Fully Booked VA Blog

Pitching for Freelance Clients: Let’s Talk Email Etiquette

Email is SO important.

This is true whether you’re a freelancer, work in Corporate America or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, the average business person sends and receives over 120 emails per day.

120 x 5 (working days per week) = 600 emails per week. 120 x 20 (working days per month) = 2,400 emails per month!

I can attest to that amount of volume for Horkey HandBook. And that’s not including social media messages, notifications or my own personal email.

That’s a lot of people trying to get my attention! And while I love interacting with y’all as much as possible, not everyone thrives on it.

I.e. I also process email for my virtual assistant clients. And they hired me because they know how important email is, but can’t (or don’t want to) keep up with it themselves. For some, it can feel like a full-time job. And not the one they chose

So today, I want to go over eight email etiquette tips. Because not only do you want your prospecting emails opened, you also want them read and responded to.

1. Shorter Is Better

Please don’t write novels disguised as emails.

It’s a huge turn-off. And it’s going to result in your emails probably not getting read and most likely not getting responded to.

The longer the email, the more energy and time the recipient will feel like they have to invest. They might “come back to it later,” but later never comes…

If you’re emailing someone for help, think through your email before hitting send. Can you boil down your explanation or questions into a more succinct ask? What do you actually need their help/opinion on and what can be Googled or looked up on their website with a little extra effort on your part?

Keep your emails short and get to the point quickly. Doing so will show the recipient that you respect their time.

2. Use Proper Grammar

Email when used for business is a professional medium.

I.e. We’re not texting people! So you need to use full sentences, capitalization and proper punctuation.

Not doing so shows that you don’t care. And if you’re pitching prospects asking for them to hire you… you get the picture. This also holds true when emailing an influencer, so veer on the side of caution and use proper grammar in ALL of your email communication.

Find out if being a virtual assistant is right for you with our mini-course

3. Personalization Is Key

Did you know that emails with a personalized subject line are 26% more likely to get opened?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. We all want to feel special. 

We want to go where everyone knows our name. So if you don’t know who you’re emailing, you probably shouldn’t send it.

And even though you want to keep your emails on the shorter side, in addition to proper grammar, you also want to address the message to someone specific.

Not how people address me sometimes…

  • Dear Sir (what, the what?!?)
  • Dear Sir/Madam (yes, they leave both salutations in there)
  • Dear Webmaster (I’ve never used this term in my life!)
  • Dear Horkey HandBook (It could be worse I guess?)

First of all, drop the “dear.” We’re NOT writing handwritten letters in 1805 you guys. We’re writing EMAILS!

In 2017.

You could start with a simple “Gina,” or you could show off your personality by using “Heyya Gina,” “Hi Gina,” “Hey Gina,” or anything in between. While you want to show respect, you also want to come across as friendly and conversational… not stuffy and corporate.

In essence, know the person’s name that you’re pitching (if at all possible). If you’re pitching someone through their website, check out their about page, contact me or something else. Odds are, that their name is sure to be listed somewhere.

And if it’s not, I would go with something like, “Heyya Horkey HandBook Peeps,” as it shows that whole personality thing, addresses the team and would get my attention in a positive way.

But again, that’s ONLY if you aren’t able to get a hold of someone’s first name… Remember that Google is one powerful platform. And so is LinkedIn. Just saying…

4. Be Confident (not cocky!)

Clients want to hire someone that’ll take charge. That they feel confident will get stuff done.

That’s why you need to make sure you’re painting yourself in the best light possible in a pitch email. Not lying by any means, but coming off as confident and take charge.

This is probably the biggest “flaw” I see in people’s pitch emails. And I get it, it’s because you’re new. You don’t want to come off as cocky (which you shouldn’t) and you’re not really sure of what you’re doing.

Sending pitch emails is new.

But a prospecting email is like the first stage of the interview process. And who would you rather hire, someone that comes off as authoritative or a wishy-washy individual that might not even hire themselves?

This doesn’t mean that you can come off as disrespectful mind you. It’s just hitting that balance between bragging on yourself and demonstrating that you’re the person for the job!

5. Compliments Go a Long Way

Remember when I said that we all want to feel special?

Well we also want to be loved. And for people to tell us how awesome they think we are. (Don’t pretend like you don’t!)

That’s why I like to start pitch emails out with a compliment or two. But it HAS to be authentic. And you want to dig a little deeper than commenting on their latest blog post or something (because who couldn’t do that?).

Peruse their website, their social media feeds, etc. to get a feel for who they are and what they’re all about.  And then make that connection in your initial email. Help yourself stick out from the crowd!

It can be hard to remember the particulars of a certain website and personalize the compliments, especially when you’re sending out several pitches every day. But this can be easily fixed with a few simple organizing skills. In Freelance Writing for Virtual Assistants, included in The #FullyBookedVA System, we offer a nifty little worksheet to help you do the super-important recon work before you cold pitch a potential client.

6. It’s About Them, Not You!

While you need to “sell yourself” in your pitch emails, you also need to be careful to demonstrate what’s in it for them. Why should they care how awesome you are and what you bring to the table?

This is true for your website copy too!

So make sure to address their pain points (creating content is a full-time job!) and balance it out by presenting yourself as the solution.

7. If You’re Really Interested, Do Some Research

Besides knowing who you’re pitching, know WHO you’re pitching.

Know something about their company. Know something about them personally. Stalk them a little bit (it’s less scary of a term online then it used to be as far as physically stalking someone).

You can demonstrate you did so by that whole compliment thing mentioned above. You can also interweave these little nuggets in the rest of your pitch by hyperlinking to a specific page/post on their site or something else.

Note of caution: If you’re going to link to something/comment on it, make sure you’ve read it. Thoughtfully. I’ve had people reach out, commenting on a particular post, but I could tell they didn’t really read it. Maybe they read the title?

It was almost worse than them leaving it out to tell you the truth.

Find out if being a virtual assistant is right for you with our mini-course

8. You Can’t Insult People and Then Ask to Be Hired!

My last tip should be a no-brainer.

But it’s not. So I’m going to spell it out for you.

If you’re asking to be hired (or considered), don’t insult the person you’re approaching. It’s in bad taste.

And there’s a big difference between spotting a need and pointing out a flaw. We want to concentrate on the former.

But sometimes it’s a fine line.

I’d suggest erring on the side of caution. And following your grandma’s rule of “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

An example of this would be, “You guys have done a crappy job of keeping your blog updated. What’s wrong with you?”

A better way to say it would be, “I noticed that your blog hasn’t been updated since X date. It’s like a full-time job adding new content to a website, huh? Since we both know inbound marketing is the way to get new clients, I thought I’d reach out and see if I can help.”

Or something like that. 😉

In Conclusion

Honestly, I could go on and on (and on and on) about email etiquette. Someday maybe I’ll do a “part two” post on the subject.

I’m so passionate about it though, because I see literally HUNDREDS of emails EVERY DAY. I have a good sense of what’s going on out there.

And more importantly, what’s working. And what’s a turn-off.

So if email is as important to your business as it is to mine, consider the eight tips above. Veer towards the shorter end, use proper grammar, personalize your messages, come across as confident, pay a compliment or two, be mindful that it’s really about them (not you), do some research and try not to insult the recipient.

Easy enough, right?

What’s the biggest email faux pas you’ve seen (or received)?

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Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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