Gmail has plenty of hidden features that can really help you up your freelancing game. One in particular has made me able to handle the stack of email that comes my way every day much easier: canned responses. By creating a few template emails that handle most situations and saving them as canned responses, you can speed up your ability to respond to sources, send out queries and more. Here are just a few ways canned responses can help you out.
- Process HARO responses: I use Help A Reporter Out to find sources, but I can often wind up with sixty responses to a request. I have a standard response that I send out to those sources who I can’t actually use. I also will save my questions as a canned response — if I’m interviewing two people for the same article, I’ll often start with similar questions, although I may customize them.
- Speed up query letters: While every query letter should be customized to the editor you’re sending it to, some sections — like your writing experience and contact information — aren’t going to be very different between emails. I’ve created a template that includes a paragraph that I include in every query, as well as a general template to remind me to include the important parts of a query.
- Explain your rates: Prospective clients may email you, wanting to know what you may charge for a project. You can write a standard response that you always use or create an estimate template — either option is just as easy with canned responses.
- Send out reminders: I handle most of my invoices and other paperwork with my clients by email. That includes sending out reminders to pay invoices, sign contracts and other emails that don’t really need to be written from scratch every time you send them out.
- Make sure your finished project is complete: I’ve put together a template for sending completed projects to clients. It reminds me to attach both the project and the invoice, and includes a few standard paragraphs about revisions and further work. This template has saved my bacon more than once — I’ve almost forgotten to attach the actual project to an email I was about to send a client. A small note in my canned response made all the difference.
If you’re interested in using Gmail’s canned responses feature, you’ll need to turn it on in Gmail’s settings. It’s listed under Labs. Some other email tools have similar capabilities to create email templates.