One of the most exciting aspects of being a freelance writer is the opportunity to work with people from various nationalities. Most of my clients are from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, with only a handful from my home country India.
Differences in communication styles across cultures*
While every client has their own style of writing emails, there are discernible differences in the style of communication of clients from different countries. For instance, clients from the US are more likely to start an email message without an opening hello, or addressing by name. Initially, I considered the terse email communication to be an affront, not realising that most Americans simply like to cut to the chase.
In comparison to the Americans, British clients are more formal and appreciative in their communications. Of all the nationalities, Canadians are the most flexible and enthusiastic in the way they approach a project. Australians are friendly in their communications as well.
Sadly, my most difficult work experiences have been in dealing with clients from my own country. Rather than feeling as a valuable contributor to the project (as was the case with clients from other nationalities), the style of communication of most Indian clients was more of a superior-subordinate relationship, with the client being the ‘boss’ 🙂 !
(*These observations are based solely on my experiences in working with international clients.)
While the tone of your communication may be friendly and even personal, remember that there is a business relationship at stake and everything you do makes an impression.
Here are some email etiquette guidelines:
Professional email opening / closing:
1. The number one rule of thumb when communicating with people from different countries is to be aware of the differences and adapt accordingly.For example, a Thailand based alternative healing expert who wanted web content for his business, signed off on emails as ‘Master’ and therefore I addressed him the same way in my communications. Although I did not finally get the project, my email exchanges with this client were the most ‘old school’ thus far.
2. While in UK and India, it remains acceptable to begin business emails with ‘Dear’, some international clients (in the US for instance) may consider the use of the word too intimate. Increasingly, ‘hello’ or simply the name of the person is considered an appropriate way to begin the email. Addressing a client with ‘hey’ would still be viewed as inappropriate for most business associations.
3. Sign-off’s have changed as well. ‘Yours faithfully /sincerely’ has been replaced with ‘regards, ‘kind regards’ or ‘best wishes’.
4. As an email chain becomes more of an online conversation, it is okay to drop the salutations and the sign-offs, and just write the main message.
5. Remember to include all your business co-ordinates as part of the sign-off (contact number, website, Skype, Facebook page, business motto).
Informal maybe, but always meticulous
6. Avoid use of slangs, as the acceptance of slang may differ across cultures.
7. Make the effort to write complete words. Avoid use of unnecessary abbreviations even when sending the email from your smartphone.
8. Ensure that there are no grammatical and spelling errors. If it is an important email, read it aloud to spot typos.
9. Do not type in upper case ( with the CAPS on), as it is interpreted as shouting.
10. In business emails, use a smiley only if you know it will be received well. To be safe, let the client make the first move 🙂 .
11. On an average, a person working in a company receives 50 emails day. If you want the client to respond to your email in the fastest time possible, write him/her a message that is clearly understood, and stated in the fewest words possible. For instance, if you are working on a long-term project, attaching a weekly status worksheet along with your main message will be more effective, than sending a verbose email.
12. If you feel things are not going well on email, do not hesitate to call your client or set up a Skype chat.
How you communicate by email speaks volumes about your professionalism, reliability, and image as a freelancer. So, remember to follow these basic email etiquettes.
I would love to hear of your experiences in dealing with clients from different countries. Drop in your feedback and comments in the box below.
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