Oh, For the Love of Templates!
It didn't take me long to notice that every time I reached out to a client to schedule a call, I was saying pretty much the same thing. And my follow-up emails contained similar information, just different attachments.
And so began my love affair with templates. These are a huge time saver, especially when you're writing something that you know you've written before and you have this vision of how eloquent you were previously. I've spent nearly an hour trying to track down a particularly lovely email I wrote just so I wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel. Now I cut out that search time by adding well-written correspondence to my template list as soon as I write it.
"That's brilliant," I will tell myself, as I re-read how clearly I explained something like how to access our client tool box or why we recommend a particular strategy. "To the template reel you go!"
I also shamelessly steal my co-workers' silver-tongued stylings and add those to my templates as well. Clear and concise communication is the cornerstone of any well-run workplace, but the implications are 10-fold for those who work from a home office. There's no one else to back up anything you said or did in a meeting. There's no one walking by your office or cube to see you with your head down, nose to the grindstone. We home officers have email. That's what our jobs often boil down to.
Email templates don't have to be pretty or complicated. Mine is a 7-page Word document with a heading of what the template includes and then the body of the email. I guess I could divide my templates into 3 or 4 separate template according to topic, but I prefer to have them all in one place, so I always know where they are. I keep that document open all day.
Word of Warning
Templates are one thing. Form letters are quite another. In order to keep your template from sounding like "standard jargon" it's important to use templates as your foundation. Once you've cut and pasted it into the email, customize with client details. Add an intro sentence that is personal to the recipient - "It was great chatting today. Sounds like you had a great vacation to Cancun!" The goal is always to provide clarity for the customer, to communicate information clearly. A template is simply taking advantage of well-written information or instructions for the benefit of the client.
How else do you use templates in your business?