Recruiters are usually the gatekeeper between you and the creative director, client, agency or studio you really want to freelance for.
And they get hit up by people like you who also want to work for their company all day long. So getting on their radar isn’t easy. And getting on it in a good way without irritating them is even harder.
So before you reach out, make sure you’re ready. This is so important we're not even counting it as one of the five tips. It's imperative. You should have an up-to-date portfolio website that shows your best work, makes it clear what role you had in the creation of the work, and spells out who you are, what you do and what kind of jobs you like on your About Me page.
You should also have an up-to-date Linkedin page, nothing terrible about you on the first page of search results if they Google your name, and a clear sense of your upcoming work schedule and current rate in case they call.
Here are a few tried and true methods from our personal playbooks.
This is obviously the holy grail of getting on a recruiter’s radar. If they contact you instead of the other way around, you’re already in a great place. And it’s pretty easy to do. Do something amazing that will make everyone who works there say, wow, contact this person immediately about working with us please. And the recruiter will say I already did, because I saw it too and I know talent when I see it!
If you’ve got something amazing that the world hasn’t seen yet, share it! But if you don’t and aren’t currently working on your next amazing thing, start. Making something awesome that shows off your voice and vision and thinking and full talents. These are often called “personal projects” because no one is paying you to do them, which means you get to do exactly what you want and make it turn out exactly how you envision it. So go for it. Blow yourself away. Once you make and share that amazing thing it might open up doors you didn’t even know you wanted to open.
Recruiters gets lots of emails, and probably still even get a few phone calls which they let go right to voicemail. They've also been bribed with food, drink, and gifts. You will not be the first one to send them a box of expensive artisanal donuts from the local expensive artisanal donuts shop. But sending a letter or package (maybe with the recently completed awesome personal project you just finished) is much more likely to be opened than an email. Or you could do something really unusual.
During the years Wieden+Kennedy ran their internal ad school WK12, one applicant hired a Mariachi band (from 3000 miles away) to come to the lobby and serenade the directors of the program. She got in. If you want to make an impression on someone or somewhere bad enough, come up with a good inventive way of doing it.
Recruiters are the gatekeepers at most companies, and they like prospective hires to come through them. But if you aren't getting and traction and have an in with a creative director, a founder, a Vice President with a long title, or even a junior something or other, make contact with them.
If you can impress or create a relationship with someone who you could be working directly with or under, you’ve got a great foot in the door. And most likely you’ll get the recruiter’s attention, especially if said Vice President with the long winded title asks them to get in touch with you to hire you. Just be sure and endear yourself to the recruiter as best you can when they do.
There are other ways to interact with recruiters and creative directors then to email them asking them for work. You can ask to connect through Linkedin. Thats really what’s it for. Facebook? Too personal. But no harm in following them on Instagram and liking their photos.
They are also probably going to and speaking at conferences, or even making visits to portfolio schools. Those would be great places to run into them and introduce yourself.
And if you know you’re not quite ready for an agency or company yet, you can also reach out to a recruiter for advice or an informational interview. Explain your dream about working there and ask if they have advice on how to get your portfolio up to snuff, or if there are any classes you might take or programs you should learn. They might or may not get back to you, they are busy, but if you're humble and complimentary you might just establish contact and begin a relationship.
We got so carried away with clever ways of getting recruiter’s attention that we’re just now getting to the easiest one. Simply get in touch and let them know you’d like to work with them.
If you’re really good at what you do and potentially even over-qualified for what you might be able to help them with, it might be enough to email them a cordial note, expressing how much you admire the company’s work and how much you’d love to collaborate if a good project turns up. Who knows, maybe they just assumed you were too busy or over-qualified and never thought to get in touch.
If you’re more mid-level, or junior, be really clear about where you are at in your career, express how much you'd love to work there but help them envision how that would work by suggesting ways you could help. If you are a copywriter not quite ready to take on a big Super Bowl brief, suggest some accounts you could help write social media posts for. Maybe even offer to come in a lower level or different position to get your foot in the door.
Once you make contact, just be sure not overly-contact. If you get a nice reply but no lead on work, give it a month before you contact them again. And then give it another month after that. if there still don't have anything for you, or they stop replying, give it a good couple months before you reach out again.
If you not getting any traction, easy up and give them some space. Contacting a recruiter a third or fourth time if you haven't heard back is going to do more harm than good. There's a good chance they're not seeing work in your portfolio that makes them interested. So, make some new work. And get in touch when you've got some new stuff to share.
Would you consider doing that? Thanks!
Andrew & Aaron
But here's your chance to learn from our mistakes!
Mt. Freelance put together some advice for freelancers that we wish we had earlier in our career. It's called:
The guide is written from experience that will offers some new tactics, perspectives and freelance hacks.