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Email Etiquette for Freelancers

Posted in: Blog, Copyediting, Copywriting, Proofreading by Sally Evans-Darby on 28 October 2012

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As a freelance editor/proofreader/writer, chances are a considerable chunk of communication with your clients is done by email. Depending on how you and your clients use it, email can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Here are a few quick ways to make it work better for you and your freelance business.

Hit the reply button

It’s something that should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Reply to the emails you receive. If someone sends you an email, regardless of whether they’re a prospective client you can’t wait to get back to or an enquiry you don’t think is going to lead anywhere, have the courtesy to reply. Even if you don’t have time right away to respond fully, at least acknowledge the email and let the enquirer know you will get back to them soon.

Take care of your cc

If it hasn’t happened to you, it’s bound to have happened to someone you know: the dreaded email sent by mistake thanks to a mis-typed cc. Only last week this was highlighted when a humiliating email was accidentally sent to an engaged couple by their wedding planner, telling them what she really thought of them.

Before you press send, make sure you are only sending the email to those you wish to. Emails generally can’t be brought back, however much some email programmes might make you think that by pressing the magic ‘recall’ button your email will zing itself back to your outbox.

Get on the right terms

Take care when it comes to how you address your email. It’s generally good practice to take your client’s lead on whether to use ‘Dear’ or ‘To’, or ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ on the informal end of the scale. And always double-check you have spelled your client’s name right.

Also, watch out for possible gender confusion when using a title (Mr or Mrs) to address an email. I once addressed an email to a ‘Mr Chris Taylor’, mistakenly assuming Chris was a Christopher. Turns out, Chris was a Christine, and didn’t very much appreciate being called a Mr.

Sign off with style

Make sure your emails look as professional as possible by creating an automatic signature to sign off your emails. This does not mean writing your name in 20pt pink letters with an ‘inspirational’ quote from your favourite song underneath. It really just needs to be your name in full, your trading name if you have one, your web address and phone number, and perhaps your postal address and a few social media buttons for good measure.

Proofread it!

This becomes particularly salient if you are a freelance proofreader; a proofreader whose emails are littered with spelling mistakes is not the sort of proofreader anyone wants to hire. Always check your email for sense, common typos and grammatical ambiguities before you hit send. All too easily, confusing messages such as ‘it is not ready’ instead of ‘it is now ready’ can slip through the net. And that goes for every last word down to your own name at the bottom. I’ve almost signed off my emails as ‘Salty’ rather than ‘Sally’ on many an occasion – so take care to check thoroughly.

Do you have any tips for freelancer emailing? And as we’re nearing Halloween, how about sharing some of your favourite email horror stories? Leave your comments below.


  1. Sally, these tips are so simple and obvious, yet so important. Unfortunately, many of us are in such a rush with our email communications, we often don’t stop, think and check before clicking ‘send’. So, thank you for the reminder.

    You mention the possibility of making errors when signing off. I use Outlook Express, which allows me to create signatures. I’ve incorporated my preferred business sign-off into my business signature. One less thing to worry about!

    Email horror story: Many years ago (pre freelance), a colleague emailed me about a website he was overseeing. In the email, the colleague was rather insulting about the web-master, who was unfortunately cc’ed in the email — the web-master resigned the next day.

    Comment by Wendy Monaghan on 31 October 2012 at 6:17 am

  2. Sally Evans-Darby

    Thanks for your comment, Wendy. And what a sad story for the webmaster! It’s easy to forget that what you put down in an email is there as a record for posterity, so you’ve always got to be careful what you’re saying – and who you’re copying into it…!

    Comment by Sally Evans-Darby on 31 October 2012 at 8:13 am

  3. Just got referred to this blog – thanks for writing Sally. Yep, definitely have to agree with you there about double-checking and proofreading your own emails when working as a proofreader! What could possibly look worse than essentially being unable to do the very job you are trying to get hired for… 🙂

    Comment by Stickler Editing on 1 February 2013 at 7:09 am

  4. Sally Evans-Darby

    Thanks for your comment, Stickler! (By the way, I like your website – nicely put together!)

    Comment by Sally Evans-Darby on 1 February 2013 at 8:30 am

  5. I just stumbled onto this blog post when looking for a piece to give my husband on common office email errors. It’s perfect. Thank you Sally.

    Comment by Michele Perry on 8 March 2017 at 10:17 am

  6. Sally Evans-Darby

    Why, thank you very much! I’m glad it could be of some help 🙂

    Comment by Sally Evans-Darby on 8 March 2017 at 10:55 am