Design Tip 2 –To be a successful freelancer you need to understand the art of emails

What and why are emails important

Landing a client involves various touch points and progressions, like running a long race. Prospective clients will either see your work somewhere or hear about your work from referrals. 

They will be keen in hiring you up to a certain percentage. 20% sold. 50% sold. Or 80% sold etc. 


Emails are the final percentages needed for prospective clients to decide whether or not they are going to hire you.

So if you’ve sold them 80% of the way with your work. And still fuck up with the final hurdle you need to up your email game. Likewise if you are a candidate that they are only 50% on. You can make up the other 50% with great email follow ups and communication. 

Think of it as the finish line to a marathon. Your work, experience and reputation runs the marathon for you. But email is the final push you need to cross that finish line. And I find this is an area where most designers fall short and can improve drastically on. 

Emails communicate quickly to prospective clients if:

  • You can communicate well
  • If you are competent  
  • If you can solve their needs
  • If they can trust you


I've had prospective clients make deposits of $10k solely on email. They hadn’t heard my voice or even seen me up to that point. It’s was done out of trust and purely based on my work, reputation and our emails.

How can you get better at it

Learn to communicate well. At the heart of great communication it’s all about understanding people. People will give you clues about who they are by the tone and language they use in their emails. What needs do they have and how can you solve their problem. Are you in their price range? Are you available? And can you hit their timelines?

Don’t think about yourself. Think about your prospective client and try to be in their shoes. If you are hiring a designer for X industry what attributes and capabilities would you yourself require. And try to reverse engineer the situation and meet those requirements. 


Here are some useful actionable steps that you can put into place right away


1. People like people who are relatable. 

Be genuine but learn to reciprocate with the same language that prospective clients use. If you get a casual email it’s about balancing it out and using a similar tone. If they are throwing in one of these bad boys :) feel free to use one in your email responses too. If they are more serious it's best to save the fuck yeahs!!!! For home. Most of the time people want to work with individuals who are on the same page as them. Someone they can relate to. It’s an instinctual thing, that’s why people with similar interests hang out together. Or people who barrack for the same sports teams have a bond for example.  Language can also do this. 


2. People like people who are helpful.

Try to help out up front. I don’t mean to do a mock design for free because they need it URGENTLY. But what advice can you quickly give that can provide up front value to the prospective client. Perhaps it’s a suggestion on their site that they should consider. Which could drastically improve their bottom line. It doesn’t matter if they don’t hire you or take your idea. I’ve found that the more good will you give out, you will receive just as much in return eventually.


3. People like people who are experts. 

Prospective clients have reached out to you for a reason. They like your work or have been referred to by someone. Next is to know your stuff. Answer any queries they may have. And ask questions that are important to their project. Be confident and get what you need to know to deliver the best possible solution for them. And don’t end with ‘let me know what you think’. Create clear and actionable steps. Post this if we were to work together, my process involves “X” and “Y” as our next steps. Much more authoritative. 


Learn to scope out project requirements well and build relationships

Your next steps is to find out the project requirements. Price, Timeline, Value and Proposition.What price do you require, what's the time involved, when can you complete it by,what value will you bring to the table and how do you propose to do all this? Think about what YOU require and then think about what the prospective client requires. The key is to match up both of your requirements. This is an art form in itself. Learn to price on value (which I will go into more detail in another post) and learn to say no when the requirements don’t match up. So learn to qualify prospective clients and see if they are the kinds of organisations and individuals that you would like to work with. 

Various prospective clients have various needs of assurance. Sometimes it’s 20 emails back and forth. Sometimes it’s 5. Sometimes enquiries will require on and off emails for a few months. It’s all about building a relationship and trust. 


Finally looking at the overall chain. This is what draws prospective clients to you. 

Your work – so make your work available and present it in the best light possible. Create proposals or credential documents that are custom to the project. After a while you’ll have a base one that you can tweak and adjust as needed for different prospective clients. 

Experience – if your clients industry is something you have done successful projects for in the past use them as testimonials. If you are doing an ecommerce project for example - show examples of successful clients you've worked with in that space. Put it into the above document. 

Reputation - where can they find you on the web and what does it say about you. Make sure some credentials can be found as it builds trust. Social validation is HUGE. People can see that I’m a real person via dribbble, behance, twitter and instagram. 

Finally be authentic and be a good person. For the select projects I take on I genuinely give a shit about the success of the project. I always put in my best effort and try to make the client happy. And prospective clients can sense that. So start building trust, one email at a time. 

Good luck and start landing awesome clients with great emails.