This week for our Write by the Rails blog tour, we have the pleasure of introducing author and business owner Victor Rook who gives us a little tutorial on writing business emails. A man of many talents, Victor has written and produced films as well as authored, designed and published books. Victor’s recent books include People Who Need To Die, a collection of satirical horror stories; In Search of Good Times, a story about a man who believes that the TV sitcom families from “All in the Family” and “Good Times” are real; and Musings of a Dysfunctional Life, a humorous and poignant compilation of everyday mid-life musings.
Tips for Writing Better Emails to New Clients
by Victor Rook
As a self-employed professional, everything I do or say can define me. I don’t have a corporate image to back me up, so it can be daunting at times to set the right tone with a new client—especially if we are communicating solely through email.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned:
- Make at least one phone call to start.
That client may be reaching out to others, and it helps get your foot a little further in the door if you can connect on a voice level after the first contact. Turn on the charm and show that person you know what you’re talking about. It also helps you gear how ready they are to do business. Do they have any idea of their end goal? Time frame? Pay range and ability to pay?
- Address your client by name.
In emails, always address them by name until you get a very good sense that you are on the same level, and thank them in some way:
“Hi Tom, thank you for your quick response.”
I am opposed to using last names with no salutations:
“Mr. Wegman, thank you for your quick response.”
- Reread your emails out loud.
Read all your emails out loud to see if they come off too cold. Go back and embellish with a few niceties. It has a way of cheering up both sides.
“Thank you for reaching out to me. My phone number is 571-***-****. Let’s talk about your book when you get a chance.”
“Thank you Debbie for reaching out to me to help you with your book. I’d love to hear about your story. My phone number is 571-***-****. Let’s talk on the phone so I can get a good feel for what you’re looking for and how I can best help you.”
- Keep your email replies short.
Unless you need to provide specific content, keep your email replies as short as possible, but not trite. No one wants to read through half a dozen paragraphs. My limit is two paragraphs or about five sentences maximum.
- Check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
I cannot stress how important this is. I once had a client who decided to use someone other than me for an editing job, until he spotted grammar and spelling errors in that person’s email replies. He came back to me to do the job. It was like walking on eggshells the entire course of our email exchanges, but somehow I managed keep my grammar in check throughout. I ended up working on a second book for him as well.
- End with company name and phone, but no logos!
Add this information for the initial emails, but no embedded logos! Embedded logos show up as attachments and can quickly eat up a mailbox storage limit.
- Respond within six business hours.
You never want to put a potential client on hold. You want your emails to almost feel like a continued conversation. Two days later and they won’t remember where you left off. The only time I suggest holding off on email replies is when you make a specific call to it:
“Hi Tom, I received all the image files for your book and I will be working on it this week. Thanks for getting those to me. Let me contact you Friday morning with a proof.”
And, by God, make sure you send an email or call on that specified day.
Victor Rook has authored several books, including People Who Need to Die, In Search of Good Times, Poetry Pizza, and Dollar Store Crafts & Recipes. His nature film, Beyond the Garden Gate, won two Telly awards and aired on PBS.
He also helps other authors with book cover design, interior formatting, editing, and publishing.