In my freelancing adventures I’ve come across quite a few DOs and quite a few DON’Ts when it comes to communication. I’ve decided to compile them into an article for the benefit of all who may come across it, and I only hope all those tacky emails I receive will start turning into more professional ones.
Before I start, however, I’m going to give a simple disclaimer. This article is purely from my experience from what leaves a good impression on me, so I don’t guaranty any spectacular results from using this advice. To put it bluntly, if you try this stuff and get fired, don’t blame me for it. If these seem like bad ideas to you, don’t use them (or better yet, let me know why they are bad ideas so I can rethink this stuff).
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.
One thing that is helpful when you’re writing an email to a (perhaps potential) client or employer is to remember that they’re after something, you’re after something, and you both know it. Trying to deny that will only make you look like that telemarketer who called you last night when you were half-way through your steak. It wastes both your time and the receiver’s time, and as some guy once said, time is money. What you do want to do is get to the point as quickly as possible without looking like a jerk.
So be clear. If your grammar is awful and I can’t tell what you’re talking about, there is no way I am going to hire you. A lot of time and money is on the line, and there’s no way I’m going to waste it on somebody who I can’t even understand what they’re saying. Use good grammar and spelling, be clear, and make sure there is no possible way that you can be misunderstood.
Don’t be shy about your budget/rates, after all price is one of the (if not the) most important parts of the deal. You’re going to have to give it sooner or later, and better sooner than later–Otherwise you’re just wasting time. If you think a price is too low or too high, counter it. Once I was in the final process of selling some graphic work to somebody, and I gave him a price. He thought it was too high (even though it wasn’t…). I waited for a counter offer, but none came. After a while I finally got a message saying something like, “Hello? Did I loose you??” I told him I’d been waiting for a response, and asked him what he could pay for it. His reply: “I have no idea.”
True story. Moral is, don’t do that. I actually ended up bidding for both him and myself–bad business. When somebody is upfront about their budget/rates, that’s when I become impressed. It gives me the impression of a professional who knows what they have and what they need.
Another thing. Use their name, and SPELL IT RIGHT. I can’t tell you how many emails I have gotten where they start out with some bizarre form of my name. It makes you look lazy when you spell my name wrong, when all you had to do to find the correct spelling was either look to see how I signed my last email or check my website. I’ve had friends spell my name wrong and I can excuse that. But when you’re talking business, make sure you get it right.
Also, think through things before contacting or responding to somebody. Don’t send off that email until you are completely sure what it is you want.
I’m sure there’s a lot more great guidelines to follow when writing a business email, but those are just a few that I’ve found useful.