The nine kinds of emails we all wish we’d never get again

As a freelance writer, useless email is the bane of my existence & I’d rather be doing almost anything than looking at my inbox. And I know I’m not the only one, so let’s review the types of emails that need to just disappear into a black hole, never to be seen again, while we laugh-sob into our coffee and stare at the increasing number of unread emails mocking us with their need for a reply.

Ping. There’s another one. Sigh.

Okay, here we go:

1. The irrelevant/obnoxious PR pitch

I wrote a whole post about this, complete with tips on improving your PR emails, so read that for the full breakdown.

2. The irrelevant/obnoxious sales pitch

I’m a freelance writer, and that’s wildly apparent by spending thirty seconds looking at any of my profiles. But I definitely want to hear about your full suite of marketing tools for agencies (or enterprise ecommerce services, or…) and take time out of my day to be on the phone with your sales rep, who can’t even do the few minutes of research it takes to see I’m not a good fit. (Or that the person responsible for content marketing at my business would be me, since I’m a freelance content marketer.)

It’s not like I have anything better to do, right?

3. The “can I pick your brain?” email

“I don’t know you at all and we’ve never talked, but I had some questions about [freelancing/project management/pitching/something else]. Do you have an hour or two this week when I can pick your brain?”

That’s called consulting, and I charge money for it. (It’s also very likely I already wrote a blog post that answers your question(s). So maybe check that first.)

4. The “I want you to work for free but I don’t want to actually come out and say it” email

“Hi Michelle! I run the blog at Company X. We just published this several-thousand-word blog post: [link] We would love to get your feedback on it and hear your opinion as a freelance writer.”

That’s called editing, and I charge for it.

5. The “I want social shares for this blog post but I won’t just ask for them instead of dancing around the topic” email

Please don’t send me an article just “because you thought I might find it interesting.” I have to reply to that email, it’s a whole thing. Just ask me to tweet it. I’ll almost certainly do it as long as it isn’t a hot mess, just to get out of this awkward email exchange.

6. The “add a link to my product plz” email, about an old article that’s not even on my site

At least the third email for this specific article, in the last month or two

Sure. I’ll totally go back and edit a post I wrote for a client, to add your product, without the editor’s approval or any pay for the extra work. That sounds like a fun and useful way to spend my time.

7. The “I have a legitimate reason for talking to you and I’m going to suggest a specific time tomorrow that we should talk” email


This one is probably on me. My calendar is never clear at the suggested time and/or I never reply in time and these generally just make me feel like a failure of a human being.

8. The “I don’t know you but I feel totally okay writing you a 3,000 word email with approximately 1.5 million questions embedded in it and I expect you to reply within 24 hours or I’ll send a passive aggressive follow up email” email

Just. Really?

9. The passive aggressive follow up email

Because nothing says “relevant to freelance productivity” like party planning, right?

Bonus points if it has a super vague subject line. Like “The Other Day.” Extra bonus points if it’s the third follow-up email sent after an irrelevant sales pitch. (Which actually happened with the irrelevant sales email referenced in #2.)

What have we learned today?

  • If you’re going to send an email to somebody, for the love of kittens and cupcakes and coffee, please make sure it’s relevant to them.
  • If you’re going to ask somebody to give you their hard-earned knowledge or their time, at least flatter them first (slightly tongue in cheek, but seriously, do some research and show them this isn’t a mass copied & pasted email).
  • And make it quick — don’t beat around the bush for a whole paragraph before you make your ask.
  • If somebody doesn’t reply to three of your sales-pitch emails in a row, they are probably not interested. We all know sales and PR teams have email trackers installed. You can see I read the email, you can see I didn’t reply to it or your other three emails, just stop.
  • If you’ve committed one or more of these email sins, I know you’re probably not a terrible human being and that your boss is probably making you do it (or that some “thought leader” told you it was a tactic that worked). But I still reserve the right to not reply and/or be irritated that I have to wade through them, ’cause I’ve got shit to do & bills to pay.
  • Last but not least: everybody hates email, adjust your strategies accordingly.

Michelle Nickolaisen

Written by

Content marketing manager at Rebilly, writer (

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