One would think that writers are the best at communicating in words and conveying their message via text.
I find that the opposite is true.
There’s really nothing wrong with saying, “That’s fine.” But the period after two short words conveys a short temper. It’s blunt. A slammed-out response leaves room for interpretation. The client can’t tell if you’re happy or upset.
Perhaps we’re tired of words. Perhaps we save all the good stuff for our clients and skimp elsewhere. Perhaps we get fed up of conveying emotion so we remove all sense of it in our communications. Maybe we just want to get to the point so we can get back to work.
Whatever the reason, I find that writers tend to write the most lackluster, emotionless, blunt emails I’ve ever seen. They’re short, but they sure aren’t sweet. In fact, most emails from writers tend to be pretty dry.
The Disadvantage of Cutting It Short
Writers who freelance need to be highly skilled in customer service. It’s not enough to be a great writer with perfect grammar and captivating copy; you need to cater to clients, make them feel good and keep them happy.
Falling into the habit of focusing your best text into your work means that you’re skimping on the customer service aspect. You risk an unhappy client. Even more, you risk losing that client.
Don’t forget: Competition for writers is stiff. It takes very little for a buyer to switch to someone else. Loyalty online isn’t known to be strong. Screw up – even just a little – and you can say sayonara to your clients.
“But I do a great job, James! And my clients are happy with my work.” Alright, sure. Yes. They may be. But if you aren’t very good at communicating a happy, pleasant tone and your emails leave the client wondering if you’re angry, annoyed or irritated, all the great jobs in the world don’t matter.
The Disadvantage of Going On for Too Long
The opposite of cutting it short is writing a lovely, long, rambling email infused with thoughts, insight and positive tones. That’s very nice, and emails like that can help create a personal bond with your client.
You become friends. You like working with each other. You end up knowing plenty of good stuff about one another. That makes for a nice working relationship.
Then the lines start to blur. The boundaries between professional relationship and friendship start to waver. You may feel hard pressed to say no to a friend or may feel like you should give a little extra. Not good, that.
Too, those long-winded friendly emails take time to write. You may write very quickly, but every minute counts when your time is worth money. It also takes time to decipher the four sentences that are work-related from the four paragraphs about the weather, kids or what you did last weekend.
The Middle Ground
Be direct, yes, but also be friendly and make sure there’s no room for misunderstanding. Add a quick emoticon, much as you may hate them, or add some punctuation like an exclamation mark to convey feelings.
Capture a little bit of your mood and put that in your emails. Always try to hit a positive tone, even if your reply is less than ten words.
You’re a writer, after all. You can put emotion into a handful of words, can’t you?