you will find open to you. I cannot underestimate the value of taking the time to make sure that you show yourself in the best possible light right from the start. So, I’ve mined my own experiences, working in the theater world and the business world more generally, and came up with a few key tips to help those of you who might be just starting out. If you do these things below, you will separate yourself out from the crowd, and more importantly, could get a life-changing email in response.
1. Keep It Brief
Professionals are busy…well…being professionals. The last thing they want to do is sift through their inbox everyday reading short stories from people they have never met. Cold emailing is tough, and the key is to only hit the points most necessary to make your case. Go ahead and skip the part about how you have been doing theatre all your life, how this would be an amazing opportunity, etc. Make precise points about why you are emailing, and what you are expecting from this dialogue. The first email should be no longer than 2 or at most 3 paragraphs long. Even though this is an email, you should edit and proof read, much like a school paper or cover letter. This will ensure you say as much as you can, in as few words as possible.
2. Keep It Professional
For the sake of being “cute” do not forgo proper English. Write a clear-concise email that displays professionalism and a respect for the time of the producers, directors, or professional to whom you are writing. Skip the emojis for now, a “winky” face maybe acceptable, only after a correspondence has been established. Remember this is your first “audition”, and they have never met you to see how you are charming, cute, and professional all at the same time. Its difficult to make cute and comedic translate via email, especially to a stranger who doesn’t know you. Because of this, let the first thing they see be your ability to communicate in a business-like manner.
3. Don’t Start With What You Want
We know you want something, (unless you are an adoring fan or a harsh critic just telling us your opinion) but don’t come out of the gate asking for something in the first sentence.
I can’t tell you how many emails I get that start with…”How do I become a professional actor”, or “How can I work on Broadway”, or “Can you get me a job.” And these are seriously the opening lines, not even an introduction, sometimes not even their name until the end. Hey we are humans, and we want to feel like more than a stepping-stone for your career.
If you want an email back, try politely introducing yourself, then talking about why you chose to email us specifically. Mentioning a specific work, project, or piece they worked on will automatically give you points.
4. Keep It Confident
Confidence is an amazing asset to have in life, and is a skill that can be developed. Avoid apologizing for the email in any way. Don’t give them an out by saying if they are too busy you understand. If they really are too busy, you don’t need to mention it, they will simply not respond. Go into it like you respectfully deserve to be in the conversation. And if you do go into it, go prepared. Be thoughtful with every sentence you write. Confidence shows us you can handle high-stakes situations and have an ability to come through in the end.
5. Show You Mean Business
There’s a fine line between selling yourself and coming across as…frankly… a tool. Master the art of showing how serious you are and how much work you are willing to put in, without spamming your points. In other words, back up what you are telling me you can do. There is nothing wrong with letting us know you work hard and can grind things out until they succeed. Hard work is rare, especially when that means taking a risk, so do your best to tell us why you will be different than the 5 emails we got from others that day. If I see this in someone, it tells me they could provide value in my career as well. An email back is an investment, and the more confidence you give us the more we are willing to make that investment.
BONUS: I Got An Email Back, Now What?%@!
Great, you must have made a good impression and peaked their curiosity. Read their response carefully and respond accordingly. The 5 rules above still apply, with the exception of developing a specific voice for the correspondence.
If they answer your question and it is an abrupt no, then politely tell them thank you for their time, avoid getting angry and saying something that could burn the bridge later. You never know if/when your paths will cross again, and they could have your email filed for future opportunity.
If their answer gives permission for further dialogue, then proceed, still treading lightly for the first few backs and fourths. It’s important not to overburden their time and resources. The relationship is most important, so respect all areas of it. If you can add value in any way, offer your ideas, help, or resources. Overall just show them you are an investment that will bring return in some form.
Likewise, support their ventures in anyway possible; share their content on Facebook, take a course or seminar they offer, and put your “skin in the game.” Show them you really want to learn and are willing to put in the resources and effort.
Lastly, if you have taken a risk by sending an email to a professional you admire, congratulations. The crazy thing is that you are in the minority. Many people freeze, and chicken out. Just remember most of the time you have nothing to lose, so take the chance, you just may end up taking a meeting in a Tony Award winning producers office.