8 Deadly Sins of Email Communication with Clients

Email can be an extremely powerful tool for freelancers and small business owners. The problem is: many freelancers use email completely wrong.

Email can be an extremely powerful tool for freelancers and small business owners. 

And with nearly 4 times as many active email users in the world as Instagram users, it’s clear to see why. 

In fact, many studies have shown email to have a much higher ROI (return on investment) than any other online marketing channel. 

Not only are the sheer numbers bigger, but a better ROI means less work and lower marketing budgets for quicker business growth.

Yet, so many freelancers treat email marketing as a secondary thought—a “back-burner” task they say they’ll get to “when they have time.”

Worse still, many freelancers think they give email marketing a fair shot only to be disappointed in its results.

The problem is: many freelancers use email completely wrong. They commit common “email sins” that hold their business back and do more damage than good with their clients.

So today, I’d like to outline a few “email sins” you should avoid when using email as a marketing channel in your freelance business.

Once you root out all the mistakes from this list, you’ll want to take your email marketing to the next level with our free resource: The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing.

With the email marketing strategies, tips and templates featured in our guide linked above, you’ll be ready to kick off your email marketing with confidence that will help, not hurt, your brand. 

Turn email subscribers into paying clients


While your email marketing software is great at keeping in touch with your email list and warming up colder leads, HoneyBook shines at converting leads who are ready to book you.

Just link your CTA in your sales emails to your HoneyBook Contact Form. As soon as an inquiry submits the form, they’re automatically added into your HoneyBook pipeline.

You can set up an automation to respond to your inquiry ASAP (and even send automated follow-up emails if they don’t respond!) with marketing materials customized for them (and contracts and invoices, too, when they’re ready).

START FREE TRIAL

Next, here are the most common email marketing sins I’ve seen freelancers commit:

Sin #1: Not having an email marketing strategy at all

The first major mistake you might be committing is failing to have an email marketing strategy for your business whatsoever.

As a freelancer, generating leads should be one of your absolute top priorities. The more leads you get each month, the more (and higher quality) deals you can close and the more your business will grow.

While generating leads from social media or your online portfolio are good options, don’t discount email as a powerful way to get new clients.

Your email marketing strategy doesn’t have to be robust, long, or complicated either. Don’t spend days or weeks on this when a simple afternoon will do just fine.

To help, there are also lots of great ways HoneyBook can work together with your email marketing to grow your business.

The key is to simply have a strategy you’re operating from. Test email marketing hypotheses, try new things, pay attention to what works and do more of what’s bringing results.

Sin #2: Not personalizing important emails

As part of your email marketing strategy, you should explore how to utilize batch emailing and bulk emailing to meet your business goals.

But scaling up your email outreach doesn’t necessarily mean you need to lose touch with the human side of communication either.

Even when sending a lot of emails, you can personalize your messages to make the best impression possible.

Instead of a generic greeting, consider how much more impactful an email is when the recipient’s first name is in the salutation (or even the subject line).

Mass email marketing tools can help you personalize email messages by inserting a small snippet of code into your promotional emails or directly into your email newsletter template.

If you’re just sending one-off emails to clients or potential clients, the same rules apply: add a human touch by using the recipient’s name.

Read this article for even more information on making personalized email marketing work in your favor.

Sin #3: Keeping everything in the same thread

We’ve all been there: scrolling for what feels like hours back through an email thread 50+ messages deep to find where you or your client said one little thing you need to move the project forward.

It’s frustrating to say the least.

As you communicate with clients, take the time to move unique conversations into new email threads by starting a fresh subject line and composing a new email.

Not only will you be able to keep things more organized using this tactic, but you’ll also find clients may be quicker to respond to small requests when they’re not all bundled together in a giant chain of other messages.

If you’ve struggled to gather important information from your clients in the past, you may be guilty of this critical email error.

On top of that, creating fresh new threads adds finality to a previous conversation. If you have clients that seem to send you endless revisions or updates, this may be the solution for you. 

Hint subtly that you’re moving on from previous decisions by starting a new thread (and you’ll also reduce the chance they’ll read back through these old conversations and dig up old problems they’ve changed their mind about).

Take the extra time to compose a new email in a new thread. You’ll be glad you did.

Sin #4: Using vague or boring subject lines

Of course, mashing all your messages into one never-ending email thread may not be the only reason you’re having trouble communicating via email with your clients.

Vague subject lines can often be the culprit of freelancer woes with clients. 

To avoid confusion or getting lost in your clients’ inboxes, be extra clear (and even unique) with your subject lines.

For one-on-one communication, extremely clear subject lines are an absolute must. Use these subject lines for sending an invoice, for example, to ensure your client takes notice and pays you on-time.

When sending mass email (like a newsletter or a promotion) try using creative wording that incites curiosity and encourages the reader to open the email.

If you’re not sure what makes a good subject line, try using a simple subject line tester to make an educated guess on whether or not your email will be a success.

Sin #5: Shying away from cold email marketing

Until now, we’ve talked primarily about using “warm” email methods such as emailing current clients to gather critical information or sending email newsletters and promotions to people who have already opted into your mailing list.

But there’s a whole other world of email marketing that you should be taking advantage of to grow your business:

Cold emailing.

Cold emailing is simply the art of emailing people “out of the blue” to try and strike up a conversation that will lead to more business. Instead of “warming up a lead” with social posts, newsletter content, videos, and more (which all has its place), you just cut right to the chase and try to build a relationship from scratch.

Up until just a couple of years ago, I used cold emailing to convert strangers into clients as a major marketing strategy in my business. 

Cold emails accounted for over 65% of my total revenue every year for 5+ years and I highly recommend it for anyone who’s looking to grow their business quickly.

Of course, cold emailing is a numbers game. You have to send a LOT of emails to get enough positive responses to make an impact. But there are loads of great tools to help you scale these kinds of efforts too.

However there are lots of tools (I recommend Reply) that can help you keep your cold emails personalized (remember sin #2) while still being scalable.

Whichever tool or strategy you choose to employ, I highly recommend you experiment with cold emailing as a way to find new clients. 

Sin #6: Deleting old email messages and threads

Some studies predict the average worker may send around 121 emails per day. If you’re running your own business, interacting with clients, pitching, sending proposals, and more, then the number is probably even higher.

So I understand if you feel the need to clean out your inbox on a regular basis. Mine can be quite the disaster at times.

But in an effort to get to “inbox zero” (which even the creator of the idea has said is flawed) don’t be too quick to delete conversations with your clients.

Believe it or not, email can actually act as a legally binding contract in many countries and it’s always nice to have a digital “paper trail” in case anything ever comes up.

Clients can also be fickle in their decision-making. You may need to pull up a previous email to assure them they already decided which final proof to print, for example.

If you’re dead set on having zero emails in your inbox, then use an email service that will allow you to archive your messages (not delete them) so you can still search old messages for important information.

Sin #7: Using an unbranded email address (Gmail, etc.)

Depending on what kind of freelance work you do, I get it: technology can be daunting at times. 

That’s no excuse, however, to host your business email at gmail, hotmail, or yahoo.

If you’re not using your own domain as your email address, then you’re committing a huge mistake.

Not only do you look more professional when you use your own domain for your email address, you also take advantage of extra branding opportunities. Instead of typing “[email protected],” your client will type “[email protected]m” for a quick little reminder of who they’re working with.

It’s small. But it’s not insignificant.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t stress. It’s easy. Here’s a great beginners guide to getting a professional email address.

Sin #8: Not following-up on past emails

Finally, one of the biggest sins you can commit when it comes to emailing your clients or building email campaigns is not following up when you should.

The art of the follow-up is critical in any facet of email marketing. Many freelancers, for example, will send a project proposal to a client and then sit back and wait.

This flawed approach assumes the email:

  • Got delivered to your client.
  • Landed in the right folder for them to see it.
  • Didn’t get skimmed over by your busy client.
  • Actually got read by your client (we can help with that)
  • Got an immediate response.

The odds of all that happening according to plan are slim-to-none. That’s what makes following up so critical to your success.

Follow-up emails don’t have to be complicated, long, or awkward. Even a quick “just checking back in on this” kind of message will do the trick. The idea is just to bump your email back to the top of your client’s inbox.

Improving your email marketing is a long-term investment

Unless you have a massive email list already, email marketing is going to be a long-term investment in your business.

You may not see results in the next few hours or days. You may not even see results this month (although, you’ll be shocked how quickly cold emailing can work for you). 

But if you stick with it, I guarantee, email marketing will be one of those things you look back at and say “I’m really glad I made the effort.”

Download our email marketing guide to save time and effort as you move forward.

Start small. Test results. And then go out there and crush your email marketing. We’re here to help. You’ve got this.

Turn email subscribers into paying clients


While your email marketing software is great at keeping in touch with your email list and warming up colder leads, HoneyBook shines at converting leads who are ready to book you.

Just link your CTA in your sales emails to your HoneyBook Contact Form. As soon as an inquiry submits the form, they’re automatically added into your HoneyBook pipeline.

You can set up an automation to respond to your inquiry ASAP (and even send automated follow-up emails if they don’t respond!) with marketing materials customized for them (and contracts and invoices, too, when they’re ready).

START FREE TRIAL

Preston Lee

Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where, for over a decade, he and his team have been helping people escape their desk jobs by starting a blog, becoming a freelancer or building a side-hustle.

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