Figuring out how to write canned email templates for your business, from client communication to autoresponders, is one of the first systems I installed into my business.
My mastermind buddy Chanti Slack messaged me the other day: “Are you naturally gifted at organization and boundaries and all the stuff that makes your biz spectacular OR have you worked with business coaches or particular people who’ve helped you set up those systems? I just wonder what would be possible if I got systems in place?”
First, I have to say I WISH I had the footloose, fancy-free vibe my friend Chanti does, because she’s the type to spend half a year studying yoga in India (love you, Chanti!).
To answer, it’s a mix—I know I’m a little Type A naturally, but I also learned a TON about project management and client template workflow working on the Delta Air Lines account in my PR firm/agency days.
Canned email template copy can help you conquer your email inbox, get more done in less time, say no gracefully.
Simply put? It’s pretty much the easiest way you can start outsourcing.
Today, I want to tell you how I created 36 email templates for my business in—yup—a single day. It was pretty early on in my business (maybe about 3 months in), too.
Here are 3 tips for how to write email templates, so you can get copy up and running in your business. Read on to find out:
- My soapbox on why I think this is important
- How to figure out the templates you need, plus the ones you may *not* have thought of that are good to have on hand.
- Three systems that work really well to house your email templates … including the two I use (& a discount to get started with one of them today)
Plus, grab this checklist of 28 templates you need to have in your arsenal to keep your tone and voice tight.
Why You Need Canned Email Template Copy
Quick story from my former life: Representing Delta, I’d help manage the customer recognition flow, inviting Million Milers and Diamond Medallion Skymiles members to events, sending them goodies like sporting event and opera tickets—basically, helping let them know that Delta truly valued the kazillions they spent with the airline each year flying back and forth around the world.
And how do you plow through a mega-list of SkyMiles members in an afternoon while maintaining the professional, savvy, intellectual-but-down-to-earth brand voice that Delta uses?
With a bevy of templates, that’s how!
It wasn’t until I heard my client-turned-friend Jenna Kutcher bring up templates for small businesses at Illume Retreat that the lightbulb clicked 2 months into my business, and I realized that crafting brand voice for Delta was the same as for Ashlyn Writes: templates help me maintain my story, brand voice, Ashlyn-isms, and—most importantly—the important details of each email.
Here’s the thing—I heard one time that “networking is not working,” and I’d argue that time spent in your inbox is the same: while it feels like progress being made, truth be told, batting off emails feels like a tennis lesson with the ball machine … it never quite ends, and hitting that elusive inbox zero only means the ricochet’s coming back around.
Studying productivity is like, my side passion, but this stat always gets me: we don’t work as much as we think we do.
“None of us works anything like as hard as we think we do. According to studies in the US and elsewhere, people routinely overestimate their working hours by at least 10%—when you compare how hard people say they work to diary entries, the two don’t tally.” – The Financial Times
Author Laura Vanderkam writes extensively on this in 168 Hours.
Okay, so IF I don’t work as much as I think I do, WHERE DOES THE TIME GO!!?!
We spend 1/3 of our hours a week in our inbox, according to writer Jocelyn K. Glei, and field around 122 emails a day.
I used to have a boss that would email me and ask 30 seconds later if I’d opened it yet … NOT ideal, right? Um, no ma’am, I’m WORKING, so I haven’t had my inbox dinging me every message I get.
Being able to only be in my inbox for 1 or 2 hours a day—meaning most the day, email isn’t even up on my browser tabs—is one of the biggest perks of being an entrepreneur: I actually put my creativity to work on project-based tasks, which are the revenue-generators for us as business owners.
I talked about email inbox management a bit at Trouvaille Workshop, and gave a few of my favorite tough-love resources that helped me shift my mindset:
Since I’m first to hit send on a snarky response given limited sleep and a frustrating day, having templates in place makes sure that even on a late night of emailing, my brand voice is maintained!
PLUS, email template copy helps you stand firm on your boundaries and say no gracefully.
If you’ve ever gotten that request to change a part of your contract you’re not comfortable with, if you’ve ever needed to remind a client a payment was overdue, or any other potentially sticky situation, you’ve got locked-and-loaded copy that maintains your voice and brand, is carefully edited, and ensures you don’t forget something important.
Last thing, and I’m done. When I talk about email template copy, I’ve gotten push-back before, like “well I like to give a personalized experience to everyone.”
I’m NOT saying you don’t get to do that.
“I don’t mindlessly use templates. Depending on the circumstances, I may personalize the response or even respond in a completely different way. Regardless, the template covers 90 percent of the requests and frees me up to focus on the other commitments I have made.”
That’s why I like them. Honestly, they let me get more personal—we get back to more emails in a timely fashion, and knowing I’ve got the big notes in the template, I can use my speedy inbox time to be more personal.
Okay, so now you’re tracking with me, where to next?
How to Figure Out the Email Template Copy You Need in 3 Steps
When your inbox is clocking a big ol’ number—blog readers, partnership opps, guest posting opps, potential clients, etc.—it’s SO easy to ignore things. I used to do this.
“One strategy would be just to ignore these requests. Many people do just that. However, I didn’t think that would reflect very well on me or my work. Instead, I wanted to be responsive, even if I had to decline their request. – Michael Hyatt
I WILL say that as my little creative business has grown the past 2 years, I’ve ebbed and flowed. I got good at templates and time management, we grew a ton quickly, and I got bad again. So, when you read all this, think it through: It MAY be best to hand these templates off to an assistant or online business manager if you’re still having a hard time getting through your inbox. There is NO way I could answer all the emails we get in a day, so hiring on my online business manager/right hand girl Kate has been one of the best investments I’ve made.
The easiest way to mine the email template copy you need on hand is to go back through your inbox and see what emails you send 3+ times.
You may send thanks-but-no-thanks emails, coffee date responses, when-does-your-course-open-again responses, general newsletter responses, etc.
Anytime I write an email three different times, it goes on my template copy list. More on how I house that info below, but I keep a running list … it’s one of those projects that’s never really finished!
Go through your client workflows, and create a template for each step of that process. You’re sending these emails CONSTANTLY, so button them up.
You’ll also need some basics on hand, like a pitch template for podcast interviews, guest blog posts, speaking if you’d like to (Click here for my podcast on how to incorporate speaking in your business), partnerships you’d like to do with other creatives, etc., if you’re doing those in your business.
I revert back to PR girl a bit when it comes to these, and track them in Google Sheet, as well as keep an exact copy of the pitch I sent on hand in my Google Drive, too. Here’s what that looks like for me:
After you go through those 3 steps, you’ve likely knocked out the big emails you need. This is how I came up with the 36 emails I’d be using in my business in a day: 16 were client process (calligraphy + copywriting), 17 were customer service, 3 were pitch-ish templates.
Where to House Your Email Templates
Finally, you need some sort of housing system for all this: There’s no perfect system for this! But, here are 3 ideas to get you rolling. I do use all 3 systems in my business, and I’ll explain how/why below!
How to Use Gmail’s Canned Responses Feature
First, there’s Gmail’s Canned Responses plugin. I’ll be honest, I used it for about 6 months before figuring it out well (slow learner!), BUT, I’m including it because a lot of creative entrepreneurs love them some Canned Responses.
Nowadays, this is how my assistant Kate quickly plows through the inbox.
Essentially, the plugin allows you to save any email draft in a file as a pre-set, canned response, ready to be updated for you to send. Again, when I was managing the inbox all by my lonesome, it didn’t *quite* work for me because I had so many templates and couldn’t locate them well, but like I said, a lot of people love this tool! Kate LOVES it, and is a whiz at it.
How to Store Them in Google Docs
Next, is good ol’ fashioned Google Docs. This is where I keep all my non-client workflow templates housed, so there are now 36 (the magic number, I guess!) in all on my list. VA extraordinaire Indigo Colton helped plow through my inbox to pull the common responses I was sending, and we added those to the list of 17 I’d already had on hand.
One of my go-to ninja moves in Google Docs that is a game changer is hyperlinking within a doc. I’d been doing it for years in Word and Pages, but the day I figured out Google Docs could do this too was a blue ribbon morning in the office. If you have a document that’s super-duper lengthy (i.e. basically any email launch funnel sales copywriting or website copy I write!), this is a sweet way to hop around the doc.
Here’s a little sneak-peek of how that works.
How to File them in HoneyBook
Lastly, I keep my client workflow templates inside HoneyBook, my client relationship management platform.
This is helpful since I’ve got so MANY templates, and all of these are sent within HoneyBook anyway since they’re client-facing and used as I work through the project for my calligraphy clients and copywriting clients.
Be sure to number them according to your workflow, like:
I. Initial Response & Brochure
II. Agreement & Contract
III. Initial Questionnaire
IV. Kick-off Call Scheduler, etc.
Quick peek at how those go into our HoneyBook system:
… so you can tick them off in your HoneyBook workflow. They’re all auto-saved, so I just open, jazz up, and send to my clients! You can also set these up to send on automation—whoop whoop!