I get a fair number of emails related to potential project work and I’m often surprised at them for a number of reasons. I’ll go through some specifics in a moment, but my thesis is this: the web is a communications medium. If you are involved in the creation of websites as a paid professional it means you are a professional in the Communications industry. Take the time to ensure that your business communications reflect that.
I’m writing this from the perspective of being the email recipient, but most of this is universal. Pretend I’m that person you are emailing today.
If you didn’t know me and walked up to me on the street you’d probably put your hand out and introduce yourself. Do the same in an email. Tell me who you are, what your company is, and where you are located. It gives me a sense of who is talking to me.
- Why You Chose to Email Me
Where did you come across my name? Just randomly on the web? From the EE forums? A friend? And why me over the other folks you could have emailed? Not only does this help me know which of my marketing efforts is working, if you’ve been referred it allows me to seek out and thank that person.
Have a signature file with your name and contact info. Give me a way to check you out online to see if I think potential projects might be a good fit.
Friendly, self-deprecating emails get my attention and create an instant desire in me to want to respond quickly and helpfully. Whine, demand, complain or abuse and I’ll just trash your email with no further response.
- Send a Thank You
If you take only one thing away from this post make it this one: send thank you emails. “Thanks in advance” doesn’t cut it. I’m saddened by the number of times I spent some time putting together a response and never heard a single word back. People don’t always respond in the way you want but send the “Thank You” anyway just for their time. If you asked someone on the street for directions and they didn’t know the exact answer but made some effort to be helpful you’d (I hope anyway) say a quick “Thank You” before heading down the road. Have the same courtesy with your professional interactions.
- Wait Until the Weekday
More and more the web world seems to ignore weekends and I think that’s going to hurt us long term. We need downtime. I’m guilty of weekend addiction myself, having my iPhone handy all the time to check email and Twitter. Let’s help each other get back to the idea of weekends off and hold off on sending business-related emails over the weekends or after hours. I’ll understand if you’re from a different timezone, but generally there’s no reason I should be getting business email on a Saturday night.
Let’s talk a bit about Twitter. I know Twitter is awesome for how quick and immediate it is, but it has its downsides as well.
- Proper Support Channels
This is related to ExpressionEngine questions. I love helping people learn EE and and am always humbled that people seek me out for it. But please understand, if I’m not careful I can kill large chunks of time essentially providing free EE tech support. I’d much rather see you post first in the EE forums, then promote that thread on Twitter. If I’m able to help I’ll follow the link and chime in, but if I can’t at least that way your request is in the formal system and available to others. If your question is around the use of a 3rd party add-on then seeking out its support channel is best. If you’ve already done that then link me to it so I know and don’t duplicate efforts already underway.
- Be You
In general I’m uncomfortable having conversations with brands. Use your corporate Twitter account for promotional tweets, but if you want to have a conversation step out from behind the logo. Use a personal account that has your picture.
- Wait Until the Weekday
I know - people are on Twitter on the weekends so it seems really easy to hit them up. It’s like IM, right? But again - I ask for help in keeping our weekends for personal and recreation time. I might be working but if I am I’m probably under the gun to get some client work cranked out. Please wait to ask your questions until business hours.
- Say Thanks
As I write this there is a question on Twitter that I’ve been tagged on. I’ve responded to two questions from this person in the past without getting so much as a simple Thank You in return. I have to say, I’m not inclined to respond again. Twitter may be a relatively new communications platform, but it’s still all about people. Help me to feel valued and not just like an instant-answer monkey.
Poorly Written Email Example
I don’t want to get too carried away here but wanted to show an example of a poorly written email and a well-written email. We’ll start with the bad. This is the first email from this source, we’d never communicated in the past and this is the entire email:
Hi- I may have an assignment - pretty chilled - for a very nice client. We will need a partner to help build, and build out a CMS in EE.
We are very collaborative.
I can send your specs if this is something you are interested in bidding on.
- Who are you? There is no introduction or context.
- Why me? There is no explanation of how you came to be sending me this email.
- What type of company are you? First you say “I” and then you say “we”.
- What on earth does “pretty chilled” mean?
- What does “We are very collaborative” mean? It seems really important the way it’s been called out but I haven’t a clue.
- The typos don’t instill a great sense of confidence.
- Lack of a signature doesn’t help. In this case I was able to look at the sending email domain and figure things out, but still.
Well Written Email Example
Again, this is the first email from this source and this is the entire email:
I’d like to see about bringing you in on a possible client project. I’ve seen your work, read your EE books, and reviewed your project guidelines. I think this is right up your alley.
As a quick overview, you and I would be working together to accomplish a complete design, content and back-end overhaul of (website deleted).
I would be responsible for the front-end design and initial HTML/CSS build (in close consultation with you along the way, of course). You would be responsible for EE architecture and implementation to take it from my static code to functional site. You and I both would interact directly with the client as well as each other, and would each be paid directly by the client. (I’ve worked with this client on print projects for a few years. Never had a problem getting paid, and they are generally pretty easy to work with.)
The design phase of the project would start in late March, with a goal to launch the completed site within 6 months.
I’ll be happy to provide a full site plan and content overview if you’re available and interested. The only urgent part of the job is getting them an estimate. They’re trying to get a budget approved and make a decision next week if at all possible.
Interested? Feel free to email or call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx (home office) or xxx-xxx-xxxx (cell) with any questions.
This is not a long email yet I already know why he chose to contact me, the nature of the project, the pay process, the schedule, what’s needed of me if interested, and alternate contact info.
Which feels like a professional communicator to you? Which feels like a project that is going to go well and be successful for the end client? Which would you answer with greater urgency and interest?
Knowing that, why would you bother to write emails that didn’t inspire the same feelings in your recipients?
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