One of my main mottos for my business, and well, my life, is “Work SMARTER, not harder”. This is something I try to apply to all aspects of my business, but particularly the ones that are not always as much fun or may be a little bit more tedious…like sending emails. Don’t get me wrong, I love corresponding with my clients (and potential clients, too!), but if you aren’t careful with your inbox, you might find yourself sitting in front of a mountain of messages seemingly impossible to get through. With my motto in mind, here are a few things I’ve found that make managing the inbox a piece of cake!
Organize your inbox into folders
If you’re anything like me, your inbox gets really cluttered really quickly. I only use one email address for pretty much everything because I can’t keep up with checking a bunch of different inboxes, so pretty much any messages for me (business or personal) go straight into the one inbox. It can get a little wild in there if I’m not careful. And a message I might have read, but decided to wait to reply to, might slip through the cracks just because there is just so much stuff in there. So, what I do, to prevent that from happening, is organize all of my messages into folders. Inquiries, receipts, client emails, vendor correspondence, blog stuff, etc all go into their own folders as soon as I’ve read and replied. This way, when I’m looking at my inbox in the morning, I know everything in there is something I actually need to deal with.
As a wedding photographer, I type the same things a lot. Inquiries, gallery delivery, and such all have very similar verbiage almost every time. So I use an applet for Gmail called Canned Responses, which allows me to save email templates and insert them into new messages super quickly. So when a new client inquires, I use my template, I tailor it to the individual who’s inquiring, and then boom, send that sucker out. It’s so much easier and faster than typing the same exact things all the time. My fingers are so happy about Canned Responses.
One thing I hear a lot and see people stressing about in photography forums is clients emailing them back the same day or the day after they sent an email asking “Did you get my email??”. An easy way to prevent this is to set your client’s expectations. In my email signature, I have my “office hours” listed. Thanks to this, most people are aware that after 4:30 in the afternoon, I’m out of the office for the day, and I won’t be replying to their email until the next day. I also set an “out of the office” message if I’m going to be out all day traveling for a session, or if we’re shooting a wedding and won’t be checking mail during the day at all that day. This lets your clients know that you are unavailable, but you will get to their message when you become available again. I also try not to send emails when I am not “in the office” because I don’t want to set the expectation I will answer outside of my “office hours”. So much of great customer service is really setting expectations and then exceeding those. And you aren’t able to exceed an expectation if you don’t set one in the first place, am I right?
But, Katie, you say….I work full time/am a mom/etc and only really have time to answer my emails at 1am, when my kids sleep, etc. How do I set an expectation that clients will only receive responses within a certain amount of hours of the day if I’m only able to send my emails anytime I have a free minute to do so? That leads me to my next tip….
Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang is da bomb. If you don’t know what it is, it’s an app you can install into your gmail that will let you schedule when your emails are sent! You can also use it to “boomerang” messages back to the top of the inbox if you need to remember to reply the next day or within a week or so. I love it because I can knock out a bunch of messages on a Sunday night while I’m watching reruns of Fear Factor (real talk, Fear IS a factor for me) and then schedule them to go out the next morning, thereby preserving the email expectation I set for my clients ahead of time.
These are just a few simple things I do that greatly help me manage my inbox a lot more easily. In addition to these tips, just taking a few minutes at the beginning and end of each work day to reply to messages really helps keep things under control! Hopefully at least one of these things will be helpful to someone out there struggling with their inbox!
Is there something you’d like to see in a future For Photographers post? Email me your questions at katie at katienesbittphotography.com