emails can be reeeeeally overwhelming as a freelancer. you let them go for a day or two and you are swimming in them. i know personally i feel a lot of guilt when i don’t have time to handle all of my emails. but sometimes it feels like a full-time job! we were asked to answer this question: “how do you handle your correspondence with clients, especially initial inquiries?”

you want to make a connection in that first email. it’s important to create that with someone that you plan on working with. when someone emails me inquiring about an custom illustration they usually say what they want. if they don’t give me much information i ask for some more details and then give some information on me and how i work. to avoid the feeling of a “canned reply” i put in some details that relate to their project. i read their entire email and reference it in my reply. there is nothing worse than feeling like someone didn’t read the initial email and they’re too busy to write something sincere.  i’m currently planning my wedding and emailing vendors daily. i roll my eyes when i get a standard reply and move on to the next candidate. it’s also important to reply within a timeline manner. i’ve lost clients and people have lost me as their client when the communication is slow.

templates! i will be completely honest and say that sometimes i don’t have time to answer everything. there were a few months there when i was totally dropping the ball on the email thing and decided i needed to take control of the situation. so i set up a lot of templates in my drafts that i can copy and paste from. one for “FAQ”, one for “i would love to work with you but my schedule is busy at this time (but here is my rates if you can wait)…sometimes I send them on to my referrals. I try my best to IN that template personalize it. i make a comment about the project they are inquiring about, show my interest and always reference them by name.

the projects i want to take on I personally send them an email with my price sheet, my timeline, and how excited i am to possibly work together. then I like to take it to a phone call, it’s quick and efficient.

i have this new rule for myself and that’s don’t mark an email as “read” until you’ve handled it and sent a reply. or i forward my emails to my assistant and she writes down what i tell her out loud. it’s a battle i am slowly getting better at, and wish you all the best of luck with it!

what do you guys do to manage all your emails?

(illustration by katie evans. read more freelance advice posts are here.)


Add your own

    Pegah S says:

    I am looking forward to the day, when I have this problem. 🙂

    dee says:

    great post. 😉

    Alison says:

    Thanks for this post! I agree that email can feel like a full time job, and it’s nice to hear that other freelancers can struggle too. I love the idea of templates – I’m definitely going to use that.

    I color code my emails – red means clients I need to reply to, green means personal that I need to reply to – and I have folders for each client. That way I can easily search through to find information I need.

    Kimberly says:

    I agree, having some templates to use along with a touch of personalization is a great way to handle first email correspondence. Since I’m not at a computer all day – I’m either chasing my two year old or painting most of the time – I try to set aside time once or twice each day to respond to emails. (I have to give myself a bit of slack on the “immediate” response that might be expected, but I always try to reply within 24 hours.) I do, however, struggle to keep emails that I’ve read on my phone marked “unread” if I need to return to them later in the day!

    Molly says:

    Responding to e-mail is definitely tricky! Right now I struggle more with knowing what to say in e-mails more than remembering to respond.

    Do-Hee says:

    Emails can drive us all a little nuts! I feel like I’m always flagging emails to respond to only to find some still in my inbox unaddressed a week or two later. Eek!

    Do either of you have any advice on what kind of tone is best to carry in an email to a potential client/new client? I always struggle to decide how casual or formal of a tone my writing should communicate, what kind of greetings/salutations is appropriate.


    Best Wishes,

    kelly ann says:

    Totally needed this today – I’ve been drowning in emails lately and reading this was really encouraging. Thanks, ladies!

    I can completely relate to this post as well! AHH! ANd Do-Hee I’m in the same boat. A lot of times I find it hard to figure out which tone is best fro the person reaching out to me. And It’s hard to just throw numbers around not the first email – especially if the client is young or not that experienced themselves. I had an artist reach out wanting a music video and I gave them my base price for photo shoots and music videos.. and I think the music video price scared them away to where they didn’t’ even want to negotiate something for photo shoot. Great post, ladies! (as always!)

    Josefina says:

    Thank you so much for the advice! I’m always spend so much time answering emails!
    I just love all the advices tha you give, they have been super usefull!!

    gloria waters says:

    Seriously! Answering e-mails takes up so much time for me too. I’ve definitely adapted to gmail and love it because everything is archived and easier to *delete* and get that ever so lovely “You have read all of your messages” message. 🙂

    Angie says:

    i seriously feel like it is my full time job. I quickly glance at my emails first thing in the morning and delete all the junk mail and then answer any questions I can quickly and then mark the emails unread on the ones that I need to think more about. But yes, it’s an uphill battle. Thanks for the post!

    Tori says:

    I think this is the hardest part of being freelance – as the years go on and you have new as well as old clients to deal with our time seems to end up going more and more into admin and less and less time into design and work! We’re at the stage when we’re about to hire an intern – but it’s still going to be hard as delegating is tricky. Our unread emails are ridiculous – something we do is if we’re travelling to meetings via train – we use that time to write emails/reply to emails – they then sit in an outbox till they can whoosh their way out. We do have one template we rely heavily on – but I think we should have a few more..

    It is nice to know that others are going through the same thing… I always love this feature.. quite often spend my time nodding and going – ohhhhhh thats such a good idea!

    Margaret says:

    I read a =http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/03/advice-for-aspiring-architect-in-1931.html>great letter once from one of the architects in Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm, that said “An architect should, unless it is impossible, answer his mail the first thing in the morning. Then his mind is free to plan and design upon the problems of his clients. He goes to work planning from within outward just as truly as from the ground upward.”

    That was all well and good when there was morning mail delivery and nothing else until the mid-afternoon. Then I wondered how to mimic that discipline in the age of email. And so, I only check my email at appointed times during the day–an hour in the morning; another half hour after lunch; again when I am getting antsy at 3.30; personal emails at the end of the day. That way I use that time efficiently, and don’t worry about what emails I am missing when I am in the middle of a project.

    I also keep my email “unread” until I’ve dealt with it.

    sooki says:

    I’m so with you on this Bri. Templates are efficient. Every client has different needs, so there may need to be some personalization, but already having the bulk of the info written is a time saver for sure! Great advice ladies!

    Purple says:

    This is AWESOME Advice Bri and Katie…..Tackling emails is a job within itself and it’s so easy to get sidetracked! Bri, I love the “draft template” ideas, I must get on that stat!

    Silkie says:

    I have had to teach myself not to be distracted and waste time checking emails through out the day..now I set aside 1/2 hr in the morning and the same last thing in the afternoon…keeps me focused! Really great post, thanks, it’s always good to hear about the nitty gritty of a regular days work!

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