Email Best Practices: How Not to End Up in the Recycle Bin

It’s bound to happen sooner or later in our careers. That moment when someone thinks you have enough seniority and may be interested in subcontracting. Or your email address somehow ends up on a mass-distribution list. Or you just become the target of scammers.

Whatever the case may be, a message like the one below pops up in your inbox:

Complete with 14 attachments, this is a truly exceptional message that triggers an involuntary reaction in the recipient to hit “Delete.”However, it makes a great specimen to learn about the traits of a fraudulent message, as well as what NOT to do when reaching out to potential clients.

Let’s dissect this message together, but first, a disclaimer: I know our readership spans at least six continents, and perhaps the formulas in this message may be acceptable in your culture. But for the sake of this exercise, I will be analyzing this message from the standpoint of an American-based recipient.

  1. Email address. You’ve probably heard a million times that having an email address from a webmail provider as your work email doesn’t look very professional. But sending a message from email address X, and asking the recipient to send responses to email address Z is a clear indication that a) this message is spam, and/or b) that this is a phishing scam. Notice the domain on the sender’s email address is “@163.com”, which is a known spam transmitter domain.

Result: Hit “Delete”.

  1. Subject. It is true that the purpose of our email should be clear in the subject line, but when approaching potential clients or prospecting, we need to be a little more creative. How about: “Professional interpreter looking for collaboration opportunities in Miami”? Perhaps I would not hit “Delete” so fast, and at least give them credit for coming up with a personalized subject.

In our sample message, notice how the subject was written. Capitalization is off and there are extra periods. That kind of sloppiness is another indication of a fraudulent message.

  1. Being creative doesn’t equal being weird. I’m big on creativity, and I’m all for doing things differently. But opening your email with a strange statement (quote?) that’s supposed to be inspirational (or something) doesn’t cut it.

Some people like citing famous authors, or including interesting quotes in their messages, and I think that’s great and might work, depending on your audience. But it cannot be the first thing your reader sees when opening your email. Find a way to include it in the body of your email or at the end. Such messages should act as tasteful decorations to your main message.

On the other hand, scammers love to include intriguing quotes—often completely unrelated to the actual purpose of the email. I don’t know if it’s the shock factor, but I must confess that I’ve found myself staring at such quotes and trying to make sense out of them. But your prospective client won’t waste their time; they will just hit “Delete”.

  1. Different fonts and colors. Due to the difference in color in the text, there is no doubt that this message is a Frankenstein of fragments. I don’t like to realize that the sender might have copied and pasted the very message he is sending to me 50 times to 50 other people. If you want to make a good first impression, you need to make your recipient feel special.

I get it, we all draft templates that we then modify. And that’s perfectly fine. But your reader can never find out that the message she is reading has had many incarnations before. So, be careful when you copy and paste your template in a new message. Some email clients change the font or its color when you copy and paste directly from another message, or when importing from a word processor.

  1. Make it or break it in your opening paragraph. A memorable quote from our sample message is that this person is a business consultant who also acts as a translator, who then also provides market research. What?

Briefly stating who you are and what you specialize in is perfect. But then going on and on about yourself and the awesome things you could do is a big turn off. You must have a reason to send that message (a reason other than wanting a job, of course). That is, you must have something in common with that person. Why did you choose to send that message to Mary and not to Joe? If you are unable to answer this question, then I invite you to stop and think about it.

Sending messages out of the blue, without a clear purpose and for no reason other than distributing your résumé, is just as ineffective as going outside right now and handing out your résumé to any passerby.

See below for a simple checklist on what to include in your message.

  1. Spelling and grammar. If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume you are a linguist, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway: Check your message multiple times and use the spellchecker.

This is another classic feature of spam emails: They’re poorly written and plagued with errors, punctuation issues, broken sentences, you name it.

  1. Attachments. The gentleman of the sample message sent 14 attachments, including his résumé, a few sample translations, a couple of inspirational memes, and so on. Needless to say, I didn’t open any of them. Even if he had sent just one, I wouldn’t have opened it either.

Nothing screams “spam” louder than receiving an attachment from a stranger. It’s just a big no-no in today’s netiquette. Even if the rest of the message didn’t raise any red flags, I would never open an attachment from a sender I don’t know.

Repeat after me: Thou shalt never send an unsolicited attachment.

What should you include in your message?

Here is a simple checklist to craft that very important first impression:

  • State your name, what you do (translator, interpreter, both), and briefly mention your areas of expertise.
  • Mention what you have in common with that person (i.e., you attended the same conference a few weeks ago, you both belong to the same group on LinkedIn, you read an article he wrote, etc.) This is your “hook”, that is, something that catches the other person’s attention and makes you stand out. It’s the personal connection you have with that person or organization.
  • State the purpose of your email (to follow up after the conference, to connect, to learn more about the topic of his article).
  • Make sure to include how you think you can help, or your previous experience in the field, or any other piece of information to pique your reader’s interest. It should provide additional information related to your opening paragraph.
  • If possible, include a call to action, that is, a question for your reader (i.e., “Is your agency interested in hiring in my field of expertise?” or “Are you looking for a French language editor?”)
  • Include a link to your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc., and invite your prospect to learn about you and what you do. Remember: No attachments!
  • Close your email (i.e., “Looking forward to hearing from you”).
  • Include your contact information in your signature.

The above recommendations apply not only when approaching other colleagues, but also if your target is an agency. Recruiters receive dozens of emails daily from people looking for opportunities. Your message should stand out, but in a positive way.

What would you do if you were on the recipient’s end? If you received such a message, would you be interested in reading more about this person?

Think about these simple questions and ideas the next time you send a prospecting email. I promise it will make a world of difference and will increase your odds of achieving your goal. Let us know how it goes!

Image source: Pixabay

24 Networking Tips that Actually Work

By James Clear
Reblogged from ATA Chronicle with permission

24 Networking Tips that Actually WorkThe idea of networking makes many people uncomfortable—or confused. It is easy to see why.

When most people think about networking, it seems insincere at best—and selfish at worst. This, of course, is the complete opposite of what networking is supposed to be—friendly, useful, and genuine.

It is easy for most of us to be friendly and useful with people we know. However, because networking is a “business activity,” it is easy to think that we need to act in a different way.

Unfortunately, most networking strategies come across as pushy, needy, or self-serving—even though the people using them rarely act that way in day-to-day life.

Do not worry. There are definitely genuine ways to self-promote. So, in the spirit of helping everyone become a better networker, here are 24 networking tips that, from my experience, actually work.

The Real Goal of Networking

1. The goal of networking should be to help other people. Yes, it would be nice if they helped you out as well, but networking is a two-way street. And your side of the street is all about helping others, not asking them to help you. Asking for favors should only become a possibility once you have learned more about the person and provided some value to them.

2. It is far more important to understand other people’s needs before you tell them about your needs. Your goals should not be on the forefront of your mind. You are trying to develop a relationship with others, which means you should be thinking about them. It is your job to understand the people in your network, including where they are coming from and what is important to them.

Setting Expectations

3. You do not need to know the most people, just the right people. There is no need to shotgun your business cards across the industry or to pepper everyone with e-mail. Instead, focus on finding people who are relevant to you. As time passes, you can decide if the interests that you share with someone are worth pursuing further. It is better to have five people willing to help you than to have 500 who simply know your name.

4. Do not expect anything. The fact that you reached out and made contact with someone does not put them in your debt. No one is required to “pay you back.” Instead of approaching networking with the goal of gaining favors, try reaching out with curiosity.

Contact interesting and relevant people and see what happens. Some of them will respond and some of them will not. Learn about the people who follow up. Find out what makes them interesting and how you can help them—and do not expect anything in return.

5. Do not leave networking to chance. Take some time and define what you are looking for in your network. Occasionally you will stumble across someone amazing by accident, but it is a lot easier to find who you are looking for if you know who they are in the first place. Be proactive and create a list of people whom you want to contact on purpose.

6. Go beyond your industry. Connect with people on a variety of levels from a wide range of areas. By growing your network outside of the usual areas you will be more valuable to people who are in your immediate industry. The people with whom you work have personalities and multiple interests, right? With a broad network you can be the person who connects people across industries.

7. Do not dismiss anyone as irrelevant. Maybe you do not think a local blogger would be a good contact because you work at a medical practice. However, when you open a new branch and want to let people know about it, you will be glad you reached out to someone with an audience.

How to Reach Out to Someone New

8. Quantify how much time you are going to take. People are busy and when someone new starts talking to them, the first thing that comes to mind is, “How much time is this going to take?”

Address those concerns from the start by saying something like, “Hi. I have one item that I’d like to discuss with you briefly. It should only take two minutes. Do you have time now?” Asking questions like this not only shows that you respect their time, it also gives you the option of speaking with them later if they are too busy now.

9. Start by offering praise, not requesting help. Unless you have a mutual contact who is putting you in touch for a specific reason, it is best to avoid asking for anything when you meet for the first time. Do not ask for favors, for promotion, for advice, or even to meet up for lunch or coffee. Simply start by offering a short compliment. After they respond to this initial contact, you can begin moving things toward a lengthier meeting.

10. Keep e-mail short. If your first contact is via e-mail, split the message into smaller segments. Instead of reaching out to someone new with a long-winded, five-paragraph explanation of why you are contacting them, use that first e-mail to focus on a small bit of praise. You can send further details to them after they reply. Keep that first message friendly and short.

11. If you must ask for a favor, then ask for permission to continue. There are some situations where you need to ask for something, but do not have the luxury of time to get to know your contact. Most situations do not fall under this category, but if you must ask for something, then weave in requests for permission before you make a request. Here is a real example.

I was talking to the director of an organization recently about offering a new course to his clients. I started by asking for permission to continue. “I’ve run successful courses on X before. Would you like to know more?” He was interested and we ended up having a great conversation.

An additional benefit of this strategy is that you are getting the other party to say “Yes” to you. As a general rule, if you can get people to say yes three times, then the odds of your offer being accepted by them drastically increase. You do not need to ask permission for everything, but if you are opening a conversation where you will need to make a request, then it can work wonders.

How to Build the Relationship

12. Try to provide as much value as you possibly can. The more value you create, the more it will come back to you many times over. Focus all of your networking efforts on helping the people you contact.

13. Start by focusing on being friendly and helpful. This is the number one tactic you can use to build your network. Simply spread information in a friendly and helpful way. Did you read a book that others in your network will enjoy? Tell them about it or send them a copy. Are you using a resource that would help a friend with a project on which he or she is working? E-mail the information to your friend. Hear some new music that others might enjoy? Send it their way. Building your network is the same as building friends. Be interested in what they are doing and offer friendly suggestions when you can.

14. Develop the habit of introducing people. Connecting like-minded people is a powerful way to enhance your network. The idea of doing this seems foreign to many people, but it is actually quite easy. Do you know two people who enjoy reading the same type of books? Or like the same sports teams? Or love reading about history? Or work in the same industry? You get the point. Do not make it hard. Just introduce the two of them by sharing their common interest. They can decide if they want to pursue the relationship further.

15. Ask if people want to be connected. If you are apprehensive about connecting two people, then ask one of them if they want to be connected. “I know another person that’s doing Y. Would you like for me to introduce you sometime?” Even if they are not interested, they will appreciate the offer.

16. Nurture your current network. Most people think of networking as reaching out to new people, but do not forget about the network that you already have. (Hint: You probably call them your friends and co-workers.) There is no need to wait to meet new people to start connecting others or sharing useful information. Network within the groups that are already close by.

Making Networking a Habit

17. Try to contact one person per day. If you reach out to five new people every week, that would be about 250 per year. Sending an e-mail or making a quick call will only take about five minutes of your day. Not everyone is going to get back to you, but if you contact that many new people, then you are bound to make significant progress.

18. Do not take “No” personally. Everyone is busy. For most people, it is simply a matter of timing. If you catch them on a good day, then they will happily talk or meet with you. If they are swamped, however, then a simple “No” might be all you get. Do not take it personally. In most cases, it is not a reflection of you or what you said.

19. Make it a point to follow up. One or two days after meeting someone for the first time, follow up with a brief e-mail or note. This is an opportunity to develop the relationship by bringing up something you discussed before or making a comment on an interesting topic. Following up with relevant conversation helps to anchor your previous interaction in their mind and displays more personality than just sending a message that says “Thanks for talking!”

20. Did you fail? Try reaching out in a different way. You do not want to pester anyone, but if you give the person a few weeks and do not hear a response, then there is nothing wrong with being persistent. For example, dropping in to talk face-to-face has resulted in great conversations with people who ignored my e-mail previously. Sometimes switching it up is all you need to do.

Things to Remember

21. Network with the intention of helping other people, not yourself. People enjoy doing business with those they trust and like. The only way to build that trust is to engage with others in a helpful way. Yes, trust takes a long time to build, but insincerity takes even longer to overcome. Once you have developed a relationship and created a bond, then you can move on to negotiating for favors and asking for help.

22. Networking is more about listening to what people say than saying the right
things. Take the time to listen to people’s stories. You can only provide something of value to them if you listen to who they are and what they do.

23. Sometimes the best networking opportunities involve real work. Volunteer for events, committees, or projects that will involve interesting people. Working on a project or task with someone is one of the best ways to develop a relationship. For example, volunteering for a nonprofit can be a great way to get to know an organization’s influential board members.

24. E-mail is easy to send—and ignore. Yes, e-mail is quick, simple, and can be sent to anyone, anywhere. E-mail is also very easy to filter out and ignore. If you really want to meet someone, then do not be afraid to pick up the phone, propose a video chat, or arrange a face-to-face meeting. These communication channels are usually less crowded and more personal, which means that your message will be more memorable. E-mail can be a great tool, but do not be afraid to mix it up.

Take the First Step: Reach Out
You do not need to be a master to start building your network. Just taking a moment to reach out is a big step that will help most people. Sharing useful information and connecting likeminded people are simple actions that everyone will appreciate. Focus on being useful and do not make networking harder than it has to be.

15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies

By Riccardo Schiaffino
Reblogged from About Translation blog with permission from the author

15 tips on how to increase your chances when contacting translation companies

Our tiny translation company does not advertise for translators, since we do most work internally or with the help of a small group of trusted colleagues. Yet, every day I receive on average a dozen messages from translators offering their services for various language combinations. Unfortunately, most of these messages are written in a way that ensures they end in the junk mail folder.
Here are some tips you might find useful to increase your chances of success:

  1. Research your prospects.
    Find out who they are and to whom your message should be addressed. If you are sending your message without specifying to whom it is addressed, your message will be treated as spam. If most of your prospects are translation companies, find out if they prefer new translators to contact them by email: many translation companies prefer candidates to fill a form on their website. If that is their preferred way to collect information from freelancers, usually contacting them by email instead is a waste of time.
  2. Find out what kind of translations they do.
    You need to know what specializations they need from their translators. This will help you craft a more targeted and more successful message: for a translation company it is much more interesting to receive a message that says “I’m an English into Italian translator with a degree in mechanical engineering and over ten years’ experience translating maintenance manuals for naval turbines” than a generic “I translate from English French, German and Portuguese into Italian”.
  3. Keep the Subject of your message brief and to the point.
    A good subject, for example, could be “English > Italian translator with 10 years of experience, specialized in mechanical engineering”. That is better than, for example “Spanish Freelance Translator/Proofreader” , and much better than “Searching better opportunity at your respective company” (an actual subject line from a misguided translator.)
  4. Write your message very carefully.
    If you are writing in a language that is not your native one, I recommend you have a native speaker edit it. Remember: the purpose of your message is to entice your prospect in opening your résumé.
  5. Don’t say that you translate from your native language into a foreign one.
    Doing so ensure you will be treated as an amateur. If you are one of those rare people who are native speakers of more than one language (true bilingual), do say so, but be prepared to say how exactly you came to be a true bilingual (“I traveled and studied in X country” won’t do, but “My mother is English, my father Italian, each only speaks to me in their native language, and, while living in Italy, I studied from first grade through high school in an international school where most classes were taught in English” might.)
  6. Write your name and language pair in the heading of your résumé.
    For example, “Mario Rossi, English into Italian translator”.
  7. Keep your résumé brief.
    No more than one page if you don’t have extensive experience, no more than two in all other instances.
  8. Don’t include your rates in your email message or in your résumé. Talking about rates comes later.
  9. Don’t include your references.
    Providing them, if asked, comes later.
  10. Make sure your résumé is written flawlessly.
    Again, if it is not in your native language, consider having it edited by a native speaker.
  11. Localize your résumé for your target market.
    For instance a résumé for a French prospect should include your photo, but a résumé for an American company should not.
  12. Make sure your résumé contains all the necessary information, but no irrelevant details. If you have minimal experience, it’s OK to include in your résumé information about other kind of work, but, as soon as you do gain some translation experience, remove the extraneous information.
  13. Make sure that all the information you provide in your message and in your résumé is verifiable.
  14. What you should include in your résumé: Your working language pairs, how best to contact you, your translation experience, other relevant work experience, education, expertise with specific software programs (for example, CAT tools or DTP programs: don’t include in the list of programs that you know how to use Word or Excel – it is assumed that everybody knows how to handle them), and platform (PC or Mac.)
  15. What you should not include in your résumé: personal information such as your age or marital status (normally: see above – if a résumé for your target market usually does include such information, use your best judgment about whether to include that information or not). Also not to be included: your hobbies and personal interests. An exception to this is if your hobbies contribute to your specialization. So “I am a passionate skier, and I have competed at international level. This experience has helped me when I translated technical manuals for Rossignol” is OK, while “I like reading and classical music” is not.

Finally, very important:
Remember: it’s you who decides what your rates are, not the translation companies. Conversely, translation companies are free to accept your rates, reject them, or try to get you to lower them.

Image credit: Unsplash