Do These 8 Things to Sound Professional Over Email
At some point in your creative career, you will send an email to somebody about something–I can guarantee it. Everyone uses email these days, and since many creative jobs are remote, the chances of you using email on a regular basis are even higher. So it’s important to know how to make yourself sound like a professional. Whether you’re emailing with a literary agent, a dance company you’re planning to audition for, or someone who wants to buy your paintings, you will learn something important from this post. Even if writing isn’t your thing, these tips will help you compose an email that will make sure you’re taken seriously. Let’s get into it!
When I got my first real writing job the week after I graduated high school, I was excited–and this showed in my emails. I’m pretty sure they looked something like, “I! can’t! wait! to work with you! I’ve attached the W9 form to this email!! Let me know if you need me to make any changes!!!” Okay–maybe (hopefully) they weren’t quite that bad. But eventually, my boss gently told me to make sure I eased up on the exclamation points when I started writing articles–one or two per article would be plenty. For emails, I use the same rule of thumb: one or two in each email is fine, because it’s good to sound friendly and it’s okay to let someone know that you’re excited about a job. Just try to channel most of your excitement into other things–like jumping up and down around your living room. I definitely did plenty of that, too.
Keep it simple.
Use a basic font, a basic size, and never use any color except black. Writing someone an email in purple script is a surefire way to peg yourself as an immature newbie–which is exactly how we hardworking creatives don’t want to be viewed. If you have an email signature, make sure that it looks simple, too–mine has my name, phone number, the title “Freelance Writer” with a link to my portfolio, and the link to this website. It’s everything people need to know, but it’s not too long. Making the text of your email look simple and plain will help you be taken seriously instead of being remembered in a bad way.
Shorter is better.
People receive a lot of emails. I very often have forty when I wake up in the morning, and that’s just from overnight. So keeping your email as concise as possible will ensure that your recipient actually reads the entire thing. It will also help you save time that you can invest in more important things. (Like drinking coffee.) How do you keep things short? Get to the point in the first few sentences, knock out any unnecessary words (such as adjectives), and–as a general rule–don’t offer any information that wasn’t asked for.
Restate the question.
My dad is a video producer, and many years ago he introduced me to the concept of restating the question. If you’re being interviewed on-screen and you’re asked “What’s your favorite color?” you shouldn’t just say “Purple”–you should say “My favorite color is purple.” I put this same principle into practice when I’m emailing with clients and prospective clients. Recently I was applying for a job as the editor of a website, and the current editor sent me the schedule and salary that I’d have if I were hired to make sure I was okay with it. If I had simply answered, “Yes, that’s fine,” this probably wouldn’t have given her much confidence that I had actually read it. So instead, I responded, “Yes–working a couple of hours each day and making $700 a month is fine with me.” When I incorporated her words into my answer, it showed her that I had read and understood her email and that I was committed to the job.
Yes, sounding professional is important, but you don’t want to sound like a robot. Remember that there’s a person on the other side of the screen. Calling them by their first name, opening or closing with some variation of “I hope you’re having a great day!,” and thanking them for their time are all ways to sound friendly and pleasant. Because it’s often difficult to discern someone’s emotions without being able to see their body language too, making an extra effort to sound friendly can go a long way. This will also increase your chances of working with this person again in the future–no one wants to work with someone who sounds unfriendly.
Strong subject lines.
To be honest, I hate subject lines. I have no problem whipping out a professional email, but when I hit “Send,” I often get a message saying, “This email has no subject. Send anyway?” As tempting as it might be, don’t leave the subject line blank. This makes the email look like spam. As hard as it is, we’ve got to craft a subject line that’s clear, direct, and makes the recipient want to open the email. Make sure your subject refers to what’s in the email, and keep it short and sweet.
Don’t close your email without saying when you will communicate with this person again. Setting a specific date marks you as someone who has excellent time management skills and knows what they’re doing. Before you sign your name, add a brief line saying something like, “I’ll send the rest of the photos to you by Friday.” Here’s the catch, though–then you have to actually do it. Follow through and send them the photos by Friday, no matter what it takes on your part to get it done. Everyone appreciates someone who follows up and does what they said they would.
For a few years, my email address was firstname.lastname@example.org. Around the time I started getting serious about my writing career (fall 2016), I realized that this needed to change asap, because who was going to hire someone with an email address like that? So I created another email address: email@example.com. It’s probably not as quite as professional as it could be–the ideal professional email address is with your own domain and would not include any numbers (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org). But it does the trick. One word of warning, though–if you have two email addresses, make sure you always check whether you’re currently logged in to your personal or your professional. I’ve sent a professional email from my personal address too many times, and it’s embarrassing. (By the way, if you’re ever looking to drop THC a line, you can do so at email@example.com.)
Free bonus content? Yes, please!
If you needed to hear these tips but you aren’t sure how to put them into practice, I’ve created an exclusive template that will let you see how to take your emails to the next level. To read an example of the perfect professional email (it’s an email that I sent to an actual client!), simply enter your email address below, and the important info you need will be on its way to your inbox.
Hey fellow hardworking creatives, do you send lots of emails? What’s your biggest struggle when communicating by email? Do you have any tips to add to this list? If you learned something from this post, share it with a friend!