7 Professional Email Dos and Don’ts You Should Know by Now
Have you finally started work on your side hustle or made the leap to turn your passion project into a full-time job? Good for you! Overcoming obstacles and fears to launch a business is a big deal, and you should be ultra-proud of yourself. Now that you’ve officially put the wheels in motion, it’s time to start building your brand — starting with how you communicate on behalf of your biz every day, like the emails you send from your brand new business email address. Regardless if you work for yourself or for another company, email is an important communication tool. Stick with these seven dos and don’ts to keep your correspondence professional and effective.
1. Include a thoughtful subject line. A clear and concise subject line should reflect whatever you write in your email to save your recipient time, so be sure to avoid blank subject lines or anything that’s not telling, such as “FYI” or “Circling back.” Your current and potential clients and partners will definitely appreciate it.
2. Introduce yourself appropriately. International business etiquette expert, author, and founder of Access to Culture Sharon Schweitzer schools us on the importance of having some cultural understanding when emailing on behalf of your biz. “In direct cultures like the US, the best practice is for the sender to introduce themselves by first and last name with some background information in the first few lines,” she explains. She tells us that this is extra important when introducing yourself to someone new who might like to know how you got their contact information. If you’re writing to someone who lives in another country, it’ll serve you well to brush up on how people communicate there before hitting send.
3. Double check your attachments. Have you ever sent an email without an attachment, or worse, the wrong one? Face palm. Do yourself a favor and double check your attachments and uploads before you hit send. The extra time on your part is well worth saving your recipient the hassle of looking for a file or confusion that comes with receiving the incorrect info.
4. Feel free to include thoughtful jokes and emoji. Helping your personality shine through via email is ultra-important, because just like IRL, your vibe is part of the experience that comes with working with you. However, some jokes and emoji can be lost on a recipient via email, especially if they’re local or pop culture references. Instead of stripping out jokes or emoji altogether, thoughtfully consider your recipient and your working relationship before including them in your message. Have a great rapport with your client? Go ahead and make ‘em smile. Working with a trendy startup that caters to millennials? A well-placed emoji will help show you “get it.”
1. Don’t wait more than 24 hours to respond. Schweitzer tells us that replying within 24 hours during the work week is a common courtesy, and that leaving someone hanging for longer might put you at risk of appearing rude. Rather than losing potential clients or partners because of something as silly as slow response time, schedule a few times each day to tend to your inbox. If you find it tough to keep up, try using a program like Streak to organize your contacts and communication or respond to messages of the same kind with a template; this can save major time and hassle. You can also hire a virtual assistant to help you manage your email flow. This person can be a huge help by deleting spam, answering common questions, or flagging and forwarding messages that need your attention. Whatever you do, know that keeping up with your inbox is key and that your response time can help you stand out.
2. Don’t email anything negative, ever. You probably know that email isn’t the place for obvious negativity or cruel comments, but it’s worth noting that messages shouldn’t deliver bad news either. Schweitzer adds, “Negative words are flames in cyberspace, and an email in all uppercase letters feels angry.” If you’re stuck in a tough spot, try to schedule a phone call to discuss a project problem or business matter. If it’s not possible to hop on a call, do your best to use objective words and state the facts without letting emotion get in the way.
3. Don’t forget to proofread. Spellcheck is great, but grammar matters a ton too. To avoid appearing unprofessional, re-read the body of your email to check for missing words, run spell check, and use a smart tool like Grammarly to catch other mistakes, like misused contractions, double words, or misplaced modifiers. You’re super smart, so nix the risk of coming off as anything but.
Do you practice any other do’s and don’ts for business email? Tell us what they are on Twitter @BritandCo.
It can be intimidating to step out on your own and build a business from the ground up. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're talking with Selfmade alum and solopreneur Colette Lawrence, the faith-based motivator and relationship builder behind The M.E.E. Movement, about ways in which women in business can find success.
B + C: How did you know M.E.E. Movement was your business to start?
The M.E.E Movement represents motivation, empowerment, and encouragement for women. It is what represents me. I did not know at first that it was my business to start, but then the thought of monetizing what I loved came to me. It scared me, however. I registered the business in July 2020 and have been slowly building my wings since.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
Thinking through and researching what the requirements are to start my business, and then asking questions of people who are in the business. Not all advice worked; however, it helped me to figure out what I needed to do and not to do.
B + C: Did you always know life coaching would be your entrepreneurial path?
(Smiles) No, I did not. I 'stumbled" on it. I knew that people were always coming to me for advice and I found that I loved having conversations with them, especially with women, young and old.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
My most valuable takeaway was the first day of training: Get out of your own way. There were a lot of great moments and important takeaways from every presenter. However, getting out of my own way, pushing past doubts, was for me my most valuable takeaway. Doing something that I had never done before took courage. If I do not focus on what is happening with me mentally then I cannot deliver to my clients successfully.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Get out of your head. You have something to offer. You have what you need to succeed so go ahead and do it.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by listening to music and listening to motivational speakers, and sometimes someone will just reach out and talk about the impact that I made in their life. That adds the extra juice or sauce I need to pummel through the day.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip?
Keep a diary and journal. It's the best way for me to keep organized and it also provides a source motivation as I record not only my "losses" but my wins as well.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Shirley Toliver – She motivates and empowers and makes me always want to show up.
B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start or grow your business?
The scholarship was a blessing in that all the areas that were covered offered valuable information that I needed, from social media to HR. As a new business owner, I needed to know this to increase my own personal awareness in what it takes to run a successful business. The candidness of the presenters made it easy to see myself in their shoes and helped me to realize that I can also get there.
Want to feel motivated to take the next step for your business? Let Office Depot OfficeMax give you the confidence you need with a suite of business services & solutions to help you put your best foot forward. Make a good first impression with business cards & build the business pitch of your dreams with custom presentations. With Office Depot OfficeMax you'll find the tools to reach new customers with confidence.
Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.