Making the Most of the Job Board: Crafting the Perfect First Message
This article was written by Heather Bailey from CustomMade’s Maker Success Team.
You scan the job board, finally honing in on the ideal job. A great opportunity. In fact you just know you can do this job better than anyone. This job is plain perfect for you and you’re eager to learn more. In a flash your cursor is hovering obediently over the “express interest” button and your fingers move to type a message. You’re ready for this job—hungry for it even. But, then you freeze. The dreaded first message. Gulp…What should you say?
Over the past few weeks, the members of the Maker Success team here at CustomMade have reached out to several makers, new and old, to chat about their biggest concerns. As we tackled various questions, we started to hear the same one repeated by nearly everyone we spoke to: “What should I say in my first message?” At first we were surprised. Why were the makers, some of whom have been in business for twenty or more years, suddenly becoming shy when it comes to talking to customers? And then we realized: it’s not the actual talking to customers that they find worrisome—the makers on our site could probably talk about their craft in their sleep by now—it’s talking online that is difficult. As the business of custom moves online, it can be a challenge for makers who are proficient in communicating with a customer face-to-face to transfer those same charming skills to the cold, anonymous world of the Internet. But as the market for artists and craftsman becomes increasingly digitized, it’s an important challenge to overcome.
Truth be told, there is no one universal formula for crafting that first initial contact. Just as every job is different, every customer is different and the type of messages they respond to always ranges. However, by studying our top makers as well as what our customers respond to, we have an solid foundation of what should go into that first message.
1. Get Excited
Our customers are thrilled at the prospect of having their abstract ideas crafted by some of the country’s top makers. The process is new and foreign to them. Don’t be afraid to match or even exceed their level of enthusiasm about the project. Our customers want to see that the person who is crafting their project is just as excited as they are. Showing a degree of interest in the design sets the customer’s mind at ease and gives way to a friendly and constructive dialog between maker and customer: “I would be happy to make your coffee table out of reclaimed wood. Using reclaimed materials to create something new is such a passion of mine. Those materials have such a rich history and should be re-purposed rather than tossed aside.”
2. Make it Personal
Find something, some way to connect to the customer. Maybe they’re from your hometown or they’re asking for a project that you’ve been thinking about creating for yourself. Whatever little bit of personalization you can put into your message, the better. Just a sentence or two serves to humanize you and gives the customer that warm, fuzzy feeling of talking to a real person, not a computer: “I see you’re from Portland, I take my family to the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland every year, it’s the highlight of our summer!”
3. Ask Questions
Since most customers are unfamiliar with custom, they might leave out a detail or two that they just didn’t even think of. If you need more information from them, feel free to ask for it! If what they’re asking for is very abstract and you aren’t able to get a good idea by their description, ask for a rough sketch. Better to ask as many questions as possible so ensure that you’re both on the same page design-wise: “What height are you thinking for the coffee table? Also, you mentioned that you wanted the top in a funky shape. If you could draw a rough sketch of the shape you’re thinking, that would be immensely helpful!”
4. Inform and Educate
Most of our customers have never experienced the custom process. They may simply be unaware of the time, expense, or labor that goes into crafting a piece. If you spot something in a customer’s description that may seem rather unrealistic, kindly point it out. Most customers are open to altering their initial ideas; however, they need to know why: “The finish you’re interested in will look great! However, it is not a standard one that I have in stock, I’ll have to do a little trial and error to make sure you get the finish you want which may mean extending your original timeline.”
5. Explain Why You’re Qualified-But Keep it Brief
Once a customer has received an expression of interest, they’ll click to your profile page, read your bio, and look through your projects to see who you are and get a sense of your style. No need to repeat it in the first message. When tackling this part of the message ask yourself, “what makes you qualified for this particular job?” And sum it up in a few short sentences: “I’ve been making custom furniture for over 20 years, I specialize in breathing life into reclaimed materials and giving them new meaning. I just finished a project like yours where we used reclaimed wood from a barn to make a dining room table. The client loved the design!”
By now you’ve just crafted a pretty impressive first message. There’s just one thing left to do before you click that “send” button. Review your work. Spell-check it, and make sure that the grammar is correct. It may seem like a simple step, but it’s often forgotten. Having several spelling and grammatical errors in a first message doesn’t show you in the best light. It seems like you rushed through and didn’t put time into your work. And that does not represent you! Slow down, and take the time to check for errors.
Once you have your completed message, re-read it as if you were the customer receiving the message. Would you want to work with that maker? If the answer is yes, then you’ve just crafted yourself a great first message. Go ahead, click send!