How I Keep Email To 9-5 Only & Still Have Happy Clients
Let's be honest, most online entrepreneurs didn't leave slaving at their 9-5 to become a 24/7 slave to their inbox. I enjoy a relaxing weekend away at the countryside or grabbing cocktails with friends in the evening just as much as the next person.
When I first began my business I definitely dealt with an internal struggle related to email. I was new, I wanted my clients to LOVE me and my customer service skills, leave raving reviews and recommend me to everyone they knew who wanted a website designed.
I tended to respond to emails within the hour, but what did that lead to? A response 5 minutes later, 2 minutes after that, and another 7 minutes after that, all from the same client. My email basically became a chat box as I struggled to stay focused and be productive with my tasks when the 'ding' of a new email went off again and again.
This wasn't just a Monday-Friday daytime thing either, because clients knew I'd respond in lighting speed, they knew I always had an eye on my email and they would email me on weekends, holidays, 11 PM, 3 AM, whenever.
As this continued I became more and more frustrated, but really it was my own fault. I had set no expectations and was demonstrating to them that I was available around the clock.
There were a few key changes and an online tool I LOVE which has radically changed my inbox for the better.
I tell my clients that I don't work on weekends
In my intro call with clients I chat with them about the process of our project, the timeline they can expect work to be completed and I also let them know that I don't work on weekends. My lack of weekend work has not once affected a client's project being completed on time, I still have a 100% on-time completion record!
While I was nervous at first to make what I thought was a bold statement, not once has a client been upset over the fact that I like to, you know, live a normal life and have weekends work-free. I've even had clients encourage the importance I place on free time. (Those are the very best clients!)
If for some reason I get an inquiry over the weekend, my autoresponder takes well care of it!
I send emails in the way I want to receive them. AKA - I love numbered lists
I used to get a wild string of slightly incoherent ideas, links to inspiration and 9 emails containing 2 photos each around the clock. No more! When I request a client provides feedback on a website, I ask for one email with a numbered list of the edits to be made. I can then respond with a numbered list and address each item clearly.
1. Yes, we can do that, love the idea!
2. Can do, action required: please just send along the link you'd like for the button
3. I've checked and yes that is possible with your template
Instead of sending one email with a question and then another 5 minutes later, I make a conscious effort to send emails the way I like to receive them, numbered, organized, and containing absolutely everything in one message.
I only send email from 9-5 EST
Thankfully this practice seems to have sent a message (... get it!) and has drastically decreased the number of emails I receive on off hours. I do still get the occasional evening email, however clients have become accustomed to me responding in the morning, so they don't tend to blow up my inbox at night.
I'll let you in on a secret however, with the ability to set my own hours I do at times go grocery shop mid-day when the supermarket is empty and then work a little later into the night instead. (I do love this luxury). If the doctor only has daytime appointments that weekit's no big deal. In fact, there's times I take up the digital nomad lifestyle in which I travel and work simultaneously, so I'm not even in the EST! Not one email recipient has ever noticed however thanks to one of my favourite online tools, Boomerang for Gmail.
Boomerange for Gmail enables me to schedule my emails to send in the future. Most often I use this to send emails the following morning, or during 9-5 EST if I'm out of my normal timezone.
Here's how it works.
For my most loved feature, write your email and click the red 'Send Later' button. Select the day and time you want to send it. It will hang out in your 'Outbox' until it's delivered.
Bonus: If you think of something you want to add to the email later, you can edit it anytime before it's auto-sent.
I also quite like the 'Boomerang this' option. When I've sent an email requesting some type of information I can 'Boomerang this' so that if I don't get a response to an email, it will reappear as unread in my inbox a certain number of days later to remind me to again ask for whatever is needed. This way I never forget to follow up on important messages.
Between these two Boomerang features and my 3 action steps, my inbox is a whole new world. Clients and I are able to communicate efficiently and I'm able to actually get productive because I'm no longer tied to my inbox.
Tell me, have you made use of any other tools or actions to keep your workday productive and your free time free?