6 Tips for Effective Client/Contractor Correspondence
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Whether you’re using email, a messaging application like Slack, or some combination, effective correspondence is essential for ensuring that your project gets done correctly and in a timely manner.
Regardless of whether you’re the client or the contractor in this scenario these very special tricks will make your correspondence 100x better than it already is.
But First, Email vs Chats
Depending on who you’re working with and the nature of your project, you may choose to correspond over email or through any number of chat/messaging apps.
Obviously, talking over chat is usually more fast paced and casual, allowing for multiple follow-ups in a thread. On the other hand, sending multiple emails in the same chain basically guarantees that everything ahead of the most recent message will be ignored.
This useful guide isn’t going to differentiate too much between different messaging platforms, but essentially assumes that (1) the correspondence is somewhat official and (2) whoever you’re talking to is difficult to communicate with.
Tip #1: Brevity is Your Friend
People don’t read emails; they glance at them. You could meticulously craft a beautiful email full of flowing prose and imagery and the recipient would still only look at it for 0.5 seconds.
With this in mind, your email must be constructed so that whoever is reading it can ascertain everything they need within that time frame.
Catering to people’s short attention spans includes being as brief as possible and omitting useless words and sentences that aren’t actually saying anything. If you fill up your email with useless garbage, their brains are just going to filter out all the random garbage anyway.
The issue with this is that they might accidentally ignore some important information as well.
Tip #2: Avoid Large Paragraphs of Text
Another trick that helps with this is breaking up paragraphs into multiple lines of text with line breaks. This makes your email much more readable and lessens that chance of the recipient skimming over the text without actually reading it.
Thank you for getting that draft done so quickly. I looked over the project and the content looks very spot on for the most part. I do, however, have a couple of requests. Firstly, can you extend the text to be a full 500 words? I also think you that you made an error when you stated that Cranky Kong is Donkey Kong’s father. As the original Donkey Kong from the 1981 arcade game, I think it’s been established that Cranky’s son is Donkey Kong Jr., who is in turn the father of the modern day incarnation of Donkey Kong. You also said that Diddy is Donkey Kong’s son, but I think he’s his nephew. If it isn’t too much trouble, please double check this information with the official Kong family tree. Lastly, if you can go into more detail about the Freudian implications of Donkey Kong having his “banana” hoard stolen by the dickless reptile King K. Rool and how this plays into emasculation and the role of alpha males in patriarchal ape tribes, that would be great.
No one wants to get a novel in their inbox.
Tip #3: Itemize Important Questions
At some point in your life you’ve probably sent an email with multiple questions in it, waited patiently, and eventually received a response that only answered one of your questions.
Then you say:
Well yes, but what about the other two things I asked you?
But by that point they’ve already logged off again and don’t come back for 24-48 hours.
This is an absurdly common problem, but frustrating nevertheless - especially if you’re waiting on specifications necessary to complete the project you’re working on.
A good method for avoiding this is itemizing important questions in a numbered list, such as:
- When do you need the design completed by?
- Is it all right to include profanity?
- Is it ok if I use wingdings for the typeface?
- I attached a preliminary logo design to this email. Is that about what you had in mind?
This method will greatly increase the chance of you having all your questions answered on the first try.
You can also use bullet points, but I prefer numbered lists. It is easier to ignore a bullet point than a tangible number.
Tip #4: Copy Back Key Points in Your Response
On the other side of things, when someone sends you an email with multiple questions or points to address, it is a good idea to copy back key items when responding. This breaks up your responses in an understandable way.
1. When do you need the design completed by?
Wednesday at noon, if possible.
2. Is it all right to include profanity?
Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks for checking.
Copying back questions like this helps avoid any ambiguity that your responses may have had, and keeps the recipient from needing to refer back to past emails to see what was already said.
Tip #5: End Your Email by Suggesting the Next Step
All in all, the goal of correspondence is to move the project along efficiently. With this in mind, you should always end an email by “prompting” the recipient to take the next step. These should be worded in a nice way that tells the other person what you are planning to do and what action you expect of them.
Please let us know if you have any questions. We can begin working on your project as soon as the invoice has been funded.
In this case, you are politely letting the client know that their next step is sending you payment.
I can send you the final design as soon as I hear back about which font you prefer.
Again, this tells your client your plan of action, as well as emphasizing what information they need from you.
Tip #6: Proofread to Avoid Errors and Ambiguity
Nothing is worse than waiting for a response to your email and then seeing that your client misinterpreted an important question that you needed answered.
Before sending an email you should probably double check it for errors and any potentially ambiguities that might confuse the recipient and hold up progress.
But let’s be honest, no one ever proofreads their emails. Just hit send on that bastard.
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