Just because you’re working in a freelance creative profession instead of a corporate field, it doesn’t mean your e-mails should be sloppy or casual. E-mail messages should display your professionalism and build relationships with editors who will publish your work.
Your e-mails are the first thing prospective editors will see—even before your first article—so make them count!
Prioritize Your Subject
Probably the most important part of your e-mail is the subject line. Think of it in the same way as your blog heading: you want it to grab attention and give the reader a clear idea of what you are e-mailing them about.
E-mail marketing company MailerMailer found that e-mails with longer subject lines had lower rates of being opened when compared with those that had shorter ones, so keep it snappy and specific.
If you’re sending article ideas to an editor for the first time, you might be tempted to write a comprehensive subject line.
Perhaps something like:
The problem with this is that people don’t want to read a story in the subject line because it’s tedious. You can save details for the body of your e-mail.
Stick to writing something brief in the subject line, perhaps along the lines of:
This is simple, professional and to the point.
Other subject line tips include:
Follow the Rules when Applying for Jobs
Always read online writing job postings closely as some require you to write a specific subject line when contacting the company or person about the job. This is important as it shows you can follow instructions. It can make the difference between whether or not your application gets read!
Never leave a subject line blank
This reduces the chance of the editor opening your e-mail as it gives the impression of being spam.
Make the Body Work For You
The body of the e-mail is where you can elaborate on your subject line. If you are querying about article submissions with a publication, the body of your e-mail is where you will explain why you are interested in writing for the publication and your qualifications.
Here are some tips when writing the body of e-mails:
1. Keep it Simple
Have you ever had that heart-sinking feeling upon opening an e-mail because it’s pages long? Chances are you flagged it, deciding to read it later. Don’t let your e-mail get flagged: keep it short and concise. Write it as though you were explaining something to a ten-year-old so that people get the gist of what you are saying in as few words as possible.
2. Link to Your Talent
When applying for freelance writing jobs, often prospective employers will request samples of your work. You might send them links to work that has been published, but go the extra mile by submitting a written sample of your work in the body of the e-mail.
This writing sample can work as a preview of your writing style, with links to previous published pieces being available should the person be interested in viewing them. However, if they don’t preview these links, you can rest assured they have viewed your writing style.
When using links, a string of URLs can be sloppy and visually unappealing. Always hyperlink your URLs and name them appropriately. For instance, a URL that takes the editor to a site displaying your travel article on Venice could be named “Wonders of Venice – Travel Blog.” This gives the editor an idea of what the blog is about while looking professional.
3. Query Emails
Sending query e-mails before you apply for a job can be a wise thing if you want more information. However, make sure you fit the query to the specific job to make a good impression. For instance, if the job is for a health writer, mention that you write health articles for well-known magazines or that you are a health enthusiast who keeps up-to-date with the latest health trends. Don’t make your e-mail look as though it’s a generic one you send to all prospective employers.
4. Strike a Personal Note
If your editor becomes casual in addressing you in e-mails after a while, such as by writing Hi, you can follow suit. If they mention they are going on a week-long holiday to the Bahamas, it doesn’t hurt to wish them a wonderful trip. Such small touches are not just friendly; they show the editor that you are willing to build rapport.
However, tread carefully as you don’t want to become too friendly. Avoid emoticons and lots of exclamation marks. Always open and close e-mails professionally. Kindest regards or Yours sincerely at the end of e-mails are small professional touches that go a long way.
5. Stick to One Idea
Imagine if you have to ask your editor various things. Although you might be tempted to fit your list of queries into the same e-mail, this can be a bad idea. It can feel overwhelming for your editor to answer everything at once, plus it can make your e-mail body look cluttered.
Rather stick to one query per e-mail. When your editor replies to it, you can ask them about something else so that it becomes a conversation instead of a Spanish inquisition.
If you need to send various queries and you know that time is of the essence due to a strict deadline or your editor being out of the office, keep your queries short and preferably listed so that they are not part of a long paragraph.
6. Ensure You Get the Reply You Want
You write e-mails for different reasons. Sometimes you want to ask a specific question and receive a specific reply (such as when you are asking about a discrepancy in a commissioned article brief); other times you just want to mention something (such as that you have uploaded your article to the publication’s WordPress site where it is ready for review). Make sure it is clear what reply is expected of the person receiving your e-mail.
If you are just mentioning something (such as that your article has been uploaded), write that you are letting them know. Obviously no reply is necessary, so avoid marking such an e-mail as important.
On the other hand, asking a clear question about a vague brief can be followed up with a call to action, for instance:
“If you could please get back to me as soon as possible so that we can discuss this further.” This is both a clear and professional method to elicit a response.
7. E-mail New Article Ideas
So your article was accepted and it’s going to be published—excellent! You can send an e-mail thanking the editor, but don’t stop there. Mention that you are able to submit more articles. This shows the editor that you are a serious writer interested in more than a once-off article. You can submit more ideas for articles immediately or wait a few days and then submit a fresh batch. Even if your ideas are not accepted, this keeps your name in the editor’s mind for future reference.
Other Tips to Boost Your E-mail Quality
1. Answer Promptly
If you receive a query or request for an article, don’t leave the editor waiting. A quick reply will show that you are eager to write for the publication. This builds reliability and shows that you are enthusiastic— immediately putting you ahead of other hopefuls out there!
2. Accept Criticism Professionally
No writer enjoys being told that their article could do with revisions, but how you handle this sort of e-mail says a lot about you—and can make or break the chance of future work with the publication. Be courteous in your e-mail response and tell the editor that you will make the revisions before sending it back to them on the date they request it.
Yes, you can query specific revisions if you feel they do not make sense or you require a bit more clarification, but do not let personal feelings get in the way as revisions are nothing personal. They can actually be an opportunity to show that you can handle criticism and are open to feedback. These are great skills and editors will be pleased to be working with someone who possesses them.
3. Spellcheck it!
Errors give the impression that you do not pay attention to your writing and can ruin your chances of getting work. Make sure all outgoing e-mails are well-written and free of any spelling or grammatical errors.
4. Get their name right!
Always make sure you spell the name of the e-mail recipient correctly. If the person’s name is something not gender-specific, such as Jordan or Cameron, be careful not to address them as Mr or Miss! Keep your e-mail opening gender-neutral by addressing them by their full name. For instance, “Dear Cameron Richardson.”
About the author:
Giulia Simolo is a freelance journalist who has always been passionate about writing. A regular contributor to various websites and publications, Giulia has garnered a lot of experience as a freelance writer and enjoys sharing this with others who wish to enter the exciting field of journalism.
Also by Giulia Simolo:
1. When Words Meet Pictures (article)
2. How to Write Riveting Book Reviews (article)
3. How to Write Web Copy that Sells! (article)
4. How to Write the Perfect Article Pitch (article)
5. How to Write Gripping Subheadings (article)