Handwritten notes: a secret business weapon

Here’s an environmentally-incorrect confession: I love paper. I live in a little house, we have one car, I ride my bike to work, I’m a vegetarian, and we don’t have a clothes dryer. But I’m clinging to paper with all I’ve got: the little house is full of paper magazines and books, I take meeting notes on paper, and I love sending and receiving paper cards in the mail. Let’s look at some ways to use handwritten notes as a secret weapon in your freelance business.

Handwritten notes are appealing for obvious reasons:

  • They stand out amid the flood of e-mail that we all receive.
  • They show that you’re willing to take the time to send something truly personal.
  • Who gets anything interesting in the mail anymore? At my house, it’s 98.7% ads and bills. A personal card makes an impression.
  • They are clearly not generated by a spambot. This is sad, but it’s getting hard to differentiate legitimate fan e-mail (“Hey Corinne! I love your blog!”) from fan e-mail that is automatically generated. Handwritten notes circumvent that problem.
  • You can enclose things like a business card in them.
  • You don’t need the person’s e-mail address to send them.
  • They are a gift that doesn’t cost anything, so doesn’t seem like overkill. When someone does a favor for you, and you want to express appreciation but it might seem odd to offer to pay them, a handwritten card can split the difference.
  • They are another way to ping a client without being annoying. Without sending yet another, “Got any work for me yet???” e-mail.

You can use handwritten notes in various situations.

  • I send every client a handwritten note after they pay me for the first project; I think it gives a more personal tone to the relationship and shows them that I appreciate working with them.
  • In the early years of my freelance business, when I was actively looking for agency clients, I made copious use of handwritten notes. If I received any response from the agency, even, “Don’t need you right now but we’ll keep your information on file,” I sent a card. It said something like, “Thank you so much for responding to my inquiry about French to English translation work with your agency. I really appreciate your time, and hope to collaborate with you soon.” Then I popped a business card in it and sent it. Interestingly enough, those business cards kicked around people’s offices for a while, and I received several inquiries years later, still based on those initial cards.
  • I send cards to colleagues who refer me for substantial jobs.
  • I send cards to people who give presentations or classes that I really enjoy.
  • Lately I’ve been experimenting with cards as an actual marketing technique: sending them to prospective clients. This offers the added bonus that you don’t need the person’s e-mail address, only their name and the company’s mailing address.
  • I would definitely recommend handwritten notes if you’re aggressively trying to build up your agency client base. Agencies get so many unsolicited applications, and many of them are spam. Even if the agency doesn’t respond at all, send a card saying, “I recently applied for English to German translation work via your website. I’m looking forward to the next steps in the application process and hope to collaborate with you soon.” Enclose a business card.

Closing tip:

Give some thought to the actual cards. If you live in a distinctive place, that’s a good start. I have a former student from Alaska who sends out “Northern Lights” cards that are very representative of where she lives. If I’m sending the card to someone I know, I might go for something whimsical, like these zoo animals doing yoga. But don’t send an elephant in crow pose to a potential client, unless perhaps you translate for yoga retreat centers! For most prospective clients, go with a high-quality, conservative card and write with a nice pen.

Readers, any other examples of how you use handwritten cards?

16 Responses to “Handwritten notes: a secret business weapon”
  1. Victoria Patience February 21, 2017
    • Corinne McKay February 21, 2017
  2. Yulia February 21, 2017
    • Corinne McKay February 21, 2017
  3. Kyle Callahan February 21, 2017
    • Corinne McKay February 21, 2017
  4. Ashraf February 23, 2017
  5. Nick Crosby February 24, 2017
    • Corinne McKay February 24, 2017
      • Nick Crosby March 1, 2017
  6. Jillian Droste March 4, 2017
    • Corinne McKay March 6, 2017
  7. Kenneth Cargill April 12, 2017
  8. Susan June 14, 2017
    • Corinne McKay June 14, 2017
  9. Arabic Translator July 5, 2017

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