I’m not sure how it is for other freelance writers, but my communication with potential clients and actual clients has been primarily by email. I struggled for a while to figure out the proper protocol. It’s a road to discovery that’s full of potholes that can stall your freelancing career if you don’t know when to go left or right to avoid a major snafu. Here are five rules I follow whenever I communicate with a client.
1. Be professional: Write as if you’re talking to someone that you want to take you seriously. And if this is your first contact with a potential client, then you need them to see you as a professional that they can trust. So no contractions, address them as Ms. or Mr., and keep it formal. Be respectful. Thank them for their time. And always include your contact information beneath your name at the end.
2. Let them dictate the tone: So hopefully you get the job, and you’re trading emails with your client about the project. Follow their lead for the tone of the emails. If they greet you with Hi or Hey, then you can reply the same way. The same goes for the use of smiley faces and other casual bits of language. If you’re not sure about the tone, it’s better to be more formal. Always better to be safe than sorry.
3. Respond promptly: Don’t wait a whole day to reply to an email. Send a reply as soon as you know the email. That will show the client that you can respond promptly and that you’re more likely to finish things in a timely manner. And if you know that you’re going to need a bit of time before you have the answer, send the client a quick email letting them know. They’ll appreciate being kept in the loop.
4. Don’t be afraid to check up on things: Imagine that you sent in a draft of the project to the client, and you haven’t heard anything for a few days. Send a quick email to check up on the status. It doesn’t need to be a long email. Just keep the tone light and avoid passing judgement. You’re asking a question, not demanding an answer as to why they haven’t responded yet.
5. Save every email: Create a folder in your email and label it with the project name. Then put all of the emails relating to that project into that folder once you’ve responded or the issue is resolved. Don’t delete anything. You never know when you might have to refer back to information that you received at the beginning of the project. Even once you finish the project, hang onto them for a while. You never know if you might need them.
Do you have any rules you follow when emailing a client, agent, editor, or anyone else? Let me know!