The initial email you send to a potential professional contact is as important and detrimental as the first impression you make in an in-person meeting.
And let’s face it: we’ve all sent an awkward email or two that could have been seriously improved upon with a little help. Whether you’re reaching out for a job opportunity, pitching a story or an idea, or simply introducing yourself for a professional connection, what you say and how you present yourself in that first email is crucial.
But before we get to the body of your email, we first need to make sure your email is opened. Let's start with that subject line.
Obviously, you want your email to be read (don’t we all?) But achieving that is harder than one may think — we all receive hundreds of emails every day, and you don’t want yours to get lost in a sea of spam messages.
Your subject line should be quick and to-the-point (try to keep it at 30 characters maximum so it reads easily on a mobile device).
But also make sure it’s not too quick — never write a simple “Hello” or “Hi,” which could easily be confused for a spam email. You want to the perfect balance of brief yet thorough, which sounds more difficult than it actually is.
To ensure your email is read, we have a few suggestions:
1. Name-drop a mutual connection: “So-and-so gave me your email”
2. Mention your company: “Writer from Vox reaching out”
3. Mention any other connection — if you’re both alumni from the same school, if you have both worked for the same company in the past, etc.
4. Simply put the job title you’re applying for: “Job Application for Part-time Content Writer position”
After they open your email (because of your amazing subject line), draw them in further with the right introduction.
If you are crafting a formal email, like for a job application, greet her in a formal way — writing “Dear Amy” or “Dear Mrs. Smith” is formal and personal enough.
But if you’re reaching out to simply form a connection or grab coffee, be more casual. “Hi Amy” works just fine.
Insert your personality into the email — you want her to hear your voice when she’s reading your introduction. Briefly describe yourself in one to two sentences. For example, “My name is Leah Thomas, and I’m a content writer with Fairygodboss who covers everything from winter desk decor to interview tips to astrology signs.”
If it feels necessary, mention your credentials: “I have five years of experience as a copy editor with the following companies.” Let her know you are a professional (because you are)!
If you got her email from a mutual connection, mention this now. Use your connection to introduce the reason you are contacting her. “So-and-so gave me your contact information and suggested I reach out regarding potential freelance opportunities with your site. I love the work you do and would be interested in discussing it more over coffee (on me!)”
If you are reaching out regarding a job application, mention that next (with the specific job title) as well as any email attachments like your resume and cover letter. Include a link to your published work or relevant accomplishments and a brief explanation of them.
Be conversational and casual but also succinct. Keep your entire email to three paragraphs.
Don’t forget to include a call to action.
While you don’t want to be demanding or pushy, you want her to know you’re hoping for a response of some kind. Something as simple as “I look forward to hearing from you” or “I look forward to discussing this more in-person” works perfectly.
Finish your email by thanking her for her time (and for simply reading your email!) Include a “Thanks in advance” or a “Thank you for your time” before signing off.
Subject: Writer from Fairygodboss Reaching Out
My name is Leah Thomas, and I’m a content writer with Fairygodboss who covers everything from winter desk decor to interview tips to astrology signs.
I’ve been following your Twitter for years (I love your theory on the evolution of cats — genius). I was excited to see you started a site of your own.
Mark Fisher, who I used to work with at Vox, gave me your contact information and suggested I reach out regarding potential freelance opportunities.
I love the work you do and would be interested in discussing it more over coffee (on me!). Let me know if you have 30 minutes of time in the next three weeks.
Thanks so much for your time,
1. Use a normal font — don’t try to jazz up your email by using script font or changing the color. You will look silly, and she likely won’t read it.
2. Always spell-check prior to sending. One grammar or spelling error could make you look unprofessional and hurt your chances of receiving a response.
3. Make sure all names are spelled correctly.
4. Send the email to yourself first. Read through it and ensure everything looks great before sending to someone else. And if you want to be extra careful, send it to a friend or family member as well.
5. Include your resume, portfolio or website if it feels appropriate. Add links to any company or publication you mention that's not common knowledge. You want to do as much work as you can on your side so that your recipient has everything they need right in that email.
6. If you are cold pitching someone (meaning you’ve never met them and have no connection to them) try as hard as possible to find one. Even being alumni from the same school or being from the same state is a connection you can use.
7. If not, embrace the cold-pitch. Make a joke about having never met them and finding their email online, and don't be afraid to compliment them. For example: “I know you have no idea who I am, but I love your Twitter and have been following your hilarious posts about your pets for a long time.” In the age of social media, this will come off as flattering rather than creepy (just don’t take it too far).
Now you are officially ready to send that introduction email.
Looking to write a formal letter? We have you covered with the right way to format a business letter.
And if you're following up with someone, Fairygodboss co-founder Romy Newman gives her tips in, "Why You MUST Send A Post-Interview Thank You — And How It Should Look."