Chris Murphy · 18 January, 2021
One of the most important lessons I've learned on Propel is the need to get to 'The Ask' quickly and stop wasting others' time with lengthy emails.
- Keep your first point of contact – email, social, face-to-face – short and sharp.
- Stop focusing on you, focus on them.
- Be clear about what you're asking for, don't beat around the bush. ¹
I've found this a difficult lesson to learn. In the past my emails were lengthy, biblical'esque epistles, encompassing all manner of content, often useless and utterly irrelevant to the task at hand.
I never stopped to put myself in the position of the receiver being inundated with what – in retrospect – was often totally useless information. I was far too focused on me and not focused enough on the recipient. (Looking back, I'm embarrassed.) ²
Get to the point.
I've learned now to tighten up my emails considerably, getting to the point quickly. I learned this from Jon Bradford – former MD of Techstars, London – during one of Propel's excellent Founder Firesides.
If I can't read an email when I'm out of the office, reading on my phone, I'll file it away to 'read later' (and I'll forget it). Put simply: Your email needs to fit on a single screen of a phone. —Jon Bradford
This applies to anyone you're trying to connect with, for example:
- Asking a distant mentor for some advice.
- Asking an investor for some money.
- Asking a respected designer you'd like to interview.
Keep your email short and sharp, focus on the recipient and ask directly. ³
(1) They will either: 1. Say yes; 2. Say no; 3. Equivocate; or 4. They won't reply. If they don't reply, don't give up. A short – much shorter – follow up might get you a response. Perhaps they are just busy. Read this for advice on your follow up.
(2) Here are some practical examples of edits I've made.
(3) If you're a member of The School of Design, I'll happily walk you through how I write emails like this in a coaching session or one of our office hours. I'll also show you a series of redacted examples that are in the private library