Every professional email seems to have a signature. What exactly is an email signature?
When I send new emails or reply to the emails that I receive from the others, the following signature is embedded at the end of every outgoing message:
As you can see, there are no images. These are simple lines with mostly rich text or HTML formatting. This makes the signature appear uniform in almost all email clients.
Since most of the messages that I get are from businesses or professional people, I often pay close attention to their email signatures, especially when the signatures are quite comprehensive, and they appear to be larger than the actual message.
What is the significance of your email signature?
Although, my email signature is quite simple, it does not have to be that way. An email signature is not just about mentioning the name of your company or alternative contact details.
An email signature can also be used to convey your branding message and extra information that cannot be a part of the main body text.
It acts like your business card. It helps you create a cohesive message around your business.
You can also give it a personal touch by adding your photograph or your logo, although, do not overdo that, as I have seen in many cases.
Some businesses also use it to mention their corporate policy regarding use of information, contact details and other confidentiality-related matters.
I remember when going “paperless” was a prominent fad, almost every email used to have a message that they are going paperless and they mostly communicate with emails, in the signature.
Many businesses use an email signature for email marketing.
It is often suggested that you should not aggressively promote your products and services when you are sending conversational messages to your customers and clients.
Suppose, you have found an interesting and useful piece of information and you would like to share it with your customers and clients. This piece of information may not have anything to do with your product or service, but you know that it can immensely benefit the people in your mailing list.
In such messages, your email signature can do the business talking. If it contains all your services and your branding message, they also get conveyed along with the information that you are sending, without sounding salesy.
How should you create your email signature?
There is no set formula.
Many years ago, for few months, I used WiseStamp. It creates quite professional email signatures that you can embed with the help of a browser add-on but it also embeds its own logo, which can be removed if you upgrade to a premium version.
If you use Outlook, MS Word has a nice template carrying different signatures that you can simply copy/paste into the Outlook Windows client.
My personal advice would be, do not use email signature generators. They may not look good in all email clients and apps.
Instead, create a simple text-based email signature with the important information within 3-4 lines.
There is no need to include everything under the sun in your email signature. You can include your social media links, a small branding message, link to your website, and the main products or services that you provide.
The short answer will be, he or she should be able to write well, convincingly, and just the way you want him or her to write.
The long answer is that you need to take certain facts into consideration before settling for a particular content writer.
Of course, you’re not just going to hire anyone. You will visit a few websites. You may also scour through freelance websites where many content writers have created their profiles. Some people prefer to hire from LinkedIn. That’s your choice.
Whoever can write, is not always a content writer you can rely on. As mentioned above, there are multiple factors. You also need to remember what’s your requirement.
Why do you need a content writer?
Do you need a general content writer whose services you can use for writing blog posts, social media updates, email campaigns or website content?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring the right content writer for your business.
Carefully analyze your requirement
This will definitely have an impact on the performance of your content writer. What are you looking a content writer for?
There are writers, and there are content writers. A person who is a good writer should be able to write for any requirement. At the cost of bragging, I can give my own example. I write content for all sorts of writing requirements. Even if a client needs a copywriter and not a content writer, I can fit the bill. This is because of two factors:
I have written content for many years now (almost 2 decades) and I have lots of experience writing for different businesses and for different requirements.
I’m a writer first, and then a content writer. It means I’m good at expressing myself. Provided I know what is to be said, I can say it well through writing.
Therefore, clients hire my content writing services for all sorts of needs, but this may not be applicable to the content writers you are evaluating.
Hence, analyze your content writing requirement carefully. If you’re not sure, don’t try to cast a wide net. Look at your immediate requirement.
Do you want someone to revamp your website content alright your website content from scratch?
Do you need a blogger?
Do you need an email writer?
There are some clients who unknowingly are looking for a stenographer who will simply write what they want him or her to write, and yet, they want to work with a content writer.
Whatever are your requirements, look for a content writer accordingly.
Do you need a content writer or a copywriter?
There is a fine distinction between a content writer and a copywriter. A content writer is supposed to inform and educate your visitors. A copywriter is supposed to sell.
Both are important. A content writer brings traffic to your website and a copywriter converts the traffic to paying customers and clients.
Many clients commit the mistake of mixing them up. They think that just because someone can write, he or she can also write to generate sales.
No, it is not as simple. There is a reason why copywriters charge so much money. They have the ability to turn casual visitors into paying customers and clients.
Hence, when you’re looking for a content writer, make sure that you’re looking for a content writer, and not a copywriter, and if you’re looking for a copywriter, make sure that your content writer can wear that hat too.
Ask for writing samples
Every professional content writer should be able to show you some writing samples. They can be websites. They can be blog posts. Anything that gives you a sense of how the content writer writes.
You will need to pay close attention to how the content writer writes for your industry. If you are in tech industry, you must be looking for someone who can comfortably write about technology. If you’re in the fashion industry, then the content writer should be able to comfortably write about haute couture. For a food related website, the content writer should be able to write about, of course, food.
What if the content writer is good but does not have samples related to your business or industry?
Again, I will give you my own example. Sometimes I don’t have the appropriate samples. I offer to write a few hundred words for the client and if he or she likes what I have written, we go ahead and decide to work on the project.
You will need a content writer who can write for the web. Sentences should be crisp and clear. The writing style should be convincing. The writer must know how to use your keywords strategically. He or she must be able to pack the maximum punch in as few words as possible.
Look for consistency and commitment
Although, on the Internet it is quite easy to find content writers who may fit the bill, looking for new content writers repeatedly can be a hassle. It adversely affects your content quality. Hence, when you are hiring a content writer, make sure he or she can commit for at least a few months.
How can you know that you can depend on a content writer?
There is no scientific formula for it. Use your own judgement. In my case, you can see that I have a website to offer my content writing and copywriting services. This at least tells you that I’m serious about my business and I’m constantly putting an effort to promote my work and get new assignments.
You can also check social media timelines of a content writer, preferably LinkedIn. Is he or she active over there? Most of the serious content writers consistently post on the social media accounts they maintain.
Even if you find your content writer on freelancing websites, the ratings should be able to tell you if he or she is consistent. If he or she has worked on many assignments, you can safely assume that he or she will be able to commit.
What about the charges? The content writing rates?
Although rates matter, if your decision to hire a content writer depends on paying a few dollars more or paying a few dollars less, then the writer is not important.
Set a budget in advance. This is not a government tender where you need to hire a content writer who charges the least. Remember that you are building an asset – the content for your website or blog. It’s the quality that matters. When you are building a home or an office, do you go for a talented contractor or who charges the least no matter how lousy his work is?
Again, I’m not telling you to spend more than you can. Set a budget and then scale your content writing requirement accordingly.
Hire a content writer in a manner that it is a mutually beneficial partnership. Just as you need to grow your business with the help of the content being written by your content writer, a content writer needs to grow financially and intellectually while working on your project. Keep that in mind.
How do I decide whether I want to work with a client or not? To be frank, it is often difficult to let go of a client with whom I have been working for a few months. There was some initial spark and that’s why we could survive beyond the initial documents.
It’s like a messy relationship – you feel committed, and you feel that it would be a failure on your part if you let things fall apart easily. Besides, it is difficult to see a source of money going away – one bird in your hand is better than two birds in the bush.
The post on Copyblogger rightly says that if you are providing a service like content writing or copywriting, you are constantly improving. Which means that a year ago if you were accepting clients matching your expertise back then, right now you need to accept clients that match your expertise now.
This is also important because if you’re still working with clients who hired you last year based on your expertise back then, they are still going to treat you like a less experienced content writer. Even if they grudgingly admit that you’re much better than you were last year, it will be difficult to make them pay you more.
According to the author, here are some reasons why you should stop working with a particular client:
He or she doesn’t respect your time.
He or she doesn’t recognise the extra effort you are putting to give your best.
He or she is paying far less than what you deserve.
Coming back to my own question: do I sometimes refuse to work with certain clients?
Yes, I definitely do, just as some clients decide not to work with me.
I like to work on projects where my work is appreciated not for the heck of satisfying my ego, but where I really contribute. Even if I contribute and my client does not realize that I’m contributing, this is not a good situation to be in, and I politely bow out.
As far as I can control, I never sully my relationships with people, because you never know the situation on the other side. I remember there was a client last year who talked very gruffly when I presented a counterargument. I was wary of moving forward but we were amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and I was taking many decisions that I wouldn’t take in normal times. I continued communicating with him and stuck to my argument. I told him that I would take full advance before committing. He paid double the amount I was asking for, giving me double the work we had initially talked about.
I have an hourly target. Whether I’m charging an hourly rate, per document, or per word, by the end of the project, I must reach my hourly target. If I exceed my hourly target, well and good, but if I don’t, it no longer remains an attractive proposition for me, and I refuse to work. I don’t hide this fact. I let it be known to the client that although I’m interested in the project, remuneration -wise, it is not feasible for me. Some understand, some don’t.
With the exception of a few messages that I get from LinkedIn, most of the messages come from my website.
People who are looking for a content writer or a copywriter land on my website, go to my contact form, submit it, I receive it, and then I respond.
When I send a reply, I assume that they need my services. Sometimes I briefly describe what they need, hoping that as we interact more, they will be able to share more information with me. I even send them sample links.
In many cases the client doesn’t get back. The reasons can be myriad. Maybe she doesn’t like my reply. Maybe she gets busy. Maybe she had contacted multiple content writers and copywriters and someone else responded and there was no need for her to get back to me.
Until a few years ago I used to send a follow-up email after 3-4 days. I would ask, “I hope you received my reply – just making sure. In case you’re looking for more information, do let me know, I will be happy to provide it…” and so on.
Then I stopped.
Initially it was because I got busy. I started getting enough assignments and unless someone’s name appeared in front of me (in the form of an unread message), I wouldn’t reach out.
Sure, when I am already working on an assignment and when I send the first draft and when the client does not respond, I do a follow-up, but that’s because I already know that the client is interested in my work, and she may have not got a chance to look at my document.
Gmail (Google Workspace) has this feature that highlights older messages if it feels I should have followed up but I haven’t.
In such cases, I go with the flow. If I feel I should write back to the prospective client, I do, otherwise I don’t bother.
As I have written above, initially it was because I was busy. Then my attitude towards my clients changed.
Almost all the clients with whom I end up working seek me out. I’m not saying I don’t value all my clients, but the clients who really want my services, follow-up. If I don’t respond for a couple of days, there is an email from them, or a message on WhatsApp or Telegram.
This works well for me as well as my clients. I prefer to work with clients who pursue me rather than me pursuing them.
The clients who don’t respond once I send them a reply either don’t need my services, or the initial offer that I have made isn’t acceptable to them. In both the conditions, I should neither waste my own time, nor theirs.
Although I’m quite better than many content writers and copywriters, I don’t delude myself into believing that I am among the best. I’m not arrogant about my abilities.
Nonetheless, there are some clients who benefit a lot from writing, and once they start getting the written text from me, they stick with me. There is a client who claims that his business picked up only when I wrote his website content.
I want to work with SUCH clients.
I remember that client pursued me for weeks. I was busy in disability activism as well as my current assignments those days. Eventually I wrote for his website.
The clients who really need my services get back to me. The clients who don’t, I don’t bother with them. And the clients who think I should pursue them multiple times before they give me their work, well, they’re not the right fit for me.
I get lots of work from abroad. In fact, in the initial years, there was no work from India. Back then people didn’t understand the value of quality content in India. Many didn’t even have a website.
People in the USA and other Western countries on the other hand appreciated good writing. They started having websites in the early 2000’s.
They also understood the importance of content vis-à-vis Google search engine rankings earlier than people in India. It was also a time when outsourcing was at its peak as one of the most preferred ways of cutting costs.
Although, at my end, I never tried to charge less but who am I kidding? Most of the people in the West outsource their work to someone from India assuming that they are going to pay less.
Even when I was charging less (doing it, but not accepting it), even those rates were a lot for Indian clients. Hence, when I started getting assignments in India, I charged a lot less compared to what I was charging my clients from abroad.
This began to trouble my conscience. The foundation of my business was built through the support of people who believed in me – even if it was for the sake of saving money – and now I was charging more from them and less from people who still didn’t understand the value of good content and were simply being arm-twisted into working with a better content writer, by Google.
Clients from India can be lousy. One shouldn’t take it personally because that’s how they are. Our sociocultural environment makes us mistrust even our neighbours. They want to pay the minimum possible rate and they want to extract the maximum possible from you, short of killing you.
The only benefit is that once they understand that there is no escape from hiring a good content writer, they appreciate your talent and somehow manage to pay what you’re asking for. Besides, once you have made a name for yourself, there are so many clients that you can conveniently pick and choose.
Coming back to different rates for clients from abroad and clients from India: even that phase passed, and I gradually started increasing my rates to what I was more comfortable with, even with my Indian clients.
My conscience stopped troubling me. Even when I was charging them rates clients from India would never agree to, they were paying me less than they would have had to pay a native writer.
These days my rates are more or less the same. I’m comfortable with my rates. I don’t compete based on my rates. If a client calls me and tells me that there is a certain content writing agency or there is a certain content writer who is charging a lot less than what I am quoting, I tell them, “Well, congratulations! You have already found the content writer of your choice. Go to him/her.”
Even from my clients from abroad, after doing some reading on the web, I have realized that sometimes I charge slightly more than their native writers. I’m fine with that. I’m charging for the value I deliver, not for the fact that I am a content writer from India. Instead of attracting clients who are more interested in saving costs by hiring a content writer from India, my objective is to attract clients who are just looking for a better content writer.