A Brief Guide to Getting What You Want from A Cold Email (to me)

As a q-list internet celebrity, I sometimes get cold emails from people asking for favors, or to work together on some such thing or another. Being that I am not actually famous, and have a job, and various Normal Person demands on my time – I often ignore these emails because they are unclear, and require me to invest time in a back and forth in order to suss out what the emailer is actually looking for. Unless you catch me at just the right moment, I don’t normally have the space (or emotional fortitude) to do that.

So – what follows is a short guide on cold emailing me (and perhaps other people, but I can’t be sure) in order to increase the chances you get what you want.

  1. Please keep it short. Six paragraphs of preamble greatly reduce the likelihood I will see the request you make in the seventh. I simply do not have time to read multiple page cold-emails. I’m very sorry.
  2. Be in possession of easily acquired, publicly available information. If you email me asking what I am currently working on, if I am the producer of Reasonably Sound, if Idea Channel is still making videos, where I’m based, if I have any writing experience… this is a HUGE red flag, and I am likely to ignore your email.
  3. Dont email me about clients. I do not work for Complexly, PBS, American Public Media, Know Your Meme, &c &c. I am a contractor who was hired on contractual basis to do work for those people. As much as I love to hear you think I should bring X, Y or Z show back, as much as I would love to bankroll and produce your show idea … I can’t help you. Sorry!
  4. Say how you know me, and what you want. Usually it’s as simple as that! Two short sentences. “I follow you on twitter. I was wondering if you edit other people’s writing?” “I listen to Fun City. Have you written about your production workflow anywhere?” “We’re watching Crash Course Mythology in class. Do you know what the citation list for the videos is?” (No, unfortunately; I didn’t write it!)
  5. If what you want is larger than an email, but smaller than a “job”: I can often (and love to!) zoom into classes, make short videos, do interviews, etc, etc, etc. I need to know who you are (student? teacher? events coordinator? host? producer? academic?), what you need (exactly; as much detail as you can pack into 3 sentences or, even better, 3 bullet points), when you need it by, and if you want to pay me. It’s okay if you can’t! Just be explicit up front as this helps me prioritize. If you want me to make something for you – like say, a short video – tell me exactly what you want, even down to sending me a script, and we’ll go from there. I may respond with a counter-idea, but knowing you have a clear idea helps me know this “small video” isn’t gonna spiral into something larger that I’ll have to abandon, much to our mutual disappointment.
  6. If you want to hire me professionally: You already know this, but: tell me who you are, who you work for, what you need, when you need it by (if you know), and tell me your budget or ask for a quote. If it’s production related, or a particularly large endeavor, please cc George Ruiz.
  7. Follow up. If I don’t respond to you in a week, email me again. If you don’t hear from me for another week, email a third time. Yes! A third time! You’re not bothering me, promise. If you don’t hear from me after that – I can’t make it work. Sorry!
  8. Don’t sweat the formalities. I would rather your email be personable, short and to the point than based on some hustle culture blog’s idea about what a good email looks like, what a good salutation is and how many exclamation points is the perfect number. It’s fine. Just be clear, conversational, and to the point. I’m not counting semicolons.
  9. You do not need to reference this guide. Just do the things on it.