How to respond to creative inquiries

Commissions can come from individual people who want something specific for their home or from a company or brand who needs something for their business.

Either way, when a new inquiry lands in your inbox, there’s a multitude of things you have to ask yourself before you respond, the main ones are:

  • Is this client qualified to work with me?
  • Do they have a budget?
  • Is this project aligned with my interests, style, and values?

The goal when you reply to a creative inquiry is to show that you understand what their creative needs and wants are. So your emails need to boost their confidence in hiring you by establishing the value you offer.

This is especially true when you’re responding to someone who is well versed in hiring visual creatives, such as an art director or marketing person.

As a creative visual freelancer, you have a TON of selling power. Just know, the success of your client’s project hinges on your images.

In most cases the visual elements are the only factor determining the success of a project. It takes only a split second for someone to look at the visuals of an article, product packaging, book cover, and ad campaign and decide if they’ll engage more with it.

Here’s what the email script looks like:


Subject: Re: *POTENTIAL CLIENT, let’s get started on your illustration


Thanks for getting in touch with me, I’d be happy to help you with your magazine illustration.

As you know, there are many possibilities for illustration – from a small black and white illustration to a full color spread. Depending on your specific needs and intended usage, my illustration projects start at $____.

Recently, I *MENTION A RECENT PROJECT OR ACCOMPLISHMENT [This is what instills confidence in hiring you.]

I’d love to chat with you about the possibility of doing the same at for you. Giving you a more specific project proposal, but I need just a few more details about your project (timeline, intended illustration usage, and a better understanding of your creative vision, etc.)

Do you have 10 minutes for a quick phone or Skype chat Wednesday at 11AM Pacific?




Important things to include in your email…

Relate and stay relevant with your lead based on their creative needs.

In most cases, an art director has probably sent out a few inquiries to other creatives. Your goal in these beginning stages is to establish your value by mentioning a recent successful case study or accomplishment you’ve had on similar projects.

This way you’ll avoid just competing on price with the other creatives they sent an inquiry to. Remember, the number one concern an art director or any creative decision maker has when they are hiring a visual creative is – “Are they going to make me look good for hiring them.”

It’s your goal to establish that you are a visual creative they can be confident in when they hire you.

Determining their budget

By stating, “… projects start at $___.”, you’re filtering out those who don’t meet your minimum budget requirements.

Also, you aren’t trying to get an immediate sale in this first email. This will come later.


Because you want to avoid having them just determining whether or not they’ll hire you based on price. When you establish your value, you are making price a triviality. You do this by:

  • Showing your recent successes and/or case studies.
  • Showing your lead that you want to better understand what their creative vision is

This ensures them you’ll make them look good for hiring you.

Commissions are a great way to grow your art business away from just selling your art online. I enjoy them because it’s nice to create something already knowing who it’s for and and how it’s going to be used. A creative restraint can be a nice challenge now and then too.

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