Hey Haley* I wanted to let you know I’ve received your email from last Monday labelled “Freelance Proofreading and Editing Services Inquiry”. I really wanted to reply immediately with suggestions on how to craft a more effective introduction email, but I also didn’t want to seem like I was being a judgy prick. So instead, here I am back behind the keyboard, distilling my feedback into an article instead. I honestly hope this advice helps you win more business from new leads.


*Name changed for my own safety.

My Disclaimer

I love editors. Really. The more manuscripts, passing from my clients to you, the greater the admiration I have for those of you able to turn a mashup of text from the author into a workable draft that promises to grip the reader. (Looking at you Tracy.)

Next. This article is based on my experience of how many editors are currently approaching my publishing business in a manner almost guaranteed to fail. Not all. Just too many, in my opinion.

My advice below suggests an alternative approach to email that would work better with my publishing company. This should not be treated as a “one size fits all” approach for every email you send to a prospective customer.

My spelling is not great. I don’t want a missing comma or semicolon (what they are even for?) to dilute the meaning behind the advice I’m sharing. If you spot a mistake in my text, please let me know in the comments. 🙏

Lastly, enjoy the read. Absorb the advice that feels like it fits. Ignore the advice that doesn’t.

Brewed your cup of coffee? Let’s jump in.

About Your Current Approach 📧

1. I am BCC’d

Straight away, seeing my email address appear under BCC and the “undisclosed-recipients” as the To: address where my email should be, I immediately understand that I was not really the focus of your email. I then naturally assume that this is a “shotgun” approach to your inquiry for new editing business. Spray and pray. In case my analogy missed its mark.

Sure, emailing me directly would have taken a few extra moments. Researching my business, a few more. However, NOT investing the time before emailing means your chances of a positive reply are dramatically reduced.

RATHER: Spend the extra time to email me (and your other shotgun victims) individually. Put the shotgun away. Snipe instead. 🎯

2. “Dear Sir/ Madam”

Very similar feelings here to seeing that I was BCC’d. Being addressed in this way reminds me of being called Oom at a family gathering. Not wrong. But please, my name is Dave.

RATHER: Browse my website. My name is everywhere (seriously, take a look.) Also, we’re a small publishing team…I’d rather you make an educated guess and address the wrong team member than be addressed Sir/ Madam.

3. Your Subject Line Does Not Engage

“Freelance Proofreading and Editing Services Inquiry”

I know following this advice might feel uncomfortable. Similar to time spent crafting a catchy headline for your LinkedIn profile. Rather take a few moments to carefully string together a few choice words that threaten to climb out my screen and slap me across the cheek. I can’t say what this may look like for every email, however it’s very easy to spot a subject line that has been given the cold shoulder.

RATHER: Craft the subject line in a way that engages the intended recipient. (undisclosed-recipients :😥) Alternatively, consider addressing an assumed business-frustration of the recipient directly in the subject line.

As a personal example, I love working with team players. Said differently, I dislike working with any editor who finds communication with me or my author-clients a chore. This subject line would have been well received…Experienced Editor Excited to Join Your Team!

4. You Speak at Me

Much of your email’s rolling hills of text flow past me. It feels as though you are speaking at me, instead of with me.

You are talented. Check

You are efficient. Check.

You are adaptable. Check.

Once our game of business-bingo is over, you’ve definitely racked up an impressive score. But guess what? You never once address me directly. You never mention my business. You never give any hint at having explored our business website.

For example, what services do I offer my clients that overlap with your proffered skill set. Are we possibly based in the same town or city? Anything else we may have in common? Anything. Any shared attribute highlighted in your initial comms would help induce a greater feeling of trust in our subsequent chats.

RATHER: Before your email is even opened – browse my website (or even my LinkedIn profile) and search for that conversation starter. A similar scenario to standing awkwardly around the braai and wanting to fill the silence.

You: “Hey Dave, I love those Crocs you are wearing…”

My absolute favourite approach was the editor who took the time to share several spelling mistakes found from our webpages, without an expectation of reciprocation. I melted. 🔥

5. Focussing Solely on Your Technical Skills

This may be controversial. Many publishers, especially larger traditional publishing houses store great value in your lengthy (“several years”) editing experience OR that you cuddle (my words) your copy of the “Chicago Manual of Style” (17th Edition) every evening before bed. This is not me.

We’re a small publishing business that primarily helps authors who decide against a traditional publishing relationship and the associated contracts. We’re a small team brimming with what can best be described as spunk. This means your personality, your communication style and your passions outside of editing itself catch my attention faster than your mention of APA 2020, 7th Edition. (What is it?)

RATHER: Aside from your technical editing skill set, also include information that highlights you as a person, focussing on those things that seem to overlap with our business values or those of our customers.

PS. I know that this advice in particular is not for everyone and should be handled with care.

6. Your Attached CV

I don’t want to belabour the point however, by the time I realised you had included your CV, I wasn’t really tempted to open the attached Word document. As a starting point, PDF trumps Word when it comes to the filetype entrusted to showcase your CV. If you feel differently, I would love to hear your reasoning in the comments below.

I find CVs redundant when it comes to an introductory email. Either your email grabs my attention, or it’s (unintentionally) placed in the “I should probably read at some point” pile. (You have this too, right?)

Need an easier way to craft a pretty (PDF) CV, I recommend taking a gander at the free platform Again, time invested better understanding our business before emailing, trumps time spent adding fancy styling to your CV in Canva.

RATHER: If you’ve followed my advice up until this point, I’d wager that attaching your CV would not be needed. At least for the introduction email.

7. Your Email Signature Only Points to Facebook

I know this may also raise a few eyebrows. In signing off your mail, “Kind Regards…” the only clues given to this curious and (undisclosed) email recipient is for your Facebook page. I detest browsing Facebook when I am trying to think business things. Also, your Facebook page was not even hyperlinked

RATHER: My favoured link in this sort of intro email from an editor interested in partnering would be either pointing to your LinkedIn profile or the website showcasing your editing skills and portfolio of happy clients. For bonus points, your website should include a smiling photo of you, looking like you could easily handle some of my more difficult authors. 🤓

PS. If you’re a member of any relevant industry body, this would be a great place to link to your membership page or accreditation. For example, our local Professional Editors Guild helps its members find new business by leveraging these useful online profiles.

8. No Call or Follow-Up

I haven’t heard back from you since Monday. That said, I know I was one of many, and I don’t expect to be hearing from you again any time soon. Is this making me sound needy? 😥

RATHER: In your future lead generation expeditions, I recommend a follow-up email within a few days of sending your intro. Giving your leads the benefit of the doubt of leading busy lives, a follow-up email and/ or phone call would help ensure that you’re top of mind. If you were unsure or nervous about phoning a new business, you would be welcome to suggest a call in your email. I really wouldn’t mind.


I’m not too sure if you made it to the end. If you did, I hope it helps make your future emails more fruitful. The wisdom sprinkled in the preceding text can essentially shortened as follows:

  • Be engaging
  • Show initiative
  • Be clear
  • Be online

I know this is perhaps a frustratingly short summary, however sometimes the “hello” that sticks with us the longest was the one delivered with a wide smile and a bad joke. These sorts of emails are not always going to follow the same script however, with a bit of experimentation and learning from the “no thank you’s” will mean you improve over time.

Dear Haley (and those editors who identify as a Haley) if you’re reading this, I am on your team. I want you to succeed. I want clients to be queuing up to engage your professional editing services. Small improvements every day will make this the reality. Ready?

Recommended Reading

Dealing with the discomfort of branding your editing services.