Thoughts on e-mail subject lines

E-mail subject lines are just a few words, but they generate a lot of angst. Especially if you’re a beginning translator looking for clients, you’re going to be sending out a lot of cold e-mails. You want those e-mails to be read, but you’re selling language services, not no-prescription Viagra. Let’s start with the basics:

  • Never (NEVER) use all caps in the subject line of a marketing e-mail. Nothing screams “spam” like the caps lock button.
  • Never overstep the bounds of familiarity. When you’re mass-marketing a product, including the recipient’s first name in the subject line might be a good idea. “Hey Heather, the birthday cake’s on us!” kind of thing. But when you’re marketing high-end professional services, don’t do that unless you know the recipient.
  • Err on the side of directness. Give the recipient an honest sense of what the e-mail is about. Don’t do a bait and switch.

When you’re sending marketing e-mails to agencies (we’ll look at direct clients in a second), there’s no shame in using a very direct subject line. Agencies need translators. Agencies can’t operate without translators. You don’t have to hide the fact that you want to work for them. So, just use something like:

  • French to English translator seeking new clients
  • English to German medical translator interested in your agency
  • Inquiry from Italian to English translator: legal/financial specialist
  • Responding to your posting for English to Spanish translators

Because we all get so much spam e-mail, if you have any “hook” with this client, use it. That will increase the chances that your e-mail will be opened. “Referral from XYZ colleague,” “German to English translator based in (your area, if the agency is local),” “Following up on our conversation at the ATA conference.”

With direct clients, it’s a little more nuanced. You still want to use a clear subject line, but you don’t want to hit them over the head with a marketing pitch, especially if you’re just trying to create a connection. So, think about what motivated you to contact this client in the first place (other than wanting to work for them). Why are you writing this?

  • Congratulations on your expansion into Germany
  • Noticed your LinkedIn Pulse post
  • Inquiry from a translator specializing in your industry
  • Thanks for the excellent international marketing article

Other readers probably have good examples to share. The point is to be direct, without screaming, “Hire me to translate your stuff!” But when in doubt, just write something straightforward that indicates why you’re reaching out to this person.

6 Responses to “Thoughts on e-mail subject lines”
  1. Sherif Abuzid April 7, 2017
  2. Robert Rogge April 10, 2017
    • Corinne McKay April 10, 2017
  3. KC Low April 23, 2017
  4. Yanglish April 28, 2017

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