Working With Clients: How Long Should You Wait to Respond to Emails?
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Working With Clients: How Long Should You Wait to Respond to Emails?

EMAILING. EASY, RIGHT? NOT EXACTLY. HERE ARE A FEW TRICKS FOR KNOWING WHEN TO REPLY AND WHEN TO HIT 'SAVE TO DRAFT.'

Any client-based business owner knows the excitement you feel when you get an email from a prospective client…and you also know the pit in your stomach when a current client sends you multiple emails per day, expecting an immediate response.

On one hand you don’t want to seem too available and have people wondering why you’re not booked solid all day, every day with clients, but you also don’t want potential or current clients wondering why you’re taking so long.

So the question begs to be asked: How long should you wait to respond to emails? Having worked in a client-based business most of my adult life, here are some email boundaries that I work really hard to maintain. 

1. ANSWER NOW: ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE IN 60 SECONDS

If you can answer that email in one minute? Do it right away.

Fun fact: most people are so wrapped up in thinking about themselves, they really aren't wondering why you were able to answer their email so fast. In fact, most of the time they’re just extremely appreciative of the instant gratification.

If there’s an email that requires a longer response but seems urgent, such as a new client inquiry, I always respond immediately using this simple trick: I respond from my phone (where I have the “Sent from my iPhone” signature). I thank them for getting in touch, acknowledge their note, and let them know I’ll follow up with more information when I get back to my computer later that day (or the next day depending on what time it is). Everyone’s happy: the client feels heard, and it only took me a quick minute break from my other projects.

2. MAKE TIME FOR LATER (SEVERAL TIMES): HAIRY BUT TIME-SENSITIVE EMAILS

This one is HARD, but it’s so necessary when you receive multiple emails per day that require responding. Set a few short chunks of time aside in your schedule specifically for answering emails and responding to questions that require longer answers. Set up three check-in points: in the morning, after lunch, and once more before “clocking out.” Otherwise, you could spend all day answering emails and literally get nothing else done!

3. SET OFFICE HOURS: ANSWERING HIGH-MAINTENANCE CLIENTS

I always let current clients know that I am available to answer their email questions between 9AM and 5PM Monday through Friday. Any times after that, they know they'll have to wait until the next business day. If you’re concerned people might think you’re ghosting them, go so far as to use an “Out of Office” message to let people know when they can expect a response from you.

I’ve also put on my website that potential clients can expect a response within 48 hours of sending an email (although they usually get one within 48 seconds per Tip #1). 

If you run into an issue where a client is particularly difficult about excess communication, consider actually assigning them a specific "appointment" during your day or week, letting them know that's when they’ll have your full attention and responses to their emails.

4. USE BOOMERANG: WHEN YOU’RE SHAMELESSLY CHECKING EMAIL AT 3AM

This is by far my new favorite trick. As an entrepreneur you never clock out, so it might be tempting to start answering emails at absurd hours in the middle of the night. Boomerang for Gmail allows you to schedule emails (some other email programs let you do this as well, just do a little Googling) so you don’t look like some crazy person answering emails at 3AM. It also helps show clients that you are serious about keeping your office hours and leaves little room for “exceptions.” 

5. COMMUNICATE: WHEN YOU’RE JUST NOT GOING TO BE ANSWERING

This should be obvious, but sometimes it’s not. If you’re going on vacation, leaving town, or even taking one precious day off to be with your family, let your clients know you are going off the grid. Do this far enough ahead of time that they can get all of their questions answered before you sign off for your trip. And remember, it is okay to sign off… the world will keep rotating!

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How long do you wait to answer emails? Will you implement any of these tricks in your business? Let me know in the comments below!