As a freelancer I receive a lot of emails every day. In addition to the usual ones (newsletters, friends, and so on), I receive emails from recruiters that want to find me a job, from people who want to hire me for a project, from people who want me to solve their programming issues, and finally from people that have read some articles of mine and what to ask something on that topic. I think this might sound familiar to most of you.

Believe it or not, what I’ve discovered over the time is that 80% of people (at least those who write me) don’t have a clue about how to write an email in a proper way. In this article, I’ll highlight some common mistakes in the hope that things will change.

wrong email


Write the name of the recipient. Be polite and respectful. Explain who you are. Don’t demand to be helped for free (it’s not due). Don’t be too verbose.

Take the time to write the recipient’s name

The first error that many people do is to miss to write the recipient’s name in the header of the email. This may seem a minor issue for someone but it’s not. If you’re writing to someone, you’re implicitly asking him/her to dedicate some of his/her free time to you, which isn’t something to underestimate. Freelancers constantly strive to have a good work/life balance, so passing additional time in front of a PC is not a trivial request. Besides, more time than not, a (good) reply is longer to write than the question. Writing a detailed answer may take several minutes. Therefore, take at least the time to write the recipient’s name. It allows you to seem more human and less a bot.

For example, in my case, avoid a header like Hi or Hello and take the time to write Hello Aurelio.

Be polite

Since I began to write articles and books, I started to receive more emails than before. Unfortunately, most of them are really unpolite. They usually didn’t come from people I made upset in some way, but from people who want my help for their own project or want to hire me.

As I asserted before, writing to someone is equal to require some of his/her time and his/her knowledge. You may think that writing a couple of sentences like I hope you’re doing well, or I know that you’re busy but…, or concluding with a Thanks for your time is a waste of time. However, I can assure you not only this isn’t true but it’s really much appreciated. Using sentences like those, shows that you’re conscious of the time that the recipient is offering to you and appreciate his/her effort.

Note for Italians (like me): Italian is an amazing language that, unlike English, allows to be much more formal. Therefore, if it’s the first time you get in touch with me, please, avoid “Hey Aurelio” or similar. I’m not your brother nor your friend. So, something like “Salve” and the use of “lei” is much more appropriate. This isn’t about me being presumptuous, it’s about you to be polite and use the correct form that, hopefully, you’ve learned at school.
If you need some good tips, you can read this document by my ex colleague Prof. Claudia Fabrizio

Explain who you are

When you send an email, always introduce yourself. It’s a way to establish a connection between you and the recipient. I can’t count how many times people have written to me without explaining who they were. Even people who got in touch with me to see if I was available to work for them, have sent an email like:


I want to know if you’re available to work on a 3 months project for my company.

How I can consider your enquiry if you don’t even introduce yourself, what the project is about and on which features I should work on?

I probably also have to mention that a company has asked me if I wanted to do some freelancing for them. Then, they asked for my CV?, as I’ve tweeted few days ago:

I love to help, not to do your work

I love to share my knowledge. Really. As I discussed with Slawomir Jabs (@arkanispl) few days ago, IT is the only field where knowledge is shared so nicely, for free, and with a such fast pace. Nonetheless, knowledge is also what you sell. It’s your knowledge and expertise that make the difference from a junior and a senior developer. It’s the knowledge that gives you a living. So, sharing is nice but doing your work is not. Demanding someone to do your work for free is just absurd.

The difference between sharing knowledge and doing other’s work is often misunderstood. Many people think that just because someone writes articles, sometimes for free, he is a kind of human Google. A software that they can use for their own purposes, which is obviously wrong.

As you may guess from this introduction, another type of email I receive belongs to the category do-my-work-for-me-and-for-free. It also happened that some of them belonged to the more specific category called and-asap.

As an example of this kind of emails, here’s a real one I received a while ago:

Hi Sir

I am big fan of yours i daily check all you post on twitter and Gits hub ,

Sir i am in final year , i have to submit a project using Java script, HTML ,CSS using phonegap .

My project is like i will have to develop application like , when ever i enter in my college block{building my phone should automatic set on scilent mode} and again when i came out from building automatic it will set on normal mode . using GPRS.

Sir i am not good in programming , i need source code of if , now your only the last hope other wise they will not give me my degree , i have to stay one more year here.
.Please Sir.


If the previous example wasn’t enough, here is another one:

Don’t be too long

With the previous points in mind you may think that you should write a poem. As Jeffrey Way (@jeffrey_way) pointed out:

To be more specific, in response to my reply he wrote:


With this article I really hope to have raised some important points that you have to keep in mind when writing your next email. I don’t want to seem rigid because I’m all but that, and those who know me know it. However, I think that a bit of more consideration for others in addition to more respect is much needed.

Learn how to Write an Email. Seriously.
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