and I’d love to share a few tips with you in regards to getting email DONE… and I mean REALLY done… like, a totally clean inbox that is organized and up to date. Please know that having a totally clean inbox only happens once in a blue moon for me. This isn’t a daily occurrence. This is what I try to remember when I’m overwhelmed with my inbox: “Having too many emails shows that your business is active and growing… is it a pain? Yes, but try to consider your emails as “growing” pains. It’s just part of the job that has to be done in order to move forward.” I need to frame that and put it beside my desktop on days when the emails are coming in quicker than I can return them. It’s hard to stay on top of these things but I have come up with a few little systems that seem to work.
1. Set aside a chunk of time for emails in the AM and PM and then don’t mess with your inbox throughout the day. If you leave Gmail up in the background, you’ll constantly see emails coming in and you’ll get derailed every time you see this: “Inbox (3)”. Am I right or am I right? :)
2. Respond to client emails FIRST. They get priority. They are the ones you’re serving and they should come first. When I get a client email, I immediately label them as either:
CLIENTS : Wedding Inquiry
CLIENTS: Wedding BOOKED
CLIENTS: I’m Booked
CLIENTS: Too Expensive
This is super helpful when they return my email because I can see their labels and I know which emails I need to respond to first. After I respond, I click “Archive” and it stores the email in its’ proper folder. (Ps. I keep all emails, even for clients that don’t book)
3. Time Limits: Set time limits. If you’re responding to an email from another photographer and it’s taking you an hour to answer 5 questions, that’s not the best use of your time. You’re actually losing money… uh-oh. It’s a GREAT thing to help out… but you have to be smart about it too. Blogging about FAQ’s is the FASTEST way to speed up those emails. When someone emails me about preparing images for their blogs, I send them the BLOGSTOMP post I did last year and that email is taken care of in 30 seconds. Think about it… if you have 30 emails in your inbox that need your attention and you spend just 3 minutes per email, it’s going to take you an hour and a half to get that done. Yikes! You could write a blog post or two in that time frame! I have a two minute rule. No email should take over two minutes…. and this next tip can help do stick to that rule…
4. Use templates. I’m not saying that you don’t need to be personal… you definitely do!! But if 3 brides email you this week and ask about what their timeline should look like, you shouldn’t be writing that timeline out every time. Start creating templates for the emails you’re sending on a regular basis.
5. Categorize! I have a category for EVERYTHING! Actually, I have categories and then sub categories. Here are some examples:
PERSONAL < New House, Taxes, Church, Friends, Purchases
CLIENTS < Wedding Inquiries, Weddings Booked, Weddings I’m Booked, Weddings Too Expensive, Albums, Kind Words
BUSINESS < Services, Purchases, ShootQ, Showit, Speaking
6. “Star” the emails that take extra attention or are time sensitive. In Gmail, you can star the important messages. So if I have an email from a client that requires me to do something outside of the inbox, I star it so that I can get it down quickly. For example, if a client says their plus site has a broken link, I’ll star that when it comes to my iPhone so that I can fix it as soon as I get on Gmail at my desktop.
7. Reply by DATE. When I start returning emails, I start at the bottom of my inbox so that those that have waited the longest get responded to first! In Gmail, I can see the dates very easily and most of the time, those dates serve as my markers for how much I can get done in the morning and the evening. So if it’s Feb 21st, I’ll make sure I repsond to all of the Feb 19th and some of the Feb 20th emails in the morning. The rest will wait until the evening.
8. Make your inbox CUTE. It really does help to have an inbox that is well branded… but maybe that’s just me because I’m obsessed with that stuff!