Battling Those Annoying Emails

Ariele Sieling posted this on wufoo-osmosis

fighting knightsHave you ever gotten one of those frustrating emails that asks you a bunch of questions you had already answered in the email before it? Or an email where the sender only answered one out of your three questions, so you have to reply and re-ask two of them again? Or an email where the response to your question has nothing to do with anything or is so confusing you have to initiate a series of clarification emails that only serve to make your life more confusing?

Inefficient communication might be one of the biggest time wasters for everyone, and for freelancers, the adage "time is money" is immediately and so viscerally true.

There are dozens of suggestions for how to make your email communications more efficient. Here's a short list of some of my favs:

  • Keep your email messages short and sweet. The longer the email is, the more likely the recipient is to put it in their "to-do-later pile" which may never get done. Also, recipients are more likely to only respond to one element of the email, so you have to start up new chains anyway for the stuff they skipped.
  • Forgo the email entirely. Sometimes it makes more sense to pick up the phone or head over to someone's office to chat. Then, you can send a to-do email, but you've already provided them with the information they need so they don't have to read a too-long email.
  • Make the subject line relevant. Subject lines like "Hey" are not helpful. Subject lines like "Client got back to me on the Elephant project" are much more helpful because they explain exactly what the recipient is going to find when they open the email. Then, they can decide whether to open it now and respond, or open it later when they're working on that project. No more opens and "I'll deal with it later/forget about it."

When projects get more complicated and a lot of information is needed, another great option for managing communication is through questionnaires. Take Osmosis, for example. With this platform, you can create a questionnaire that is specific to a project, send it to your client, and get all of the information back in one place. This tool is especially good for freelancers that do a lot of similar projects. You can create questionnaire templates that you can cater to each client you get, rather than having to create a new questionnaire for every new project.

Through the Osmosis activity stream, you can see what parts of the questionnaire the client is working on and when. This can help you plan your time, reach out to the client in areas where they may have questions, and manage the process more efficiently.

Wufoo, another freelancing software, offers a form-making feature. Set up contact forms, online surveys, invitations, registrations, and more to help streamline the passage of information between you and your clients. They also offer embedding software, so you can stick the form onto your website for first-time contact information, and real-time tracking to see who has filled out the forms and when.

Communication doesn't have to be the most time consuming part of your process, nor does it have to be the most frustrating. You can minimize the back and forth, confusing responses, and unfortunate awkwardness by approaching emailing and other virtual communication as you would any other part of your business: with a solid strategy.

For a little Friday treat, I bring you Emails In Real Life by Tripp and Tyler.


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