More often then not, we don't get to work sitting in a chair next to our clients. As a result, we are forced to communicate either by video chat, phone, or most commonly… Email. Here are 5 Client Emailing Tips that I've learned, literally in the past year. Hopefully you'll walk away with something helpful.
Tip #1: Subjects Shouldn't be "Hey"
Train yourself to give your emails a subject.
This became such a bad habit of mine over the years. I would choose who I want the email to go to, hit tab to bring me to the subject line… then without even thinking I'd type, "Hey" and then tab again to bring me down the the body to start writing. I suddenly found myself with an inbox full of "Hey's" and I would have to always click through at least two or three emails before I found which thread I was looking for.
This is particularly bad when you have any emails older then 2 weeks that you want to find again… granted, you can always search a keyword you remember including in the body of your message, but this can hardly be considered organized. Practice and get in the habit of taking an extra 5 seconds and writing a descriptive subject before you begin your message…. This is the same discipline as keeping your project files organized. It can seem like an annoying or pointless task for a quick note, but do it anyway… Train yourself to give your emails a subject.
Tip #2: Include your info in your signature
This is a quick one, but there are many different aps people use for getting their mail and some like to be a little too user friendly and don't show a person's actual email address, but rather just their name. Here with my interactions regarding Aetuts+ and also with any emails I send out doing work at the studio, I always include my email in my signature along with any other relevant information. Most mail aps have a "signature" option so you don't have to type it all out over and over. I use Text Expander and have assigned a quick typed out series of letters to drop my signature in.
Adam Everett Miller
psd.tutsplus.com | net.tutsplus.com | vector.tutsplus.com | audio.tutsplus.com | ae.tutsplus.com | active.tutsplus.com | cg.tutsplus.com | photo.tutsplus.com | mobile.tutsplus.com | webdesign.tutsplus.com |
I have different signatures that I use depending on the situation. If the person might be sending me something or needing to call me, I might include my address or phone number.
Tip #3: Use BCC for Bulk Email
This one I learned the hard way after I sent out a massive Holiday greeting this past year. I went down the list of everybody that I had interacted with remembered over the past year and threw their emails in the main recipient section. I got a number of very upset people reply back chewing me out for sending their email address to over 100 people. I will NEVER forget how crappy I felt… I think just because I was trying to do something nice and got such an unexpected backlash.
When you want to send out an email to a large number of people (though I recommend you do so sparingly), please remember this simple tip! Send the email to yourself as the main person and then put everybody else's emails in the Blind Carbon Copy area. This way each recipient will only be able to see that it came from you and that's it.
Tip #4: Emails are Permanent
Now, I should say that no, not all emails are permanent… but they should be viewed as though they are. Things can get heated when dealing with clients especially when communication isn't strong and expectations aren't met on either end. Save any heated discussions or arguments for face to face or at least a phone call because interpreting words on a screen is inherently difficult as is, let alone when there are emotions involved. You see this happen all the time in the news where a celebrity or politician will have some stupid emails from their pasts come back to haunt them. Just don't write down things that would get you in trouble or embarrass you if they went public.
This is a bit of a larger scale situation, but even on a smaller level… criticism of a another client/co-worker via email is always a risky move… All it takes is a somebody else leaving a thread of past emails in their new message and you end up looking like a jerk and obviously very unprofessional.
Tip #5: Establish a Definite Action Step
There shouldn't be confusion about what should happen next when working on a project with a client. Either establish what they need to give you, establish what you're going to get them, or put a hypothetical period at the end of this interaction. Now, this isn't always the case with every email, but I've found such an increase in productivity and timeliness of project completion when I communicate what I expect from the client and what I plan on completing for them clearly.
Taking it a little deeper, my brother travels the world as an assistant/manager for a very well known public speaker… during a recent visit he told me about his 1 Foot Fence Principle. He basically said that a lot of people come up to him asking for him to send them information and set up speaking engagements. After a while he would get burnt out writing down contact info and sending out emails and then follow up calls with no reply. He then started leaving the ball in their court by ending the conversation with, "Email me your details and I'll see if it can be done." or "Find out if that date is open and let me know"…. he created a little 1 Foot Fence that they had to step over if this interaction was going to continue.
Sometimes doing what we do, people will ask us to create things or work on projects on a whim. They get this "amazing" idea and say, "Hey, can you do this for me?" or "Would you ever wanna try to animate my company's logo?". This is where you build the 1 Foot Fence. You say, "Send me over the details of what you're looking for and what your budget is and I'll take a look." or "As soon as you establish a logo design and send it to me I'd be happy to play around with it a bit."
By doing this two things happen…
- You weed out all the people who aren't truly interested because if they're not willing to even take one small step of effort, they're not worth wasting your time on.
- It lightens up your workload by saving you a step. If people are seriously interested in working with you, they'll be willing to step over that small 1 foot fence that you've created. That said, it is just a 1 foot fence… not a 6 foot wall. You don't want to scare away prospective work/networking opportunities by being standoffish.
Do you have any email or client principles/tips that you've learned in your experience? I'd love to hear what you've got in the comments below!