How to get contract work in three easy steps (Part 2 of 3)

Following on from my previous post, I am going to talk about that vital first email contact. I am going look at what should and shouldn’t be in the email and how to structure it to best effect.

The Initial Written Contact
This first email is the “teaser” email. The “get your foot in the door” introduction. Nothing more. It is not your resume or an essay on your approach to the web. Its a “would you like to know more?” introduction.

Remember, this email is a sales pitch – it is a textual representation of you. It gives the recipient their first impression of who you are and what you are capable of. So, it needs to look and read professionally, but it also should show a bit of your personality. I know it is a tall order, but with a little work it can be done.

Keep the Reader in Mind

When creating your email you need to think about the person reading the email. What they looking for and what they will be asking themselves:

Who is emailing me and why?
Basically, this is the spam-scan we all tend to do automatically – Who is it from, do I know them? and what is it about?
So, your subject line and “from” address better be both believable and interesting enough to get that person to open the email. Something like: “Toby Somerville: Reliable PHP contractor”. I advise you include your name in the email subject line; this is to help the reader find your email again in the future.

What skills do they have that we might find useful now or in the future?
Your skill set must be what they are looking for or they simply will not be interested. Your research should have weeded out the firms that are unlikely to need your skills. But, at the end of the day – they simply may not be interested.

What relevant experience do they have?
People want to see you have experience. Contractors are expected to be experts in their chosen field. Firms don’t want to be paying for you to learn your trade.

How good are they? Lets see some work examples.
Is your style and/or quality of work, what they are looking for?

How much do they expect to be paid?
This is something I never put in the initial contact. This is something you discuss further down the track.

Are they local?
As a general rule; firms will want to meet you face-to-face at some point.

This is not an exhaustive list of possible questions, but you get the idea. By bearing in mind the reader; it can help you predict likely questions and therefore, answer them in the email. You want the person reading the email to get as much of the information they need instantly. But, you also need to give them plenty of contact details and links to find out more.

The Email Format
I recommend a text-only email, rather than HTML. For the simple reason that it is more likely to arrive looking as you intended it to look. A nice touch is to put a link to an HTML formatted version of the email. This is a great place to further showcase your talents and you can track who visited, when they visited, what they clicked on and how many times.

The Email

  • keep it short and sweet
  • make sure there are no typos or errors and that the links work
  • get someone else to proofread and give you an honest appraisal of what they thought of the content and its tone
  • personalise the email if possible
  • don’t be pushy or arrogant. Be polite and professional – remember the delete button is only a mouse click away
  • get to the point – don’t waffle
  • at the start explain: who you are and what you want
  • link to examples of your work
  • link to an on-line resume
  • ask them if it is OK to call them in a few days time to discuss (covered in the third part of this post series)
  • your contact details – they maybe interested enough to contact you straight away. So, make contacting you easy. Also, make sure any contact details sound professional – fluffy_bunny_rabbit2008@hotmail.com may not be giving them impression you are after.

Test it. Test it. Test it.
Prepare the email and save a copy. Send one to yourself and make sure it works and looks good. Double check it and get someone else to check it. Don’t forget you only get one chance to make a first impression. So, any typos and broken links are not going to make you look good.

In my next post I am going to look at the follow up phone call. I will give you some tips and advice on how to conduct the call and some possible conversation scenarios. TTFN

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  • http://pthub.co.uk pthub

    As someone who outsources most of my coding, i think this is a quality post
    two things spring to mind. 1) i cant stand it when the first email states, whats your budget for the project? get a brief off me first, then, if you’re a professional, you’ll know what its going to cost roughly and wont need to ask
    2)Firms don’t want to be paying for you to learn your trade – great point, they also dont want you to outsource without there knowledge too. This has happened to me and you lose all quality