When you’re running your own gig, email is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s rapidly becoming the next voicemail — nobody wants to look at it, it’s clumsy to use, and for God’s sake, why don’t you just text? And in light of the 205 billion+ emails sent every day, it makes sense that Inbox Zero is a thing (that deserves caps).
But on the other hand, you need to be in contact with your clients, prospects, contractors, and anyone else who helps keep your business world spinning.
What most small business owners don’t realize is that you have so much more control over the amount of email you get than you think. In fact, if you’re getting overrun with emails, chances are it’s mostly your own fault.
So how can you get people to email you less, while still being able to keep up with everything you need to keep up with? It’s all about boundaries + clarity.
If you don’t want people to email you, don’t set up situations where they feel invited to do so.
For instance, if you’re routinely asking for responses in the emails you send out, you’re going to get emails back. If you’re really open and casual on your social channels, people are going to feel more comfortable getting in touch out of the blue. If you’re sharing vulnerable stuff in your blog posts, chances are you’re going to get people with that same flavor of vulnerability emailing you and sharing their experiences.
But to keep it from becoming overwhelming, you need to have some solid boundaries in place, and you need to give people a way to connect with you without getting all up in your inbox.
The first thing to do is to implicitly and explicitly state your boundaries. Take a look at the way you’re connecting with people. Are you being a little too open? Do you need to dial it back a little bit, become a little less accessible?
Think about ways that you can (nicely) discourage people from sending you emails. For instance, putting something as simple as “We love design. We hate long emails. Keep it short and sweet and we’ll love you, too!” can make a world of difference.
Finally, think ahead about how people are going to want to connect with you, and give them an outlet to do so that doesn’t involve email. This means making sure your social media pages are up and active, your blog’s comments section is working, etc., and directing them to those places with a pre-written email. (More on that in a sec.)
Clients who get email-clingy typically do so because you haven’t shown them that they can trust you to lead this process. The way to avoid this is to set expectations up front, to watch your language, and to make yourself explicitly clear in every single email. (Sensing a theme here?)
When people first start working with you, make it clear what your hours are and your policies for responding to emails. It doesn’t have to come across as rude or standoff-ish — you can easily keep this in line with your branding. For instance, in my client onboarding guide, I have a section about email that says:
“We don’t spend all day watching the inbox because quite frankly, we’ve got better things to do. (Like writing your copy.) So don’t freak out if we don’t get back to you in seconds — you’ll always get a reply within 24 hours on weekdays.”
When you do have email correspondence with clients, keep up that leadership tone by avoiding hesitance, jargon, and uncertainty. Watch out for phrases like “I just…”, “Sorry to bother you…”, or “I think I might…” — all of which imply that you’re uncertain, which makes them feel like they have to lead. If you really struggle with this, here’s a great free app to help you out.
Finally, use the last sentence of your email to explicitly state what you’re going to do, what’s going to happen next, or what you want them to do. This way there’s a clear structure, you can easily refer back to it if they still manage to get confused, and they’re not left wondering whether they need to check in with you.
When it comes to contractors + coworkers…
The same thing applies in terms of setting expectations and watching your language, but the issue of clarity becomes even more important. Nobody wants to get caught up in a long email chain, so clarify your expectations up front — everything from expected response times to CC etiquette to what to do in an emergency — and then stick with it.
When you do sit down to write an email, pause for just a second before you start typing and make sure you’re clear on why you’re actually sending the email. Do you need information, and if so, what specifically? Are you looking for a decision, and if so, does the person on the other end have all the info they need to give it to you? Does this actually need a response at all? You’d be surprised at how many emails you can adequately respond to with a simple “Got it — thanks! EOM” in the subject line.
Finally, you can avoid loads of back and forth with some simple, pre-written emails.
To avoid getting sucked into endless email chains, have a think about the types of questions prospects, clients, and contractors tend to email you about repeatedly. Then, pre-write emails in response to them, leaving blanks for the name and the specifics, and save them in drafts or load them into a tool like Gmail’s Canned Responses.
This includes things like answers to common questions about what you do, “I’ll get back to you with a quote in 24 hours” emails, emails with your scheduling link, emails encouraging people to share on your social media or comments sections instead of via email, and responses both accepting and declining guest posting/product reviews/speaking opportunities. Then, when you do get inquiries, just mad-lib your way through your templates and you’re good to go.
Remember: boundaries + clarity = happier clients + contractors + way fewer emails for you. (And that means way more time to actually run your business.) Win, win, and win.
Streamline more. Stress less.
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Yet another email provider to choose from? Before you get overwhelmed, let me start this post by sharing where I was at when I switched to ConvertKit for my business. I am a one woman shop (hello, fellow ladies!) and was spending more time prepping weekly emails and automation than I really had time for.
Each week, after writing a blog post, I had a series of things to do in order to prep that blog post for a pretty email for my subscribers in MailChimp. I had to take the image I created for my blog, upload it to MailChimp, sometimes resize the image, copy and paste the content into MailChimp, format it, add additional styling (headers, subheaders), and a few other steps that are too boring to mention. And setting up automated email sequences — a huge part of my marketing plan — was a time suck, as well.
I wanted something simple that could grow with me as I grow my business. I started hearing a lot about ConvertKit, and decided to make the switch because my number of subscribers had not yet reached a point where it would be a big headache to move to a new platform.
Having used ConvertKit for a while now, here’s the lowdown on why I think it’s great, reasons why it might be a good email service provider for your business, and ways it can be improved.
If this is you, it might be a good idea to switch to ConvertKit…
If your list is on the smaller side now, but you have lofty goals for growing your list. I have big plans for my lists. I’m talking sales funnels, email courses, Twitter ads to bring people in, opt-in forms and landing pages – the works. Each platform may have a different opt-in incentive, meaning that in MailChimp, I would need to make a different list with a different “Welcome email” for each incentive. A few months down the line, list building could get very messy and complicated, especially if I want to merge lists and do some clean up.
ConvertKit has proved to be a stellar option for that, because rather than individual lists, I can tag email addresses for certain categories.
Say a subscriber signs up via an opt-in incentive regarding WordPress design. I can set it up in ConvertKit so that they’re added under the tags “wordpress” and “design” and then when I want to send an email regarding either of those topics, I can pull all subscribers with those tags and send to them, rather than having to send to separate lists (and possibly send duplicate emails).
No more trying to merge lists together or keep track of them – there’s no need. Here’s how I would set that up in ConvertKit:
If you crave automation with your email lists. The gist of ConvertKit is that automated email is way better than individual email “broadcasts.”
Example: You create killer content in June, but Mary doesn’t sign up until August. Instead of missing out on the June content, Mary gets it right from the beginning.
With ConvertKit, if you create an email sequence (aka a funnel), it doesn’t matter when a person signs up – they’ll get emails from months prior, and going forward. No need to set up a specific series, just add in emails as you please, and new subscribers will get all of them in a drip sequence that you determine.
I realize this sounds a lot like Automation in MailChimp, and they are fairly similar, except the set up is much easier in ConvertKit. You stay on the same screen for every email in the sequence, rather than having to click in and out of emails, which can be time-consuming and confusing (“did I include that link in Email 1 or Email 3? I have to click in and out on multiple screens to find out”).
In ConvertKit, it’s all in one place, so you seamlessly move from one email to the next, AND you can rearrange an email sequence via drag and drop — so easy! Here’s what one of my sequences looks like:
If you plan to create email courses/sales funnels. This is essentially ConvertKit’s bread and butter. In ConvertKit, courses and funnels each fall under the umbrella of “Sequences.” Personally, I have a few email courses going — set up as a Sequence — and the main purpose of most of these courses is to get people to purchase a product.
In MailChimp, I had something similar, but had to manually remove a person if they bought the product I was promoting. In ConvertKit, if Lisa is in Course A, and she buys the product I’m promoting, the instant she purchases the product, she’ll be switched to Course B, which no longer pushes her to buy the thing she just bought. It makes for a much better user experience, and less work for you.
If you want a very simple opt-in form plugin for your WordPress page. Various email platforms have opt-in forms that you can customize and put on your site, but ConvertKit makes it so dang easy. (And I’m a developer, friends.)
If you have WordPress, they have a plugin where you can insert individual forms at the bottom of blog posts or pages. All of the customization is done in ConvertKit, so there isn’t any need for CSS tweaking on your actual WordPress site to make things look the way you want. (Editor’s note: View an example of a form at the bottom of this blog post.)
If you want a nice landing page for sign ups/want to avoid paying for Leadpages. ConvertKit has a few modern and clean landing page designs for opt-in forms. If you want a landing page to entice people to sign up for your email list, ConvertKit makes it really easy to do so. Here’s an example of a landing page for one of my email courses.
Also, prior to switching over to ConvertKit, I purchased Leadpages because I loved the way their forms looked and worked. ConvertKit does integrate with Leadpages, but their landing pages and opt-in forms are so simple and sleek that you can skip Leadpages, and save a hefty buck as well. I think the only thing one would miss from Leadpages is their cool opt-in forms, but it’s worth saving a few hundred buckaroos.
If you’re paying extra money for duplicate subscribers.
Since ConvertKit lets users tag subscribers, rather than place them in lists, it’s impossible to pay for one email address that may be in multiple lists. This happens a lot with Mailchimp, and it can get expensive paying for one person to exist in multiple lists. Here’s a great graphic of how it works, and how it saves you money:
Integrates with WordPress, Leadpages, Gumroad (digital product seller), Teachable (online course provider), and so much more. These integrations are what will make your business as seamless as possible for your buyers and clients. And will save you a ton of time because it’s all automated.
Sequences are easy to set up. ConvertKit has a very simple email template — there isn’t any drag and drop; there’s click and type, and insert an image if you’d like. Because of this, setting up a sequence is pretty dang easy. Bottom line is, if you can use a Word document, you can set up an email in ConvertKit.
Automation rules. You can set up all kinds of rules that work like magic without you doing a thing. Just set it up once, and it’s done. For example, you can set it up so that when someone clicks a specific link, they get subscribed to a sequence, then when they purchase a digital product from that sequence, they’re taken off the list and moved to a different one.
Blog posts to broadcasts. If your WordPress blog is integrated with your ConvertKit account, it automatically creates an email template when you publish a post, and sends you an email notification so you can edit and send. Now, when I want to email a blog post to my list, it’s a two-step process, rather than seven steps (detailed somewhat painfully above!).
Clicked links are not tracked in emails individually. I’ve been told this will be changed eventually. At the moment, I can see that people clicked a link in an email, but not specifically which link they clicked on. That’s a bit annoying, but I have faith they’ll change that soon, because they are constantly working to build up their platform integrations and make it more business-friendly.
Sometimes the WYSIWYG editor is buggy. HTML editors can be annoying as it is, but when little bugs pop up while you’re editing an email, it can be even more frustrating. An example would be that recently, the Subscriber Name field that I entered into an email course kept getting wiped out every time I saved.
So instead of “Hi, Stephanie!” at the beginning of an email, if it went out, it would say, “Hi, !” When I get an email with that totally obvious gap between the comma and the exclamation point, it’s like a mini slap in the face. We don’t want that for our subscribers.
ConvertKit is good for your business if:
You’re limited on time. Like anything worthwhile, there is work to be done in the beginning. But once you’ve got your sequences set up, your automation rules in place, and your subscribers tagged, it really is pretty passive and time saving.
You want a very simple email format. The simple format initially made me feel limited, but I like that the focus is on the content of the email, and it looks much more personalized than mass produced, which I’m sure subscribers appreciate as well.
Email is a big part of your marketing plan. Because of the automation and integration, ConvertKit is a huge help in growing a list without a huge headache.
ConvertKit is not good for your business if:
Email is not a big part of your marketing plan. If you’re more into social media or local networking, or really don’t have a marketing plan yet, ConvertKit isn’t for you. It’s $29/month at a minimum (for 1,000 subscribers) and the next level hops to $49/month, so it needs to be a business investment that will be properly utilized.
You like sending emails with a pre-made template or lots of images. Because of the simple WYSIWYG editor, this is not the kind of email provider where you can pick a template and drag and drop images. ConvertKit’s platform is set up to create emails that consist mostly of text, so if your emails tend to be image heavy, this might not be a good fit for you (at least for now). You can create templates that include your logo at the top, and other graphics or design elements, but that requires coding work, so beware.
Easy-to-manage email marketing: Ready to make the switch?
Switching to ConvertKit has allowed me to spend less time setting up emails and automation, and more time actually working on projects for clients and beefing up other aspects of my business. It keeps things simple and automated, just like our businesses should be!
We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of ConvertKit. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from!
Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds – where we members of the community scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we they think will help your business—and maybe even your life! This week’s curator: copywriter + editor Sara Frandina.
Did you know? Twitter has over 271 million active users. That’s what’s made it such an important tool for solopreneurs + One Woman Shops. If you feel like you’re lost in the Twittersphere or just not quite using it correctly, check out these 7 Twitter Hacks for Bloggers + Small Business Owners from Kayli Wanders.
“Content is king.” We know it’s true, but sometimes, it’s tough to remember the small things. In this QuickSprout article, Neil Patel breaks down 37 seemingly simple tips for writing great content for both B2C and B2B audiences that’s sure to increase your traffic.
For you One Woman Shop ladies fully engaged in the side hustle, here’s some gratifying news: a new study shows that “businesses that are launched while the founder is employed and only later become that founder’s full-time focus are one-third less likely to fail than those that began as full-time ventures.” Alexis Grant breaks down the details here. Keep hustling, ladies!
If you’re ever feeling a little lost, use this to aid your gut check: 5 Signs That You’re on the Right Path, from online magazine A Little Opulent. One of my favorite lines: “a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Podcast alert! Is it me, or do more and more super resourceful podcasts seem to be popping up every day? New on my radar this week is the 5 am Miracle podcast, focused on “dominating your day before breakfast.” Early risers, rejoice. It’s amazing what can get done while the world’s still sleeping!
Since adding smart, resourceful solo business owners to our community is one of our top priorities, we decided to take matters into our own hands. Sure, we spend time pinning, tweeting and Facebooking and yes, we set up a pop-up plugin on the site and started offering an opt-in freebie, but one of our biggest initiatives recently has been direct outreach through email.
It’s simple, really. Anytime we see a female solo business owner online, we send them an email telling them about our community and asking them if they would like to join our email list.
We love the email tool Boomerang so much that we pay for the premium version- with hundreds of emails going in and out of our inboxes each week, the free plan just wasn’t cutting it. The two main features of Boomerang are to 1) send emails at a later time and 2) to be reminded if someone hasn’t responded to your email.
Here are some creative ways to utilize these features in creative ways to save yourself time and your sanity.
So that people don’t know how late you’re working: Sometimes you work until 2am- and that’s okay! But maybe you don’t necessarily want to advertise that fact to everyone you’re in touch with via email- so use the “Send Later” feature to make it look like you’re writing emails at a more- ahem- normal time.
To avoid bombarding people: If you’re like us, your mind works in a million directions, constantly coming up with ideas to implement. The downside of this is that it might result in tons of emails to contractors, teammates, or clients. Avoid “email bombardment” by scheduling your emails to send several hours or days apart.
So that clients don’t assume that you’re always available: Even in our fast-moving digital world, many freelancers and solopreneurs choose to only be available to their clients and customers during standard hours, like 9am-5pm. And we commend them for that! But let’s say that you want to work later one evening but don’t want your clients to begin to expect that you’ll always be available at 8pm. Draft your emails, choose the “Send Later” option, and your clients will be none the wiser.
To make sure no outbound email goes unanswered: Let’s say you’re emailing twenty potential clients or reaching out to ten bloggers on behalf of a client. Sure, you could track all these contacts in a Google spreadsheet (which is probably still a good idea!), or you could just mark each email to “boomerang” back to your inbox if it’s unanswered. First emails are very often overlooked or forgotten about, so sending a follow-up can increase your response rate immensely!
To maintain inbox zero: Let’s say you’re about to head out of town for the weekend and don’t love the idea that your full inbox will haunt you all weekend. Go set your emails to boomerang back at a designated time- maybe late Monday morning. Clear out your inbox, reset to inbox zero, and poof- out of sight, out of mind- just in time for a work-free weekend.
To buy yourself some time: We love this Boomerang tip from Alexis Grant. Often times, you’ll send an email, only to have someone immediately reply- now you feel compelled to respond back right away too, right? Instead, set your email response to send in several hours, giving you at least a free few hours before the recipient’s reply lands in your inbox. Note: this shouldn’t be done with time sensitive emails!
To automate your systems: Do you have a weekly or monthly email you send out (we’re talking something simple, not a fancy email marketing email)? Maybe it’s a monthly reminder to your website contributors or your clients- when you have a few extra minutes, take the time to draft several months of emails in advance!
Welcome to our How Tos, where we provide you with specific step-by-step instructions for common business questions. Have a tutorial you would like to see us provide? Let us know!
Ooh, do we have a good little trick up our sleeves today! You know those times when you’ve searched all over someone’s website only to come up blank on an actual way to contact them? Maybe they’ve hid their email address to prevent email overload or maybe they just overlooked the fact that it’s nowhere to be found. Either way, if you’re dying to make direct contact (tweets, Facebook messages, and repinning their pins doesn’t count here!), then read on.
Use this trick to make contact with potential partners, establish a relationship with a hot shot in your industry, seek sponsorship from a company, or recruit a contractor.
Note: in order for this to work, the person must have an email address tied to their domain. So, you wouldn’t be able to find a Gmail address- the person must have registered [email protected].
Here are step-by-step instructions for finding (almost) any email address.
First, find and note the domain of the person you want to contact
Plug the following formula into Google: “*”@theirdomain.com (that’s quotation mark, asterisk, quotation mark, the @ sign, and then the domain you want to search), then search
Scroll down the results pages until you spot what looks like a valid email- it might be the the person’s name, [email protected], [email protected], or something else (f this doesn’t work, there may be no email address registered with that domain, so you’ll need to find a different way to make contact)
You now know that you’ve found a valid email and can use it to contact the person directly!
Megan of Flawed Perfection Jewelry has graciously let us use her website and email address as our example. Let’s say we want to to contact Megan about a partnership- if you pop over to her contact page, you’ll see that her email address isn’t listed. If you’re hellbent on finding her email address, try this: Google “*”@flawedperfectionjewelry.com and note the link from Issuu.com about halfway down the page:
Aha! We now know that Megan uses the email address [email protected] and can get to work on contacting her!
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Did you see our snazzy email signature back in the day (before Sara joined #TeamOWS)?
We’re not trying to brag — we just thought you might like to know how to incorporate social media buttons into your email signature in order to let your email contacts — whether they’re potential clients, customers, or hires- know that you’re active on social media.
Here are step-by-step instructions for inserting professional but fun social media buttons into your Gmail email signature (the steps for other email providers are very similar):
Log in into your Gmail account
Hover over the “gear” icon and select “Settings”
Under the “General” tab, scroll down to the email signature box
Under your name and other contact information, select the “Insert Image” icon
When you find social media buttons that you like, choose a size (we recommend 32 x 32) then right click on the image and select “Copy Image URL.” Go back to your email signature and paste the URL into the “Add an Image box.” If you are satisfied with the image preview, click “OK”
Next, highlight the icon you just inserted and click the link icon (the one that looks like a chain). Here, input the URL that you would the user to go to if they click on one of your social media icons- for example, for a Twitter icon, we would enter http://www.twitter.com/onewomanshop
Be sure to test the link. If problem free, repeat the process for all social media icons you hope to include.
You’re done! Sit back, relax, and know that your email contacts now have an easy way of connecting with you on social media
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