Stop the Overwhelm: How to Get People to Email You Less

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.

And that can all be good, as long as it’s in line with your branding and your business goals.

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.)

When it comes to clients…

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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5 Ways to Make More Money Using On-Brand Affiliate Marketing

You have a creative business, which means, most days, you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can work when you want to, with whom you choose, and take vacations on a whim because hey, you are boss like that, right?

Unless, of course, you’re not feeling confident with your income. That changes things a bit.

As glamorous as being a solopreneur seems, we all know that working with clients can often times be unpredictable and stressful.

The feast-or-famine mindset is real, and can leave you convinced that searching job boards may be a better choice than trying to keep at this ‘“own-my-own-business” thing. We get these feelings in months where we have way less clients, our course sales dip or our Creative Market income has been dryer than Schweppes ginger ale.

Yet many service-based businesses are leaving a ton of money on the table, solely focusing on services, courses and product creation that they ignore affiliate marketing and how it can complement their small biz income.

But wait, affiliate marketing is dead...right?

You probably already know what affiliate marketing is (if you’re shaking your head no, start here), and may have even explored it a bit and earned a couple of bucks.

But, I’m seeing two things:

1 - Some solopreneurs I’ve spoke with tell me the earnings don’t amount to enough to spend their time on it.

2 - Other say that affiliate marketing is dead.

Oh contraire!

Neither of these could be further from the truth. Think about all of the products and services you use every single day while running your business. Now, consider all of the frequent purchases and investments (the online courses, ebooks, business tools). And how about that one “thing” you always recommend for every single one of your clients to help them get from ABC to XYZ?

If you do the math, you’ll probably feel a bit queasy at how much money you could have been making, just by simply adding an affiliate link to the products and services you love and trust to people who already love and trust you.

#facepalm

Where to start with affiliate marketing

The next greatest hesitation I hear is that people simply don’t know where to start without feeling like a car salesman. Fret not; there are so many great ways to not be cheesy OR greasy.

Without further ado, here are five authentic ways to add a bit of padding to your service-based business by using on-brand affiliate marketing...minus the ick factor.

1. Create a resources page

A resources, or tools, page is an effective way to help your visitors help themselves to the tools, courses and services you rely on to run your business. Get creative by adding images and banners, or simply use shortcodes and columns to create categories and embed your affiliate link into each resource.

Link to your resources page from your blog posts, include it in your email footers, and write social posts highlighting each resource on the page.

2. Make recommendations to your clients

You may be a web designer, virtual assistant or accountant who’s always getting asked what you recommend for solving your clients’ problems. You may also have certain things your client must purchase before you can start working with them (such as a theme or hosting, if you are a web designer).

When you onboard your clients, include a list of your favorite tools with your affiliate links in your welcome packet. Alternatively, if you send your clients a goodbye package, include a list of resources that will be helpful on an ongoing basis.

More than anything, they will appreciate that they can trust your recommendations and that they aren’t stuck having to Google for answers.

3. Build affiliate mentions into your editorial calendar

If you have a blog that complements your business, I imagine you are already sharing high-quality posts that position you as an expert in your niche, so why not turn these posts into money-generating machines?

Some of my best performing blog posts that have affiliate links are resource roundups and tutorials on how to do something that others often struggle with. Review posts of products you have tried and compared are also a good way to introduce your audience to amazing assets while helping you earn more money.

Pro tip: Content is key, but don’t ignore your images. Include high quality, pinnable images for people to share. Add keyword-rich descriptions in your images’ alt text if you want to tap into Pinterest for referral traffic.

4. Complement your newsletters

Dedicated emails about products you love can make you feel like you’re always trying to sell your audience something.

To avoid that, try sharing your experience with them. For example, if you took a totally ah-mazing course that skyrocketed your website traffic and you’re now an affiliate of, share the story of how your stats increased.

You can also write your newsletter content as usual and include links to some of your most recent affiliate-rich posts. Likewise, if you know your affiliates are having a sale and you genuinely don’t want your peeps to miss out, use a PS note at the bottom of the newsletter or within the content itself if it’s relevant.

An example: If you’re writing to your audience about how they can choose the best theme for their business and you happen to know that Bluchic* is having a sale, share it. Don’t be random. Weave it naturally into what your readers know you for.

5. Enhance your infoproducts

You may already have some great infoproducts (ebooks; worksheets; email courses) in place that help you grow your list or populate your shop. What if I told you that there is a way to monetize your free goodies and help you earn more with your paid offerings? Hold the phone, sista!

With on-brand affiliate marketing, it’s totally possible. When crafting your offering, you’re likely linking to tools and resources that are helpful for those who are downloading or signing up for your product.

By using affiliate links, you can make more money while continuing to deliver your high-quality content for free or increase your earnings with your paid products. For example, I have an email course that helps new bloggers or businesses set up their very first blog on WordPress. Even though it took a ton of hours and energy, I was able to justify giving it away for free because there were so many opportunities to earn money from the free course by mentioning amazing affiliates for WordPress hosting, themes, styled-stock memberships, and more.

But FIRST, here’s what else you need to know about doing affiliate marketing right

When adding a slew of affiliate links to your site, you can consider adding “no follow” links in place so that you aren’t oops-ed by Google (though there is a debate on whether it’s necessary or not). You also want to make your links cleaner with a plugin like Pretty Link Lite, or bit.ly.

Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough: DO IT LEGALLY. (Caps + bold, necessary.)

You have to have disclaimers on your site that let your visitors know that they may be clicking on affiliate links. You have to share in your newsletter that links are indeed, affiliate links. You have to give a heads up about affiliate links even if you are just recommending a product to someone in a Facebook Group. Recommending something to a client? Gently let them know that they are clicking on an affiliate link.

When in doubt, remember this: Any time you drop a link, drop a hint!

Your turn

Evaluate your current affiliate strategy and choose one of these methods to start or improve upon today. Need more of a nudge? Sign up for Affiliate Crush, my free, 5-day email course that helps you get started in choosing the right affiliates and helps you create a strategy, track your earnings and lots more.

*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. (See what we did there?) As always, we only promote products and services we trust and believe in.

Weekly Finds

Weekly Finds for the Solopreneur

Weekly Finds for the solopreneur

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds - where we scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we think will help your business — and maybe even your life!

Did you know? In 1967, stockbroker Muriel Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, Ubiquity Retirement + Savings is proud to be the only 401(k) provider to have more women in leadership roles than men. (It's just one reason we love them and their SingleK retirement options for solopreneurs.) #FinancialFeminism

FEBRUARY. It's all too easy to lose the new-year motivation and fall into the winter slump (for us northern hemisphere-ers, anyway). That's why we love turning to classic reminders to stay motivated like this one from Marie Forleo. (Hint: Focus on what you’re doing, not what you’re trying to achieve.)

First reason we love this timeline of his business from Matt Giovansci: It's clean and fun to read through. Second: He's brutally honest about the "overnight success" his "mildly-successful" business achieved in just 14 years. Like everything Matt does, his transparency and humor always get the best of us.

If you're like me (Sara) and left Hidden Figures completely inspired and hankering for more crazy awesome stories like it, you'll love this list of must-reads from Brit & Co.

Adding products to our online businesses an appealing way to generate alternative revenue streams. Of course, it's easier said than done. That's why we were psyched to see our friends at ConvertKit curate an issue of articles on adding digital products to your biz last month -- with thorough posts on the many faces of online products, the complete guide to e-commerce platforms, and much more.

Do you struggle with pricing? (Let's be serious...who doesn't?) Well, stop and read this insight from Seth Godin -- and maybe you'll realize that price isn't the thing you want to be working on right now, anyway.

List-building is all the rage, and while we're all out studying the best welcome mats, content upgrades, and software providers, we're often overlooking the obvious: creating a dedicated opt-in page on our site that makes it easy for subscribers to find, and easy for us to link to. Alison Monday of tiny blue orange has us covered in her latest nerd alert column.

Questions For An Attorney…

Thinking about hiring an attorney? Three lawyer's weigh in on what to ask before you do...

Thinking about hiring an attorney? Three lawyer's weigh in on what to ask before you do...

One Woman Shops can’t always do it all. But when it’s time to turn to an outside pro — and be certain we’re choosing the right one — we’re often at a loss as to what to ask to get the info we need. Welcome to Questions For A… a series where we interview the pros themselves on the questions you need to ask before hiring them.

In this month’s edition, we bring you Questions for an....Attorney with contributions from attorneys Annette Stepanian, Patrice Perkins, and Tamsen Horton. Here’s what they suggest you ask:

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and should not be used as such.

Q: What kind of experience do you have working with businesses like mine?

Annette’s why: Just like you wouldn't go to a cardiologist if you were suffering from a broken foot, you shouldn’t seek out and hire attorneys who don’t have the experience or expertise in the legal issue you’d like resolved. Remember to interview and research the attorney prior to retaining them. They are an extension of your business team and you should hire someone who you not only feel comfortable with, but who has the experience to understand your business and your legal needs.

Patrice’s why: There are a lot of good (and capable) attorneys out there, but not all of them are going to be a fit for you and the work you do. You want to feel out the attorney's experience working with entrepreneurs like you because as with most relationships, there's often more than meets the eye. For instance, because I've worked consistently with creative entrepreneurs, I think to ask questions that a business attorney who works with more traditional small business clients might not think to ask. Another example: I've seen my fair share of brand-blogger agreements so I know a good agreement from a mediocre one and when my client should be asking for more money.

Q: When should I consult a lawyer for my business?

Annette’s why: Here’s my philosophy: As is true with other things in life, it’s much cheaper to pay for preventative maintenance than to pay for expensive repairs that would not have been needed if the initial maintenance had been done in the first place. It's the same with the law and your business. Early on in your business, make that investment to consult with a lawyer to make sure that you’re laying a proper foundation. It can save you lots of tears, headaches, and money in the long run.

Q: In which state(s) are you authorized to practice law?

Annette’s why: In the United States, lawyers must be licensed by a specific state to give legal advice about that particular state’s laws. A lawyer who is licensed to practice law in one state is not automatically authorized to practice law in another. Double check their credentials to make sure they are authorized to practice law in the state in which you’re doing business.

Q: Would I work with you online or in person?

Tamsen’s why: If meeting with your attorney in person is important to you, then you'd want to make sure that they work with clients in a face-to-face type of meeting. Likewise, if you prefer the flexibility to meet with your attorney on a laptop when it's convenient, then you want to make sure that they are comfortable meeting with you online.

Q: What are your fees and what other expenses can I expect to incur? (Am I billed for emails and telephone calls?)

Annette’s why: There are a few ways that lawyers will charge for their services. You’ll most likely come across lawyers charging either on an hourly basis or on a flat-fee basis. The former is self-explanatory – a lawyer will invoice you based on the number of hours worked. In this instance, the lawyer might also ask for a retainer (an advance payment) prior to starting the work. If the work to be performed exceeds the retainer amount, then you may have to pay above-and-beyond the retainer at the lawyer’s hourly rate. On the other hand, if work is done on a flat-fee basis, then the lawyer charges you a fixed, total fee regardless of the number of hours it takes for the lawyer to do the work. You should also find out what other expenses you’re expected to pay. For example, costs like filing and application fees will likely be your responsibility.

Patrice’s why: It's important to make sure you're on the same page with your attorney in terms of what to expect of their billing practices. You may find that an attorney who offers flat-fee services is a better fit for you versus one who bills hourly. There is no better way, but you want to make sure you know what to expect so you can focus on the work at hand and avoid stress over a bill you weren't expecting.

Q: How can we work together long term? If I purchase this product or service from you, what does that look like?

Patrice’s why: With any service provider, the goal should be to develop a long-term relationship. You'll get the most value out of working with people who have come to know your business instead of starting over at every turn.

Tamsen’s why: When it comes to issues surrounding the legal impact of your business decisions, you want to know what your investment includes. Even when your issue requires more of a traditional hourly-rate service, with the ease of technology, you should expect that your attorney can provide you guides, downloads, videos, audios, and more that complement the product or service they are providing. Be on the lookout for ways that they are using resources outside of simply talking to you or billing you for work because that means that you've found someone who is concerned about saving you money by giving you access to their knowledge in different ways.

Q: Will there be anyone else handling my work?

Annette’s why: If you’re hiring a firm with multiple lawyers and paralegals, then get clear on exactly who is going to be working on your matter and what their rates are (as necessary). Don’t assume the attorney who is your primary point of contact is the one actually doing the work.

Q: If I decide to purchase this _____ today, when would you start working with me?

Tamsen’s why: When it comes to legal issues in your business, there are emergency room issues (need to be dealt with immediately) and those that can be scheduled out. As you're talking with the attorney, they'll let you know which you’re dealing with. Don't be startled or surprised if the attorney (in non-emergency cases) says that they can work with you in a few weeks to a few months. You will run into that when you are hiring an attorney who has a thriving business (that's a good thing for you!). If you do need to wait, then they will likely have resources for you to use in the meantime.

Ready to grill (in the best way possible) your potential lawyer? Print these questions for an attorney out + have them at the ready when you’re looking to hire!

P.S.: Want more information from attorneys on what to know before you hire them? Get the (free) Prior to the Hire ebook now!


Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only; it is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the author. You should not act, or refrain from acting, on the basis of information provided here without first consulting legal counsel in your jurisdiction.

Storytelling for Business: 5 Unique Stories Solopreneurs Can Tell

We live in a world where our days are filled with email newsletters, social media updates, how-to blog posts and Facebook groups. And as a business owner, you’re probably using many of these channels -- if not all of them -- to get the word out about your product or service.

But what if there was an even more effective way to use these channels to build awareness of your brand?

There is, and it’s called storytelling.

Storytelling is at the heart of every successful public relations and communications strategy. And when it’s done well, you can cut through the clutter using channels like blogging, social media and press releases to tell your story and make a connection with your audience.

So now you’re probably wondering, “What kind of story do I tell?” Well, I have you covered! Here are five unique story angles to tell about your business in your next blog post, press release, or social media update:

1. Share your journey to entrepreneurship

One of the best, most interesting stories you can tell about your business is how you got started. Everyone’s entrepreneurship journey is unique, which is why it presents a great opportunity to tell the story of how your business came to be.

The best part of telling your entrepreneurship journey is that it doesn’t matter where you’re at in your business. Whether it’s talking about how your started an apparel brand in your basement or left your comfy corporate job to freelance full-time, your entrepreneurship story is an opportunity to share with the world what inspires you most, your mission, and the lessons learned along the way.

2. Talk about a unique partnership or collaboration

Have you recently partnered with another brand or company to launch an exciting project, such as a Facebook group or e-course? This is a great opportunity to share a story about the power of collaboration.

Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at this partnership by writing a blog post or creating a video describing the process behind your collaboration. In your story, talk about why the partnership was successful or what brought the two of you together. This is a fun way to show your audience how you successfully work with other brands. And who knows, maybe it can spark more opportunities for future collaborations and partnerships!

3. Explain how you give back to your community

Stories about philanthropy or social responsibility can help you tug on your audience’s heartstrings and make an emotional connection. From volunteering to charitable giving to different ways your business is good for the environment and your employees, tell a story about how you’re making an impact in your community or touching the lives of others.

For example, did you donate a percentage of your profits to a nonprofit organization during the last holiday season? Share how much you raised in a recap blog post and explain what the funding will do. This is a great way to look back on the holiday season while showing your audience that you care deeply about your community.

4. Tell a story about overcoming a challenge

Did you ever go a Christmas without a paycheck because you had to pay your employees first? Was there a time when your product didn’t ship on time? While these aren’t the most glamorous stories to share with your audience, these are stories that will help you connect with your audience on an intimate level.

Sharing a lesson learned is a powerful way to highlight the ups and downs of running a business. They can illustrate how you’ve transformed your business into the success it is today, how you’ve grown as an entrepreneur and ultimately, make your brand more “human.” Plus, you will build more trust with your audience by being open and transparent and even inspire others to share their stories of success and failure.

5. Highlight a unique or quirky client project

Want to make your audience feel good? Make a list of your recent projects and determine which ones seem a little quirky or stand out from the norm. For example, if you just completed a branding project for a new unicorn-inspired cafe, you could turn this quirky project into an entertaining and interesting case study or press release. This is an opportunity to make people connect with your brand in a lighthearted way while also illustrating the success of your work.

When a story is emotional and authentic, it’s much easier to make a connection with your audience. By taking your own unique approach to these story ideas and staying true to your brand’s voice, you will have no problem cutting through the clutter and getting your story heard, no matter the channel you choose.

What type of stories have you shared about your business? Share your stories in the comments below!

P.S. Need inspiration? Here are stories from the road to solopreneur success, told by your fellow solo biz owners.

Shop Talk: Looking Past Your Own Biases

d: biases

d: biases

Welcome to Shop Talk! While we love providing you with jam-packed, actionable posts, we also wanted to share quick, thought-provoking snippets here and there — from our brains to yours.

Here’s an important lesson that we seem to learn and relearn here at One Woman Shop: Just because we don’t behave in a certain way doesn’t mean others don’t.

(Did that sentence confuse you? Us too. Keep reading, it gets better.)

We’ve been working hard to run Facebook Ads more strategically lately -- which means running multiple versions of each ad to see which performs best. (This could mean mixing up the graphic, the copy, or the audience -- but only one at a time in order to have a control. Hello, #highschoolscience.)

We started by testing three different graphics for our Road to Solopreneur Success ebook. One explained what the ebook is, one used the term “free ebook,” and one said “free download.”

biases

biases

biases

 

This test stood out to us for a reason: We were both hesitant to include the word “free” on the graphics, because those aren’t the kinds of ads we tend to click on ourselves.

Of course, that’s why we experiment: The two ads with “free” on them far outperformed the other one.

Lightbulb moment: We never would have known this if we had only acted in accordance with our own biases. The lesson here? Just because you behave one way as a consumer doesn’t mean all other consumers behave the same way.

Case in point:

  • Just because we might not use the “Pin it” buttons on websites we hang out on doesn’t mean we shouldn’t install a Pinterest plugin and then optimize our images for maximum pinning -- because other people do use these buttons.
  • Just because we might not follow brands on Instagram doesn’t mean others don’t -- so we should consider actively updating our Instagram account and mentioning our latest product and service launches.
  • Just because we might not watch videos doesn’t mean others don’t love them. So we might host regular shows for those in our community who do love video.

We have found that this trap is especially tricky when you’re in the target market that you’re serving -- it’s easy to feel like you speak for your whole audience, but often you don’t.

As usual, a caveat: We’re not encouraging you to do anything that you feel uneasy or icky about. If you have a strong opposition to something, go with your gut. But if you have a sneaking suspicion that your personal preferences may be hindering your potential reach, it might be time to think outside of that box.

Do some market research. Ask your solopreneur friends about their experiences. Heck, ask your community what they like and dislike. Go forth, friend, and get creative.