How to minimize time spent on email, even when you're an online entrepreneur
Basically the running-your-own-business equivalent of a mosquito in your bedroom. It's always present, but never welcome.
In fact, it's an ongoing nightmare at times.
If you find your email is sucking the life and time out of your day, then this post was written just for you.
Implement a few of these suggestions and I can guarantee you'll cut your time spent in your inbox, dramatically.
So, let's reclaim your freedom from your inbox already, shall we?
1. Make your website crystal clear
Think of your website as the bouncer in front of your email inbox. If the bouncer can communicate what will get in and what won't, as well as answer people's questions straight away, you'll have less problems and questions to deal with on the inside. Here's a few specific tips.
Instead of having an FAQ page and a contact page, put your FAQ on your contact page, that way no one can miss it, and you won't be receiving emails to questions you've already answered on your site.
Pro tip: Be sure the FAQ is above your email address or contact form, not below it.
Write a list of emails which will not get responses. Eg. Say you have a blog on your website and have a policy of not accepting guest posts or sponsored posts. Write (again, above where your email is written or contact form is) that these emails will go directly to the trash can and not receive a response. #toughlove
Direct people to the pages on your website that has the info on the most common things you get asked. (Eg. from Nomadic Matt, he links to his destination guides, so he doesn't have to tell people individually by email to hit up the Eiffel Tower while in Paris.)
Give length guidelines. Eg. 'keep all emails to 2 paragraphs or less.'
PUT YOUR PRICES ON YOUR WEBSITE ALREADY! ... Can you tell I'm passionate about this one? Sorry, personal pet peeve when I can't find pricing. My argument of why I'm always in the 'put prices on your website' camp is here. (Teaser: It includes a fun story. AKA, it's worth a read.)
Include a clear process of how starting to work with you goes. This is super simple to do, but as every service provider is slightly different, it can be confusing to potential customers. And what do confused people do? They take to email, and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid! Process example:
Step 1. Inquire with this contact form.
Step 2. We chat over the phone.
Step 3. I send you a contract to be signed and an invoice to be paid,
Step 4. We're ready to start your project!'
2. Shared files
In our roles as online entrepreneurs collaborating on content happens frequently, wether it's an interview post or website copy or getting feedback on some sort of something we've written. Instead of emailing documents back and forth, use Google Docs to share documents, and allow for multiple contributors and editors.
As a website designer I need to collect many images from my clients for their websites. Instead of them sending me 7 emails with 5 photos each, I create them an individual client folder in Google Drive where they may leave all their photo content. My life is so much easier being able to access all of the photos in one place, rather than hunting through an Amazon-forest email jungle for the right photo in the right email. If you ever need to collect photos or lots of other files, a Google Drive folder shared between yourself and whoever it is you're working with is absolutely the way to go.
3. Pre-made documentation & scripts
Pre-made documentation & scripts? I know, I know, in your mind you're saying "well that sounds like the most boring thing on earth."
While yes, it sounds boring, done-for-me documentation & scripts has saved me an immeasurable amount of my time in my business, and it will do the same for yours too!
And I dunno about you, but time saving strategies are the farthest thing from boring in my world - in fact, they're hellah cool, therefore making pre-made documentation the bees knees.
If you run any type of service, or are finding yourself walking clients through the same things multiple times, just for different people, I've got news; there's a better way! I cover this in a lot more detail in this post; This 1 doc saves countless business hours, but I'll spark notes it here.
When I started my business and a new client would book I would email them in-depth details about the timeline of our project, how to sign our contract, how to make a Pinterest inspiration board, where to complete the Brand & Style Questionnaire, how to compile and label content in a Google Drive, provide links to websites that had free stock photos, etc.
They took forever to write, and while now and again things were slightly different (eg. I'd leave out the instructions on the stock photos if they already had photos), the emails had common threads throughout. I tried writing scripts and copying & pasting them, and while that helped, it was still a slow process.
I decided to create a Welcome package (PDF) walking each client through all of these things. It was an absolute game changer.
Create a Welcome PDF, or something similar - based on what you're always repeating to different clients/customers. Walk through common questions and explain in detail the process moving forward. People like to know what's happening next, so tell them!
Don't just stop at a Welcome PDF, do a Goodbye PDF, a best practices PDF, anything you can think of! If you're wasting time going through something again and again, PDF that thing and send it to people.
Pro tip: Auto send your PDF. In the past I've set up payments through my Squarespace site and made the item being sold a 'digital download.' When a client pays, they get the PDF auto-delivered to their email as a digital download, I don't even need to send the things - it's so great!
If you'd like to see an example, you can download the exact PDF I send my clients by popping in your email below. I hope that by sharing it with you, you can get a clear understanding of exactly what it is, and just HOW MUCH time I'm able to save by not having to type this bad boy out individually for clients by email.
Use it as your jumping off point to create your own document.
Pre-written scripts are kinda-sorta like my Welcome PDF in that it's a pre-written thing, but scripts are better for when it doesn't make sense to send a document. Eg. I write round-up blog posts, and instead of writing out a new email to each person to let them know they're mentioned, I have a pre-written script saved on my Mac Notes app. This can also be accomplished as a 'canned response' in Gmail. Whichever place you decide to hold your scripts isn't important, as long as they're already written and easy to access and use.
There we go, those are all of my fab tips to spend less time in my inbox! Do you have another amazing recommendation I haven't come up with yet? Well then gal, leave me a comment already and brain-dump your wonderful idea; I want to hear it!