Solo consultants and freelancers are always time-poor, with email being the biggest time suck of all. It’s such an important business tool, and is typically the first point of contact with potential clients, so it’s crucial to nail that communication. It’s also critical to ensure your message is consistent and clear (I say “clarity is magic” all the time, and it’s true).
While your consulting or freelance business likely has oodles of canned emails you eventually need to develop, that comes with time. But no matter where you’re at in your business journey, here are three you should develop right now and adapt and use liberally.
Canned Email #1: No, I cannot help you—but here is someone who can.
Why did I list the “no” answer first? Because it’s the hardest one—and every consultant or freelancer has a story of the one (or many) clients they should have said no to because it was a bad fit for many reasons: working style, skill set, personality, whatever. Learn to say no when you know you should and you’ll be a happier and more successful consultant.
Use a formula like this:
I’d love to help you out but, unfortunately, we’re not a good fit for your project. With that said, my colleague [NAME] at [COMPANY] may be just the person to connect with. You can reach out to her at [URL].
Now, if you see any red flags with that inquiry, be careful about that referral as it can hurt your professional relationships. In that case, simply guide the person to a directory-type resource.
Canned Email #2: My rates are non-negotiable.
Early in your career as a consultant or freelancer you’ll encounter this more frequently than you’d like, unfortunately. You’ve spent countless hours digging into your revenue and profits and expenses to determine the appropriate rates for your services, finely tuned a proposal and have a seemingly great fit ask for a discount.
Now, there are two types of scenarios here: 1) the potential client is just someone who always tries to negotiate everything (this is less of a concern, honestly) and figures it doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s wiggle room; 2) is more challenging and this is someone who, for whatever reason, will not pay your rates. Regardless, the canned email that’s needed is clear, compassionate and simple.
All of our projects are fixed price, fixed scope—this gives everyone peace of mind that we’re all on the same page about budget and outcomes. We do not currently have any discounts available.
If you have another option available to them, certainly point that out, but don’t get too in the weeds on this. Sometimes people are simply shopping around and learning about the wide variety of pricing out there. If your scope of work and pricing work for them, it does, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Canned Email #3: We cannot alter our contract.
You have a contract for your consulting or freelance business, right? Right?
If not, stop reading and start looking for an attorney to help you out. If that’s not feasible at this time, there are turnkey contract shops that can be good resources too.
The crux of this canned email is that unless you’re taking on a very, very large and profitable project, the financial reality of having an attorney review a contract every time someone wants an alteration or change makes it untenable. And altering a legal document without guidance is unwise. (I have a fun story about how I had an IP clause in my standard contract that was incongruous with the way Squarespace works, ouch!) Again, keep this email short and to the point.
While I appreciate that you have your own internal processes, we are not able to alter our standard contract. If you’re ready to move forward, you can sign our contract here: [LINK]
Finally, store all of these emails in an easily accessible place, such as Dubsado CRM (what we use), Google Docs, or GMail’s canned email feature.
Obviously, you will want to personalize and adjust these messages on a case-by-case basis, but keep your message clear and consistent—and leading with empathy—and you’ll find yourself more and more confident in your business communication.