How to Email a Stranger



This contributor post was written by Tiffany Han.

On Friday, August 23, I published a blog post announcing that I’m pregnant with twins (due in Feb!). On Saturday, August 24, I got an email from a stranger, asking me to participate in a program she was running. Later that day, I got a facebook message from a life coach I’ve never met asking me to help promote her new e-book. Neither mentioned my big news.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to be as excited as I am about the babies, but a personal touch goes a very long way especially when you are contacting a complete stranger asking her to do something for you.

Reaching out to strangers is a big part of running an online business. Here are some tips to help you do it successfully:

  • Start personal. Yes, you might think that the best way to open the email is to let the person you’re writing know how much you love her work/have in common with her/are inspired by her, but what we all want to see in our emails is proof of a personal connection. Instead, start out by mentioning how much you love stalking her dog on Instagram (works every time!) or her new haircut or her latest DIY project (um. That flower ampersand. Did you die a little at how awesome it was?). When it comes to asking for help, flattery will get you everywhere.
  • Keep it short and sweet. 3 paragraphs of 2-3 sentences each max and shorter than you think it needs to be. If there is a ton of information about the project you want to share, create a special page or section of your website to link to, including: “If you’d like to participate and want more information about this project, click here.” A concise email is much more likely to get read, and a read email is much more likely to get responded to.
  • Link, don’t attach. Again, following the rule above, if there are graphics and/or images you want to include, create a link to them rather than including them as an attachment. (Exception: if submission guidelines for a certain site ask for attachments, send attachments – see next point.)
  • Follow the offered guidelines. Interested in submitting a guest post to your favorite blog? Check the contact page to see if they 1. are accepting guest posts and 2. have submission guidelines. If they do have submission guidelines, follow them. To a T. Many editors and bloggers spend a great deal of time crafting their submission guidelines, so use that information to your advantage.
  • Know their work. I get emails all the time from people asking to guest post on my blog, even though I rarely feature guest posters. Know how people typically publish and use that information to your advantage. For example, you’re much more likely to have Brittni share one of your DIY’s on her Friday roundup than write about your new 3D robot printing e-book. (Although a book about 3D printing robots does sound pretty rad, right B?)
  • Promote them first. Make a list of your dream collaborators, promoters, and content sharers. The people you’d LOVE to get a mention from, and start following them all on twitter (hootsuite is a great resource for following lists!). Spend some time saying hello, sharing their stuff, and opening up the doors to conversation. Even though this may not end up with a share from them, there will be some reference when you finally do send that email.
  • Look outside your niche. I am a coach. I have a lot of friends who are coaches whose work I believe in. Therefore, I am very unlikely to promote the work of a coach I don’t know or someone who I haven’t had any experience with. As you think about promotional opportunities, look beyond your niche and see who else might be able to help you (and who you could help in return!).
  • Don’t neglect your own community. Yes, getting mentions from big-name bloggers can be a great way to grow your audience and promote your work. But you know what else works too? Putting time and energy into your own work and creating high-quality content that people can’t wait to read. Don’t put all of your energy into the other guys and don’t spend all your time hoping that someone else will notice and mention what you do. Instead, take that energy and put it towards your own work. Invest in your own blog and your own community. It might take time, but it’s the ultimate answer to success in this online world.

Your turn: do you have any tips or success secrets for reaching out to strangers? Share your tips in the comments below.

image credit: Hello Sunshine from Rifle Paper Co

Tiffany Han, CPCC is a coach for highly-creative people who want to wake up happy. If you’re feeling the growing pains of running your creative business and are ready to STOP spinning your wheels and actually get stuff done, her blog is sure to light your fire.

19 comments | Click here to reply

These are great tips! Thank you so much for sharing!

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Becca recently posted..Weekend Wardrobe

Becca | September 3rd, 2013 at 10:58 am

Glad Tiffany’s post was helpful for you Becca. Thanks for stopping by.

papernstitch | September 3rd, 2013 at 11:47 am

I agree, really really great tips, Tiffany!! (and a big Congrats about the twins news – so exciting!) I’ll be sure to keep all these in mind the next time I have to send emails 🙂

Jessica (Coco & Mingo) recently posted..Home interiors: Seeing grey

Jessica (Coco & Mingo) | September 3rd, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thank you so much for the great tips! I am on the “Promote them first” phase.
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Quyen | September 3rd, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Congratulations on your twins! My twins are 7, and I remember how thrilled I was when I was expecting them. I just HAVE to recommend this book:
Good luck!
And lovely advice, too. 🙂

Brianna Siegrist | September 3rd, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I’ve never read a post like this before but it’s such a great idea! I’ve had mixed success at contacting people whom I’ve had no introduction to. Great tips, I’m already thinking about how to apply them!
teamvicky recently posted..Vintage Inspired Great Gatsby Hair Tutorial – Update

teamvicky | September 3rd, 2013 at 2:29 pm

first off HOLY SMOKES CONGRATULATIONS!!!! we don’t know each other but anytime i hear of a woman being pregnant i basically well up with tears. twins!! omg. i have a 1 year old… and am very mama-sentimental… 🙂 i just saw a woman in the grocery store with 4 month old twins and a toddler i congratulated her, too. i’m a nerd.

secondly… great post!! so very true. i get emails fairly often with totally random requests like a book review of a barely related topic or to guest post. it’s best to do your research before approaching someone you want to work with!! xo
lyndsay // coco cake land recently posted..Dog Cake Topper DIY

lyndsay // coco cake land | September 3rd, 2013 at 4:30 pm

What a fantastic article. So many people dive right into how the favor will help them (the asker), rather than the person they’re asking. Another great tip I’ve heard is to keep a 3:1 ratio of gives versus asks. Once you’ve given three shout-outs, your ‘stranger’ (now friend) will be way more open to your request.
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Kiri | September 3rd, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Great advice!
The personal touch really makes a difference.
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Paper Acrobat | September 3rd, 2013 at 8:02 pm

What a great post! Thanks for sharing and many blessings to you and your expanding family! Congrats!

Elizabeth | September 3rd, 2013 at 8:15 pm

such a timely post! i received an email from a guy with a shipping&packing company asking if i would let him do a guest post. um… huh? i write a blog about random acts of happiness! unless you’re going to help people move for free… 🙂
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jennifer prod | September 3rd, 2013 at 8:40 pm

These points are so true!
I love all the points you stated there, Tiffany!
Before sending a pitch email, put your position as a recipient and read if it catches or not.

And oh by the way, congrats on your pregnancy, Brittni! 😀

Cindy Kuo | September 4th, 2013 at 10:21 am

Congratulations on your pregnancy. I can’t wait to see what you start making when you get to the nesting phase. I learned how to rebuild and upholster furniture when I was 8 and 9 month pregnant! Great article. Thanks
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Cherie Killilea | September 4th, 2013 at 10:44 am

These are fantastic tips. Thanks for sharing! You’re absolutely right about the last one too. I just started blogging a few months ago and have decided to keep my head down and generate content before I worry about promoting it too much.

I’ll be sharing these in my weekly web roundup next week. Thanks again!
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Yang | September 4th, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Brittni! Congratulations on the twins! Will you promote me?

HA! I love you and Tiffany, and this advice. xo

Melanie | September 4th, 2013 at 6:02 pm

This post really resonated with me so I thank you for sharing. Respect for the person and their work goes a long way when requesting a favor. Your tips are right on target. Congratulations on your pregnancy! You must be over the moon!

Tracey | September 6th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Congrats on the little babies you’re about to have!! I’m a February baby, maybe they’ll share with me!
Loved this post. Very helpful! I definitely needed these tips seeing as I’m starting out!

Love your blog!

Laura | September 6th, 2013 at 10:26 pm

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