The Follow-Up Is the Most Important Email You’ll Ever Write
This story is part of Forge’s How to Write Anything series, where we give you tips, tricks, and principles for writing all the things we write in our daily lives online, from tweets to articles to dating profiles.
I once waited eight months for a job offer. That’s 240 days from interview to “Let’s talk salary.” While this delay was partly due to the cumbersome budgets and org charts of big media companies, I’m convinced the offer eventually came because of one reason: I kept following up.
Crucially, my follow-up emails to HR were light, not accusatory. They were the gentle poke of a single finger even though my brain was screaming “Put me out of my misery.” Most importantly, these notes kept me on their mind.
Handled properly, the follow-up email is a crucial weapon. Learn how to craft it well, and you’ve mastered the art of emailing.
Yes, you might feel like a nag. That’s because, well, you are. “Just checking in” causes pinpricks of anxiety for the recipient because those words implicitly signal “I’m waiting on you, please hurry up.”
Advocating for yourself might feel awkward, but research has shown that asserting our needs, even in small ways, can lead to less anxiety, greater self-esteem and sense of agency, and better relationships.
As a freelancer, I owe most of my income to follow-up emails. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few key phrases and techniques that work. Here’s how to remind people that you exist (without saying “just checking in”).
When you haven’t received a response to a cold email
Look at your original email and ask yourself if it even warrants a response. If it’s full of praise but includes no request, they could have easily read it, thought, “How nice!” and failed to respond because you didn’t provide an action item.