I don’t know about you, but email is both my worst enemy and my best friend.
Am I right? 🙂
And as business continues to grow, so does the amount of email demanding my attention.
That’s because when you’re working for someone else, email management isn’t as much of an issue. You’re one cog in a machine rather than the machine itself. That makes it easier to push distractions like email aside.
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But things don’t seem to work that way in the magical land of creative freelancing.
Because you wear so many hats, email reading gets pushed aside in order to get billable work completed.
However, productivity experts suggest keeping your email empty (have you ever heard of Inbox Zero?). When you have no email, nothing should distract you from what needs to get done.
But if you’re like I was, you probably find yourself doing things like managing email when you should be sleeping.
You’ll also like: 5 Ways email is killing you and your business (+ 5 solutions)
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Why email management is important
Like the air you breathe and the taxes you pay, there’s no way to completely eliminate email from your professional life, even if you wanted to.
But it’s one of the biggest productivity killers for any creative freelancer.
So where’s the balance?
First off, it’s critical to become an expert in using all the features provided by your email client to manage your inbox. These include:
- flagging messages as spam,
- creating filters,
- setting up rules, and
- utilizing autoresponders.
But sometimes the features that come with your favorite email program aren’t enough. (This is especially true when you’re receiving 100+ messages per day.)
What should you do instead?
Glad you asked…
Your new best friends: delete & unsubscribe
There’s some annoyingly persistent voice inside of me that says I am obligated to read every email, no matter who it is from.
After all, I did give them my email address for a reason, right?
You can control your email, or let it control you. Things that work well include:
- Delete all unopened email within 24 hours
- Unsubscribe to weekly or daily newsletters and coupons you never open
- Once a week, delete everything you haven’t opened
Now, I realize that this is WEIRD advice coming from an author on a blog who wants you to subscribe to our email list.
Didn’t I just tell you to unsubscribe and / or delete emails?
Why would we do that? Because here at Millo, we’re not looking for subscriptions just for numbers’ sake. We work really hard to make sure we’re not one of the “I’ll get to it eventually” emails.
Stop compulsively checking your email
99 times out of 100, your email can wait.
Even the URGENT! HELP! messages. (Clients often have a funny definition of “urgent” until it starts costing them extra money.)
Don’t leave your email open while you’re working, and turn off notifications when you get one.
Silence your phone, too.
If you really need something from your email, save it such that you can access the information outside of your inbox.
Start scheduling your email delivery
Worried about missing an important email? Both include an autoresponder feature. Use it to tell your clients to contact you another way if they need immediate assistance.
Inbox Pause is a free Chrome/Firefox extension that works with Gmail. It’s really made a big difference in how I communicate with my clients.
Mailbox began as a free mobile app for iOS and Android, but now works with Mac users on a traditional desktop, too. This app came as a suggestion from one of our mastermind group members, and it appears to function just like Inbox Pause.
Obsessively organize your email
Nothing wastes more time than wading through an endless string of emails that have nothing to do with what you need. Use the filters on your email program to automatically move new messages to their appropriate folders.
Example: If you create one folder for each client or project, set up filters that automatically move new messages to the right folder.
No matter what email program you use, managing your email is tough. But in order to succeed in business, you need to stay on top of things.
If admin work isn’t your strong suit, consider hiring someone to help you manage your day-to-day tasks.
Learn more about outsourcing here:
- Why every freelancer should hire at least one person
- Should you hire a virtual assistant?
- 34 Business Tasks you should stop doing & hire virtual staff for
I hope you’ve found these suggestions helpful. Got a few of your own? Leave them in the comments!
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