Summer is here and that means the busy season for many portrait and wedding photographers (or really anyone running a business, right?). Communication is important in our business (or any business for that matter), and keeping in touch with your clients in a timely and professional manner are KEYSTONES to successful business practices, and excellent customer service.
How do I keep track of my clients, emails and keep in touch in a timely manner?
In this post I’m hoping to lay out some ground work to help get you started, as well as tips to keep yourself organized in the future! Plus, I’ll include some friendly tips about good email practices and etiquette. Feel free to get in touch if you have more questions you would like addressed about this topic. Everyone is going to organize themselves differently, so this is what I’ve found works for ME, and tips that will help YOU find your own organizational success. If you like this post, click to tweet it!
* Get yourself a professional email address that is yourname @ yourwebsite .com
* Set-up your emails to come to a mail application on your computer. I use Mac Mail to receive all my email. I am a 100% Apple girl, so if you are on PC, I’m sure you can use Outlook, or something similar to do any of the following.
GETTING ORGANIZED AND CREATING BUSINESS HOURS
This is how I organize my email life, and stay caught up on ALL emails, EVERY day. I totally think you can do this too!
* I have a schedule and business hours for emails. This is VERY important to keep a schedule, and let your clients know that you will not reply to their last-minute needs at 1am. You run a business like everyone else, and you have business hours. My business hours are listed in the Signature of all my emails, so that everyone is aware of them.
When I wake up each morning I handle all emails. I reply to any new emails that came in, or reply to emails from the day before that I was not able to get to. I try to make sure to reply to all emails within 48 hours (unless it is something I need to research, or have time to think about). I focus first on my clients, and the order in which I received them, unless it is a pressing matter, or emergency. Then I’m off to do whatever else I do with my day, and if I’m back in the office before 5pm, I’ll reply to any additional emails, or handle any time-sensitive issues. After 5pm rolls around, I do not reply to any emails until the start of the next day. This is very important to stick to your hours once you have established them! Your clients will learn this, and respect your time.
* After I reply to an email it gets filed into a folder. I sort each COMPLETED email into their specific category. That way I know I have completed the task, or replied to the email – and it is now stored away for safe-keeping and any future reference!
QUICK & EASY EMAIL TIPS
DRAFTS are your best friend! Write a TON of emails that are the same every day? Create a few of your own “templates” that you can stick into an email, and customize as necessary. Just make sure you don’t sound like a robot! I find this VERY useful when sending out emails with gallery info, or how to get to my office. It’s easy to have in one place, and you don’t have to try and re-write an entire paragraph that sounds simple and professional. This will save you SO MUCH TIME!
USE SEARCH to find facts, details, or text to copy & paste. Sometimes I can’t remember where I left something, and I want to look up that fabulous website “Carl” sent me last year. I can use Search to find all emails from “Carl”, or other details I might remember from the conversation. Trust me, this tool will be your best friend!
UNIQUE EMAIL ACCOUNTS for different purposes. I have two, my main account, and my senior account. Then I have “specialty” accounts that are used for interns, or searching for submissions for hair/makeup artists. I only use the specialized accounts in very specific and targeted situations. Having two main accounts is plenty, and keeps my main business separate from my senior portrait clients!
IMAP YOURSELF for the advanced user, you can use IMAP to set-up your accounts on multiple computers, iPhones*, PDAs, etc. This will make sure that if you reply to an email from your phone, it will also show up on your computer.
*REMOVE EMAIL FROM YOUR PHONE – okay so you may need to get email to your phone, but I’ve found that removing all email from my phone has increased my productivity and given me my sanity back. I have a hard time keeping work at “the office” – so creating this hard boundary helps me stick to my rules.
EMAIL SIGNATURES Create a professional email signature that you can drop in to all your emails. Keep pertinent information such as your business hours, links to your preferred social media links, and anything else you may want to included! ( Recent awards, contact information, mailing list opt-in links, etc.).
AUTO REPLY – is your best friend. Create an auto-reply while you get a handle on your inbox, notifying users of your new business hours and email boundaries. I use auto-reply on the weekends to remind my clients that I am out of the office and will reply to their message on Monday. It’s also extremely important to use auto-reply if you are out of the office for an extended period of time, will take longer than normal to reply to a message, or to let people know that you don’t receive email to your phone and if they need to reach you for an emergency to call your phone, etc.
Okay, so I think you are pretty much ORGANIZED now. Set a schedule for emails, sort the finished ones, delete what you don’t need, and you’ll be on your way. Only leave what you need to take care of or “to do” in the Inbox. BUT, don’t stop here! Let’s chat real quick about etiquette and professionalism!
* Try to reply to emails in a timely manner. My biggest pet peeve is sending someone a message that contains IMPORTANT information, and never hearing back.
* Check your SPAM filter EVERY DAY! – And if you don’t know where your spam goes, FIND OUT NOW! I can’t even tell you the first time I checked my spam filter EVER. There were TONS of missed inquiries that I was horrified to discover. I make it my daily duty to check up on spam. Like-wise maybe this is why I never hear back from you, or you think I don’t reply fast enough. Chances are MY emails are in YOUR spam!
* Set boundaries. Have clear business hours in your signature, on your website, wherever. STICK TO THEM. If you are going on Holiday for 3 weeks, set an away message! In addition, if you find your email world to be so devastatingly overwhelming, have an auto-reply that notifies each of your email messages that you got their message and will reply within-xx hours/days, etc.
* Be professional in your writing, but also be yourself. Make sure you address your email recipient, use proper grammar & spelling, and sign your name.
Here are a few links that might give you some additional help & insight into the world of an organized inbox:
5 easy steps to email organization
Email Organization System
Have a good link or book to share? Let me know and I will add it to this list! Thanks!