When a man starts in business for himself, his first difficulty is to get known. The two most usual courses for him to take are to advertise in the local newspaper, parish magazine, theatre or cinema programme, or to circularise. If he adopts the first method, it is essential that his advertisement be as attractive as possible, and although most printers will be willing to give him the benefit of their advice, he would do well to consult someone with actual experience in drawing up advertisement ‘ copy.’
Press advertisement, however, usually involves the beginner in rather more expenditure than he can afford at first, though if it is conducted with any degree of skill, it will probably pay for itself in the long run. The decorator may consequently prefer to solicit business by letter. If he has had no previous experience, he will find himself confronted with various problems, such as, to whom he shall write, whether his letters shall be printed, typewritten, or mimeographed, and – most important of all – what he shall say.
Before dealing with these points, it may be well to add a few general remarks. First of all, there is the matter of stationery; many men are satisfied in their business to use a cheap paper with their name and address and a bare statement of the class of work which they carry out. They may save a few shillings by doing so, but it is nearly always very false economy. The public is apt to judge the quality of a man’s work by such seemingly unimportant items as his stationery, and it is emphatically worth while to use paper and envelopes of good grade and to spend a little money on a well-designed and attractive letter-head. Any good printer will be pleased to submit suggestions for the latter.
A local directory will provide the decorator with the names and addresses of prospective clients, but it would obviously be a waste of time and money to use it indiscriminately and irrespective of the class of the recipient. If a man decides to circularise on a comparatively small scale, it is a good plan for him to take a walk in some likely neighbourhood and to note carefully the names or numbers of houses which, from their appearance, seem to be in most urgent need of his services. Should he succeed in securing a contract, it is usually worth while addressing letters to all the houses in the same street or vicinity, since the natural desire of householders not to be outdone by their neighbours tends to make them more receptive of the decorator’s proposals.
Experience has shown that it is preferable to address such letters to the lady of the house, if there is one, but, unfortunately, directories are non-committal on this point, and, on the whole, it is wiser to rely upon them rather than to run the risk of addressing some non-existent person. In any case, the envelope should definitely not be inscribed ‘ To the Occupant ‘ or ‘ To the Householder ‘ – a form of address quite sufficient to damn its contents before they are read. Even if the letter is to be delivered by hand, it is desirable to give the full postal address.
A printed letter is impressive only if the printing is extremely good, and this has the serious disadvantage of being expensive. A mimeographed communication will cost less, but, like the printed letter, runs the risk of being thrown aside unread as soon as its nature is realised. It is true that nowadays mimeographed copies can be reproduced so well that it is difficult to detect the process, but the name and address of the recipient must be typewritten, and unless the matching is superlatively good the discrepancy will spoil the effect.
On the whole, therefore, a letter personally typed to each prospective client will probably be the best method of circularisation. A typewriter is a very desirable adjunct to a decorator’s business, and if he considers that to write a separate letter to each potential customer will entail too much clerical labour on his part, some kind of typewriting bureau, where such work can be undertaken, will be found in most towns.
The decorator’s chief difficulty, however, will be in deciding what to say. As a general rule, in letter writing, the simplest and most direct method of expression is always the best, and long words and formal, pompous phrases seldom make a favourable impression.