Emails – how many do you have in your inbox right NOW?
I was just having a great discussion in one of my mastermind groups about email. How do you manage email when your business starts to become bigger? When you’re getting inundated daily with emails?
Here’s my honest answer – and this is NOT for everyone, I appreciate that:
I don’t do email. Nobody can email me except a few people who are working on projects with me. I hate email. Email used to stress me out SO much and keep me awake at night.
Amber on my team is the first port of call for ALL email. She used to login to my gmail account but now we send everything to HelpScout, so I don’t see anything.
She responds to everyone. I don’t and I can’t (she never pretends to be me or anything, that would be weird).
“But Denise – everyone deserves a personal response. I love responding to my emails personally.”
I agree connecting personally is great – but email is not the format for me – it makes me feel anxious and helpless to try and help people over email. I will answer questions on my public FB page because it benefits other people – or do Periscopes, or live webinars, or help people in my paid Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp.
But no – not email. (I don’t do Facebook PMs either.)
But do what you want! If you love it, keep it!
However, it could be a boundaries issue. Maybe your clients email you too much when they could Google it themselves. Maybe you’ve trained them to expect a 5 minute response time.
Maybe you spend hours crafting responses to help people with their individual problem and they never even say thank you. Especially when you know that the answer to their solution is actually to work with you further.
It could even be a money block – a way to sabotage your time – so you feel busy by losing yourself in your inbox rather than doing money making activities.
“Denise, that sounds way harsh and mean”
Yes – I used to think so too. But now, I have so much creative freedom and energy. I have 6 emails in my inbox today and I’m aiming for inbox zero. I simply could not run my business if I had to answer every email that came in.
Trust me – my customers are well taken care of. Not by me personally but if you email Oprah’s team do you expect Oprah to answer you personally? I know I’m not Oprah, but you get the point.
I know we want to be everything to everyone but you have to remember that you serve in the way that works for you first, because your energy is a finite resource, but as you grow in business, your email will grow exponentially.
You gotta do what works for you, so you have the energy and creative space to actually create stuff for your customers/fans/tribe. If you didn’t have lots of email to deal with, what would you do with that time?
If I’m responsible for our customer service inbox, then I’ll be able to respond individually but I wouldn’t be able to serve my whole community. It’s one vs. many.
“Outsourcing your emails makes you unreachable and unapproachable”
Yep, I’ve had that response!
I totally agree that I’m unreachable and that’s by design but I’m definitely not unapproachable. I just have boundaries over how I give of myself. I always, always try and answer questions that come up on my Facebook page. I’m slower on Twitter and I also try and respond to every single comment on my WordPress page. I’m not perfect but I’m sincere in serving the Lucky Bee community to the best of my ability.
But if someone sends an email? Nope. I’m definitely unapproachable!
I see other entrepreneurs say things like “Email me, I read every response” and I either think “bullshit” or it stresses me out even thinking of it!
Sometimes I’ll do an “Ask me Anything” on my Facebook wall. Inevitably, I’ll get someone who asks to send me their question personally, and they get pissed when I say no. I’m happy to answer questions if it benefits everyone. Otherwise, nope.
You don’t have to run your business to accommodate everyone’s personal preferences. Your personal attention is valuable and that’s for your customers. Someone else can take care of the initial response and point them in the right direction.
Will it piss off my clients?
It depends. Some won’t like it. Some are used to your 5 minute response time. Some will respect your boundaries.
If you are working with 1:1 clients, then obviously send them to your direct mail, but maybe put boundaries into place, like how often you check email or what kind of response time they can expect. Push back on some requests, especially if they can wait until your next meeting or if they can easily figure it out themselves. Empower them to learn to fish.
But for general inquiries, brain pickers and hate mail? They can go through your assistant. If they want private time with you, they can become a customer. If you a free resource or blog post on the topic, they can be directed there. If they have a technical problem, that can be easily solved by someone on your team.
“When should I outsource my email to an assistant?”
Whenever you want to (or don’t either, totally up to you). I started with my first assistant with just five hours a week. It didn’t break the bank but it saved me HOURS of time, not to mention the mental clutter. It paid for itself because I became much more focused on income producing activities.
It takes time to develop trust. The first few weeks, Amber and I went through the emails together and I basically dictated to her what she should say. Then she’d forward me the tricky ones and I’d write a response back to her (and she’d send it).
Because trust me, I was a control freak so I understand if you feel apprehensive about it!
Then she’d send me a summary every few days of questions I needed to answer – or we’d chat about it in our weekly meeting.
Now? I have no idea how many emails I get! I could get reams of hate mail and I’d never know!
But it took months to develop that trust and we’re probably about two years in now – she can answer WAY better and quicker than I would.
“Logistically, how does it work?”
Start small and simple.
My assistant would log into my gmail account while I was asleep because we were on different time zones.
The problem with this is that you will still see the emails, and if you’re like me, you can’t resist reading them!
So, we upgraded to HelpScout, which is a helpdesk software (there are lots of these at different price points). Each email gets a support ticket and it keeps it all organised. I rarely go in there because I don’t have the password saved, so I have to look it up.
Amber has autoresponders for every situation because our emails become pretty similar over time, but she also makes sure that she personalizes each response. Trust me, she really does read your email!
She’ll ask me in our weekly meetings if there is anything I need to know/do, and when we’ve solved something together, it goes into the procedures for next time.
“How do you get feedback on your biz? How do you stay humble?”
I keep the pulse of everything by the feedback I get on social media, on blog comments etc.
When we get negative feedback, we try and fix things, change them etc – and that’s not always perfect either. Amber can fix things MUCH quicker than I can.
I don’t need to read every email in order to stay in touch with my biz – and I’m not doing it to be some unapproachable Queen – it just made me feel like crap, so I changed the situation!
I also see this as a male vs female thing. I actually don’t think most men would have a problem outsourcing their emails. But we women worry that people will think we’re bitches if we do it!
Again – if you don’t want to do this – no problem – it’s your business, your rules.
So, what can I do NOW to manage email better?
Start by unsubscribing from everything. That will clean out your inbox!
Send less email yourself. Google before you ask a question. Do shout outs and love notes on social media. Batch questions so you’re not sending 5 emails when one will do. Suggest times rather than leave things open ended. Get an online scheduler so you’re not doing back and forth with people trying to figure out timezones.
Then – use filters and folders. You can set up a filter for all your newsletters and subscriptions so you can read them at your leisure without clogging up in the inbox. You could set up a filter for regular emails, like receipts, to go into a tax folder.
Lastly – start by outsourcing to a trusted assistant, just a few hours each time. Develop the trust and adjust as needed. It will take a while to get a system that works for you!
So – it has really helped me not having anything to do with email at all – I used to carry around the energy of each person – and I could have done some work around it, but I found it so freeing to hand it over to her.
I don’t say this lightly – it’s LIFECHANGING!
Try it and see if it works for you.