7 Tips for Making Email More Effective

Effective EmailE-mail. If you’re a web-worker then this is probably your primary means of communication with your clients. Even if you aren’t a web-worker you probably use email very frequently.

Getting e-mail communication right is important — no absolutely vital — to the success of your business.

In fact, for today’s business owner, an e-mail contact can be as an important as a face-to-face contact. That’s why smart entrepreneurs strive to become email ninjas that make the best possible impression on their clients.

In this post we’ll offer a few few pointers on how to improve your e-mail communication skills to make the best possible impression.

Here are seven tips for creating more effective e-mails that you can use right away:

#1 — Make Your Subject Line Relevant

Relevant Email SubjectSpam can be a huge obstacle for online communications. You don’t want your important client communications to be mistaken for it.

A general subject line like “Your Information” is more likely to be filtered out of your client’s inbox than a specific one like “E-mail post for Freelance Folder.” The first subject line is so general that it could deal with anything. The second one, when sent to the owners of Freelance Folder, should reach the inbox and get read.

#2 — Don’t Be Spammy

Do you send unsolicited e-mails to potential clients? If you do, then make sure that you research your potential client’s actual business and needs thoroughly before you hit that “send” button. Craft your e-mail to their specific situation. Under no circumstances should you write a generic e-mail and send it to hundreds of e-mail addresses in hopes that the message will be relevant for a few of them.

#3 — Provide Enough Information

Make sure that your client e-mail contains enough information. Your client shouldn’t have to beg for the information that they need from you – instead, you should volunteer it. Now, I know how very tempting it is after a particularly difficult or time-consuming project to send your work as an attachment with an uninformative note like “here’s your project.” I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve done this myself. But, when we web-workers are too abrupt we aren’t doing ourselves any favors in terms of getting future business.

#4 — Don’t Overwhelm The Recipient

Email OverloadThe opposite of the error above is to provide too much information to your client. Usually, your client doesn’t want a detailed listing of every step that you took and every problem that you solved in order to complete his or her project.

When you’re writing your e-mail think of an executive summary, which is normally no more than a single page. (Hint – If you’re a writer and your e-mail is longer than the writing project that you’ve turned in, then it’s probably too long.).

You want to include all of the important information, but not a lot extra.

#5 — Always Include The Key Elements

There are some key elements that almost every email should have:

  • A “thank you”
  • Request for more business
  • Contact information

A thank you should always be included, as in, “thank-you for using my business for this project.” Even if you didn’t like the project the client still took a chance on you and they deserve to be thanked for that. If you enjoyed working for the client then you should also include a request for future business, as in, “I’d be happy to help you with any future projects.” And of course, you should always include contact information -– your website, your e-mail address, and so on.

#6 — Never Send an Angry Email

Even if you feel like someone completely mistreated you and that you’re justified in lashing out it’s still important that your communications remain on a professional level. Getting nasty in e-mail can backfire on you in a big way. For one thing, an unpleasant e-mail can easily get redistributed and you never know where it might end up. Also, if there’s any hope of salvaging the relationship an angry e-mail can totally eliminate it. Escalate a problem through legal or other channels if you must, but always maintain your professionalism.

#7 — Keep in Touch Regularly

Regularly Keep in TouchIf you’re a busy freelancer, then it’s easy to forget to stay in touch with the clients that you had last month (let alone last year).

If you are ever going to develop a network of repeat clients, however, then you should make an effort to periodically revive past relationships by sending a quick email to people you haven’t heard from in a while.

Just a short note to the effect of “I thought I’d check in and see how things are going” might be enough to cause them to think of you the next time that they need to hire a web-worker.

With a thoughtful approach to e-mail you can improve your communication with clients and other business owners, and seriously strengthen and grow your own company. If you really put a good effort into getting better at emailing you might be surprised at what a difference it can make — email really is that important.

Now it’s your turn — what are your best e-mail tips?

Images by James Cridland, and Moonchaser.


  1. says

    Excellent post, Laura. I agree that many folks don’t treat email as they should. When you lose the verbal and visual aspects of communications (i.e., when youre NOT there, sitting in front of the person), you have to work harder to get the right message and tone across. Great ideas here. Thanks!

  2. says

    I like point #6. To expand it a bit, it is easy to come across wrong via email. You may not think you are sending an angry email, but it may seem that way to the recipient. Always be mindful of your “tone”.

  3. says

    Kathleen – You just reminded me of an article I read recently. They referenced a study that found that something like 55% of all email is misinterpreted. Point was that a LOT of email comes across as rude and insensitive, even when that isn’t the sender’s intention at all. Scary!

  4. says

    Great post, Laura!

    One small note:

    Under #4, you write:
    “When your writing your e-mail think of an executive summary,”

    The first “your” should be “you’re”. :-)

  5. says

    @Ed — Wow, is it really that high? I’ve always known that email can be interpreted very differently depending on the recipient, and I know a lot of people get the intended meaning wrong. 55% is a lot though.

    @David — I think that I have to take the blame for that one. I edited a few things and that sentence was one of them :-)

  6. says

    Wow! Look at all the great discussion.

    David – Thanks for pointing that typo out! I go over my work and over it, but every now and then something slips by. :-)

    Ed, that’s a really interesting study. It is so easy to misinterpret an e-mail – that really highlights why we should be careful about what we write.

  7. says

    Great tips, thank you for sharing Laura.

    Well I think it is better to add an pdf attachement with technical informations, or making it reference on the project management collaboration (if any)

  8. says

    Mihai – That’s exactly right. An attached document is the better format if you have a lot of material to convey. You can describe your attachment with a few sentences in your e-mail.

  9. says

    Great post! #1 is one of my email pet peeves. I often get emails from a certain person with the subject line “hey” and it irks me to no end. An informative subject line helps me figure out how urgent the email is and what I should expect inside. Otherwise, it could be a simple thank you or it could be an urgent request. But I’d never know that from the subject line!

  10. says

    A very nice post, and so relevant aswell, email is huge, it is my main form of getting clients so this post has definately helped me, especially if I want the client to come back again, nice points :)

  11. says

    Like the post. Thanks! #1 is definitely a must. Hate it when I get emails was obtuse subjects. I read another one on email tips here that was pretty good too.

  12. says

    Sometimes it’s tempting to send angry emails (#6) so I make a rule for myself never to reply straight away to an email that annoys me, come back and reply later. Usually by that point my rage has moved on :)

  13. says

    My biggest tip: SPELL CHECK!!!

    Besides that, go easy on your signature. By that I mean don’t use an image in your signature (or worse, as your signature). Very easy to have that signature be the reason why your email gets bounced in a spam filter before it even makes it to the inbox.

  14. says

    Good tips Laura! I always look forward for any advices like yours – to ensure myself I remember about all rules ;).

    Anyway personally I don’t like when people are sending huge attachments (like 10mb+), especial without anticipation.

  15. says


    Excellent Post about improving email communication….

    I would add.. Adding Proper Signature to emails

    And.. that keeping message Short & Simple to understand… if possible use Bullets/Numbering..


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