verbal croquis

how to get answers to your questions

Posted in DE stuff by verbalcroquis on March 9, 2007

Why do you read this blog? To get information, right? To get answers to your questions?  To see if I have any information that will help you get a job/launch your company/be better at XYZ thing?

Let me just make this clear: I do not make my living off blogging, not here and not at Fashion-Incubator.  I make my living as a designer and illustrator and my blogging is a culmination of my wanting to help people, meet other industry folks, display my work, rant to people who have shared the experience and can empathize, and engage myself and others in interesting conversations. I’m not going insult you by trying to lie and tell you that all my motives are completely altruistic. Even people who donate millions of dollars to charities do it for the resulting tax break and the warm fuzzy feeling of do-good-ing. I gain a lot of benefits too–the top one being some of the amazing people I’ve met that I never would have otherwise.

So what’s my point? My point is that sharing my experience with you is not my job. I’m not obligated to do it. But under the right circumstances, I enjoy it immensely.

One of my favorite things to do is have coffee with a colleague and have some great conversation. Yesterday was awesome–three hours, great fellow designer, some snark Oscar fashion talk, some industry griping, some troubleshooting and offering advice (both ways), some good coffee, and plans to carpool to the LA Textile Show together next month.

So approach me–I do want to get to know you. And if I can, I want to help you too, but trust me, everyone has boundaries and expectations of professional behavior. You can only win by being respectful–in all things.

Your first email needs to be professional. After we’ve established a relationship, sure, bypass that final grammar check, but I’m not the only who won’t take you seriously if you email me like ur on im omg can u help me???? how cum no 1 will hire me??? No way in a million years will I refer you to any of my industry contacts. r u kidding me???? Go buy a vowel and a clue.

You are in no position to be demanding. Would you ever approach a fabric guy and say, “Ok, tell me everything I need to know about all your fabrics. No, I’m not going to buy any, I’m just trying to pry all the information out of you to start my own business.” Count the milliseconds before the fabric guy would toss you out the front door. Email me on my recommendations on books and let’s have a conversation–tell me what you have, what you like, what you don’t like, and be specific. “I’m trying to learn more about dyeing silks, and book X didn’t give me what I was looking for. What would you recommend?” Do not ask me to regurgitate all the information I have from having read all those books. Book reports are for lit majors.

Check your sense of entitlement at the door.  Beggars can’t be choosers.  You are not entitled to me sitting for five hours typing out all the knowledge I have in my head, especially if you ask me to “do it really soon cuz i’m totally on a deadline”.   Yes, this really happened to me!  All this is from actual experience!  If you’re not turned off by this behavior, I don’t want to know you.  You know what I don’t understand? How being polite and professional became old-fashioned. There’s a line between bold and rude–don’t cross it.

Note: Just because I respond to you with a link from a older blog post of mine does not mean I’m brushing you off. It ONLY means I’ve already written about it and I’m directing you to information I don’t want to retype.

Yes, I’ll probably come across as a crankypants in this post, but I don’t care. If you think this post is nasty, you’re in the wrong business. I write this with your best interest in mind. You want to succeed as a designer? An entrepeneur? You absolutely need to be polite and professional, especially when soliciting free help. You’d be amazed at the doors you can open for yourself just learning to introduce yourself properly. First of all, I’ll be more inclined to give you a more in-depth answer to your questions and I’m easier (in that regard) than a lot of industry professionals I know.


14 Responses to 'how to get answers to your questions'

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  1. Rebecca said,

    Well, I read this blog because you are gracious, talented, and FUNNY! And apparently I belong here, because I completely agree with you. Not only do I not think this post is nasty, I’m slightly envious because I didn’t write it. But mostly I’m incredulous that you needed to.

  2. Thanks, Rebecca. Don’t tell anyone, but you’re one of my favorite readers.

    Seriously, I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a long time, but sat on it. After the umpteenth colleague of mine complained about similar things, I felt I just had to put this out there. It’s not just for me, it’s for all the industry peeps who are treated like crap.

  3. The thing that probably irritates me most (other than the text messaging) is people demanding all kinds of stuff and they can’t even be bothered to address my by name with a proper salutation, say please and thank you and sign off with their own name. Amazing that manners and professionalism has become “old school”.
    Thanks Zoe, great great post. Now go cuddle with your hottie.

  4. […] to get answers to your questions. Priceless: “Your first email needs to be professional. After we’ve established a relationship, sure, […]

  5. Danielle said,

    How to get answers to your questions –

    How about google? These days there’s no excuse for asking a question that can be answered by a search engine. This pretty much covers most of the who and where questions at least. Searching online is just as easy as firing off an ign’nt email and answers faster too.

    Oh, and VC -tell me the free easy fast secret to fame and fortune???!?? I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas!!!?

  6. Wendy said,

    Zoe, not unlike Rebecca, I read this blog because you expand my horizons in a charming and interesting fashion.

    I’m not a clothing designer, nor do I aspire to be. But I do want to make educated and informed purchases, and to understand what goes into what I choose to wear. No sense of entitlement. But certainly a sense of gratitude that you share your knowledge, talent and expertise.

  7. i read this blog to keep up with the fabulous musings of someone i (somewhat presumptively, im sure) call a friend ;o)

    designers arent the only ones who get these bizarre information requests – a few weeks ago i had a woman demanding that grace from design sponge put her in contact with me so she could ask me some completely cryptic and nonsensical legal question.

    hello, we are not founts of free information, people. if we were, we’d be called public schools. and even then, you have to pay property tax.

  8. >Oh, and VC -tell me the free easy fast secret to fame and fortune???!?? I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas!!!?


    Of course, I’m not addressing any of you ladies in this post. Y’all have been wonderful. For the most part, my readers are great. Group hug!

    And Joi, of course we’re friends! Crazy lady.

  9. SIMON said,

    OH how true. You didn’t narrow down exactly what age group specifically is feeling entitled etc.. but it would be interesting to know. I have a few friends that decided to return to school after downsizing etc.. and have found themselves in a currriculum with students ranging from 19-25 etc.

    In a few short years it seems like all manners, etiquette, diction, speech and many other things have deteriorated to a point that leaves many of us jut shaking our heads in disbelief.
    I heard a story that one professsor even started the LIKE fund. For everytime the word was used unnecessarily, he FINED the student a dollar. Good for him. I know when I hear that word spewing out of young peoples mouths, I cringe and wonder what Congress is going to sound like in 10-15 yrs.

    Thank you for being so frank about this. It is desparately needed. It is not just the apparel industry that is suffering. I just hope we haven’t raised a generation of dummies to look after us in the next years. I hope the ME generation can turn things around.

  10. >I heard a story that one professsor even started the LIKE fund. For everytime the word was used unnecessarily, he FINED the student a dollar.

    I, like, totally love this. (heehee.) No, seriously, this is a great idea.

    I’m not really putting this on any age category. I don’t know the ages of any of the people who write me. I’m 27. My sister is 19 and doesn’t know how to be impolite, but I do agree that this type of behavior is more prevalent in younger people, and I honestly hope that this is at least partially because as you get older, you start to learn how to present yourself.

  11. Simon said,

    I guess much of what we are discussing about etiquette and manners really starts at home. Since the family unit as we know it has gone to hell in a handbasket, just who should be held responsible for developing this ?

    This degradation of social and lanuguage skills has been brewing for awhile. Why do you think parents untilize parivate schools ?

    We need to return to the 3 R’s in a big way. And make sure everyone knows them before graduation into high school.

    Hey at least you may have reached a few people through your blog post and if they respond well and watch their speech patterns, you have done your part to enlighten.

  12. SRR said,

    You hit the nail right on the head, Zoe. I enjoy reading your blog because your commentary is intelligent and you tell it like it is.

    I’ve been pretty lucky that I’m too small time to have this problem, but I’ve seen a lot of popular blogs besieged with demanding comments such as “why don’t you post more, your blog sucks right now” or “I want you to do xyz.” The worst ones are “I don’t like this” and “I don’t like that” without giving any constructive criticisms. People blog for a number of reasons, and they don’t owe their readers like their owe their friends and families. After all, the readers aren’t paying for their “subscription.” It follows that they’re in no position to make rude demands.

    The majority of people I’ve “met” online are very nice and sensible, but it always suprises me to see how many people completely flout the rules. There are right and wrong ways of networking. To me, the right way is a meaningful contribution to the discussion. The wrong way is “hey look at me, come check out my blog/business” without more. It’s simply unprofessional. I guess the anonymity of the Internet gives people the impression that they can do whatever they want. They either don’t remember or don’t care that there is a real person behind a blog or a username.

  13. SRR said,

    Oops…speaking of mispelling and bad grammar. I meant “surprises me” and not “suprises,” and “subscriptions” instead of “subscription.”

    I’m the “bestest editer,” indeed.

  14. >I guess the anonymity of the Internet gives people the impression that they can do whatever they want.

    Yes yes yes, I do definitely think that that is a major part of the problem.

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