The first learning curve I faced when starting my online business was how to communicate with my clients through emails. I always had jobs that were face-to-face. Transforming body language, facial expressions and tone of voice into an email was a whole new ballgame.
Over the years, here is what I learned works for me:
1. NEVER SEND/CHECK EMAILS AFTER HOURS
Nothing looks more unprofessional than receiving an email from an expert at midnight. Think about it, have you ever received an email from J.Crew at midnight? No. And that's because everyone has gone home and to their personal life. And as for checking your email at midnight, I am guilty and never happy when I get an email from a client who needs more revisions on a project that has revised for the last time. It's stressful and will keep you up at night reading emails like that. My personal goal is to leave my phone outside of my bedroom so I am not tempted to check email before bed or when I wake.
2. CONSISTENTLY & PROPERLY PUNCTUATE
I'm not a smiley face kind of gal, but every once in a while a smiley face is the only way I can show how happy I am to others. I have also learned to be mindful of punctuation marks from start to finish. Back when I was learning how to send email aka communicate with clients, I asked Emily (during a 3 in 30 session) what she thought of all of this. She offered a tip that stuck: be consistent with punctuation. For example, if a client contacts me and I am full of exclamation points and smiley faces - then when we get to thick of the project and I am only sending brief responses with little-to-no punctuation, then my client can interpret that in the wrong way.
3. RESPOND WITHIN 24-48 HOURS
A good rule of thumb is to respond to emails within 24-48 hours or sooner. If you can't get to the message right away, mark it as unread or somehow distinguish that you need to respond to the email. That way email don't fall through the cracks.
4. HAVE YOUR RESPONSE READY
Of course every email calls for a personalized message, questions answered, etc. Once you have the custom part of the message done, copy and paste or attach a pdf of your packages/info into the email. That way you don't have to rewrite the same copy over and over again and you can respond more efficiently. I save my rates in my notes app on my computer that way if I am traveling I can copy and paste it from my phone too.
5. DON'T OVER DO IT
Have you ever received an email that contained a "signature" bigger than the email itself? It's distracting, unprofessional and overdone. It's like getting spam within an email that you want to erase asap. At the very bottom of every email I send is a personalized signature which includes my logo and information. It's small, tactful and professional. Keep it simple, small and easy to read, that way your message isn't immediately deleted once opened.
6. A CLEAN INBOX
An ever-growing inbox stresses me out. Folders are your friend. I have over a dozen different folder categories in my gmail from receipts to music shows to business tips. If you can't read the latest newsletter, save it in a folder for future reading. This also makes it easy when you need to print out receipts for taxes.
After I have received an inquiry and responded with my rates and info, I leave the message in my inbox for 1 week. After that week I send a followup email then archive it. If they respond, great, if they don't no more emails will be sent. It's a way of showing you care which can be just enough to close a sale.