Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

The fine art of saying hello

Posted on 15 September 2010 Comments

Article illustration for The fine art of saying hello

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from a potential client. He spoke briefly about the people working on the project (supposedly a team from a very well-respected tech company) and also detailed his own credentials via a link to his LinkedIn profile, which revealed that he’s been managing several tech start-ups over the last 15 years or so.

All of these things should have impressed me and got me excited about working on his project. But instead, I binned it.

Why? Because his email started with a generic ‘Hi’ — a tell-tale sign that this is a copy-and-paste job sent out to multiple designers. But hang on: he couldn’t even be bothered to do that. My eyes moved to the headers of the email and in the ‘To’ field I saw… nothing. There was nothing there because he obviously BCC’d a whole bunch of designers. That’s right: he couldn’t even be bothered to write several copy-and-paste emails. And, as these tricks are obvious from even a cursory glance at the message, I’m now acutely aware that I’m just a name on a list. Sure, that list might be small — perhaps only five or so designers, say — but then there’s even less justification for this lack of personal address. And the sad thing is that if his credentials are actually true, he really should know better.

This isn’t just me being pernickety about email etiquette: this kind of behaviour is a strong signifier that this client will be a nightmare to work with. At the first point of contact, he doesn’t even care enough about me to address me by name or speak to me on a one-to-one basis. Imagine if someone did that to you in person!

If you ever get an email like this and your instinct is to reply, don’t.

I admit that I’m in a very fortunate situation where I can be relatively picky about my clients, and I realise that many people, like those just starting out, aren’t necessarily afforded this luxury. But still, I would urge those people to turn away clients like this. Learned only through bitter mistakes, it’s my experience that the warning signs for ‘bad eggs’ are obvious from the start, and if they ever appear this early on in a project (before it’s even started!), it’s a guarantee that things will only get worse once you start delivering work.

Next time you get an email like that, either trash it before you waste any time on it, or maybe reply briefly with a link to this blog post.

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