Ask the Mentor: How do I get new clients to build my business?

Media Mentor Esther Coleman-Hawkins answers your career questions with brisk no-nonsense advice for screen professionals.

The Question

Vicke writes: ‘I have been a Hair and Make-up Artist for over 15 years mainly in TV and Film. (Prior to that I worked at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade as a Project Manager.) I’m suddenly aware that I need more people who hire me. Do I need to discover new “Avatar clients” and how do I contact them without getting put in the Spam box?

The Answer

A what? An Avatar Client? All I can see is blue people!

Marketing expert, Shanrah Randall, tells me that ‘Avatar clients’ are basically highly detailed client profiles you create to represent who you want to hire you or buy your product. You then market to those with that specific profile.

They’re apparently a bit old school now but are used in pharma and other large-scale industries. We talked about how our industry works, and the scale of it, and Shanrah questioned why you might want to go through a longwinded and expensive marketing process when you can actually name every single person who might employ you in Victoria (or any other state).

That pulled me up short.

Really this is a question about how to build your business.   

This is the subject of thousands of books and I have only 500 words so here goes.

  • Task 1: Find the names and contact details of the buggers who can hire me.
  • Task 2: Get them to hire me.

First make your hit list. You need a big ol’ list of everyone who might hire you or recommend you.  

Frankly, getting new work is tougher than getting a date, particularly at the moment. But that’s no reason not to crack on with it. There’s really no other choice!

In your case, you’re a make-up artist. So you need a list of production managers, production co-ordinators, producers and other make-up artists.

Using LinkedIn, Production Base, Freelancers etc create a list of them, including contact details.

Look at what each person has done and write a message to them, ideally identifying something they’ve done that you liked, and mentioning something similar you’ve worked on, and saying you’d love to work with them. Ask if they’d like to have a virtual coffee to connect. Drop your beautifully written LinkedIn link to tempt them.

If they don’t reply now, that’s okay. Keep a note of who hasn’t replied and send them a same-same-but-different email in a couple of months.

Read more: Ask the mentor: How do I stay motivated after rejection? 

There isn’t a magic email that will never end up being deleted or ignored. It’s so often a matter of timing – your email arrives on the morning when they’re a bit bored, feeling like socialising or their current make-up artist has moved to Cuba to run a rum bar and they need a replacement fast.

Connect with other make-up artists as well. You want to be on their list of ‘other people you could try’ when they’re booked up.

Frankly, getting new work is tougher than getting a date, particularly at the moment. But that’s no reason not to crack on with it. There’s really no other choice!

Got a question for the mentor? Send it to us at with the subject line ‘Media Mentor Question’ and we’ll pass it onto Esther.

Media Mentors are currently partnering with ACMI to produce the free twice-weekly Running Free online skills workshops for screen industry professionals and enthusiasts. The next event, ‘How to tell a personal story’, goes live on Wednesday 3 June at 10am AEST. It features award-winning Australian film director Unjoo Moon (the upcoming Helen Reddy biopic I Am Woman) teaching you how to go from real life to screen and drawing from her experience. See the full session on ACMI’s YouTube channel.

Esther Coleman-Hawkins
About the Author
Co-founder of Media Mentors, Esther Coleman-Hawkins is an experienced TV producer, conference organiser and career mentor. Media Mentors provides one-on-one mentoring and runs workshops and networking events for people in the creative industry. Sessions with her, or her co-founder Denise Eriksen, can be booked through their website