I was recently at a small networking dinner event in Vancouver, Canada.
As we talked to each other, explaining the different challenges we face with our businesses, one of the other entrepreneurs commented about how much time she spends every evening keeping up with her email.
I turned to her and said…
The look I received in reply was one of shock, mixed with a little bit of excitement and a good dose of puzzlement.
I got the feeling that even the concept of not handling your email was foreign, something that had never been contemplated as a possibility before.
I haven’t been in charge of my own inbox for so long now that I forgot how much time it can suck away from your life, especially for new entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants and working professionals.
Most people I speak to coordinate many of their work tasks via email, communicating with clients and contractors, booking meetings, reacting to notifications from online services, and keeping track of sales and invoices.
Maybe email is not the center of your workflow, but I bet it still feels like a perpetually growing pile of work that you never keep up with.
I’ve had a look inside the inbox of some of my friends and been shocked to see that they operate with several hundred to even several THOUSAND emails sitting in their inbox, and that’s just ‘normal’ for them.
Even just thinking about that makes me feel stressed.
The Day I Fired Myself From Email
Over twelve years ago I found myself in a situation I had worked towards since I was a teenager.
I was talking to my friend Angela, explaining what she would have to do when she took over control of the email inbox of my online editing company.
We had agreed to a test run. I’d pay her to look after my business email account, which she could do from home. This was important to her because she was just about to give birth to her first child, so she wanted a flexible job.
From my point of view, this was the final step in fully automating my business.
After a few weeks of training passed, Angela was confident enough to handle 99% of the emails that came through.
I remember waking up one day shortly after this, turning on my computer, and out of habit loading up the email inbox.
It was empty.
For a moment I was worried that something was wrong, but then I realized, Angela had processed all the emails already before I had woken up.
I felt a little lost. It was like I had just fired myself from my day job and I didn’t know what to do with my time.
It’s interesting to think back on this moment because if it wasn’t for creating so much time freedom, thanks in large part to hiring Angela to handle my email, I wouldn’t have had the time to devote to other projects, like my blog and podcast.
Inbox Zero Every Day
From the first day Angela took over my email, right up to today as I write this, I have had a person or a team of people handle my emails.
Whether it was my editing business all those years ago or my current blogging business, I’ve had other people working to empty my email inbox for me every day.
Over the years how we handle the inbox has evolved. For all my companies, we’ve always used email as the core customer support and sales tool. Many times we have tested switching over to support desk software, but each time we returned back to a simple shared email account because it just works best for us.
To be clear, I haven’t completely stopped using email. There are still messages that I personally attend to, and I like to stay updated with my industry by reading over the various newsletters I subscribe to from other online marketers. I also maintain a personal email for non-business matters and friends and family.
What I currently do is batch process my messages. I sit down once every week, sometimes every two weeks, and reply to the messages that need my personal attention, and scan over newsletters and notifications — the messages that do not need a reply.
However, because I have my email inbox managers handle the bulk of incoming email, including the most urgent messages from potential or current customers, I have a much more relaxed relationship with email.
There is no urgency to check my email every day -- or even every week -- because I know my team do it for me.
How To Hand Over Your Email To Someone Else
I suspect you are feeling excited about the possibility of handing over your email inbox to someone else. It can completely change your life.
As an entrepreneur, I believe the first person you should hire to help you when you start a new online business is a tech person. I believe the second most important person is someone to handle your email.
(I’ve just given you two of the best productivity tips you will ever hear by the way!)
Even if you're not an entrepreneur, perhaps you are a freelancer, or consultant, or an employee -- if you're a busy person then your email is busy too!
The following is my advice to help you bring on someone else to handle your email for you. You can do this yourself, or of course, you can apply for your very own Inbox Done email manager.
Step 1: Hire Someone Competent
Let me start with the obvious — you need to hire someone competent to take over your email.
When I hired Angela I knew she was smart, a good communicator, able to learn new skills quickly, and could work independently without supervision.
In more recent years with my company, when we hire new email managers we carefully assess communication skills through a testing process designed to weed out people who don’t have the right abilities and awareness for the job.
You’re handing over the keys to your car when you give someone your email inbox, so you want to make sure they know how to drive, can determine how to use all the functions quickly, and don’t need to be constantly watched to make sure they don’t take a wrong turn.
A virtual assistant could make a good email manager, but you have to make sure their communication – especially written communication – is up to par.
You can save money hiring someone overseas who only charges $5 USD an hour, but if English is their second language, there’s a good chance they’re not going to have the communication ability to do the job well. You also have to wonder how motivated they are to do a good job at that pay rate.
You need someone who can learn about your business, your products, your processes and your brand, and then synthesise that information when communicating with your audience.
If you don't run a business, it's still important that the person who takes over your email learns what is most important to you, for example, who your key clients are and what your most critical objectives are.
If your business is like mine, email is one of the key contact points for potential sales. Who you hire to handle email will directly impact how much revenue your business brings in. Hence this is one of the most important people in your business.
Step 2: Gmail, Folders & Filters
When Google first released Gmail many years ago, we were quick to adopt it in my business.
Gmail is great because of the powerful spam filter, but what made a big difference all those years ago were folders (or labels as Google calls them), which we still rely on today.
Gmail is also cloud-based software, which means anyone on my team can log into the same account from anywhere in the world, with everything updated in real time. Currently, in my business, I have one email manager in Australia and one in America, and they both manage the same Gmail account for my business.
Back when I still owned my online editing company, my email manager Angela set up a folder system to track the progress of client jobs.
New editing projects came in via email, which were assigned to one of our contract editors (each editor had a folder within Gmail), then returned to clients when complete. We used various folders in Gmail to track this process, for example, a folder for new unassigned projects, a folder for work in progress jobs, and a folder for completed jobs.
Using this simple three folder structure meant we always knew what state a job was in, and had a record of all communication related to that project stored in the one email thread.
We also set up a folder for me as the boss. Angela placed messages that I needed to reply to, or at least see, in my folder. This was great because I could ignore all other emails and focus only on the very few emails that my email manager filed away for me.
Today I still have a ‘Yaro’ folder (a label in Gmail), and we also added a second folder for me called ‘No Reply’. The ‘No Reply’ folder is for all the newsletters and notifications that I scan through, but do not require a reply. They are to review and delete only, and I know that I can do this anytime, there is no urgency.
The ‘Yaro’ folder contains messages that my team place there that I need to personally reply to. This is the folder I batch process responses to once every week or two.
My email managers also maintain other folders, one for each person in my team so they can keep track of the threads they are working on, folders for urgent customer queries, supporting paying members and managing the recruitment process when we hire new team members.
We also have filters setup to make sure important emails always go straight to the inbox and are not sent to the spam folder by mistake, and to push newsletters and notifications straight into the ‘No Reply’ folder so my team don’t have to waste time manually filtering those.
As I write this, we have four team members work in the same Gmail inbox every day. They are located around the world so we can offer speedy replies across the full 24-hour window, which is important given I have customers from all around the world.
You don't have to use Gmail of course, but if I highly recommend you choose a cloud-based email service that offers the power of filters and folders/labels. Gmail is free, so there is no reason not to use it.
Step 3: Create Systems In Real Time
One of the things I love about handing over email to other people is it forces you to create systems. Let me explain...
When you first hire an email manager start them on this task:
A) Tell them to log into your inbox every day and read how you currently reply to emails
This initial training experience lets them see live examples of what you receive in your inbox and learn how you reply to these messages. This gives them a taste of what they have to deal with every day, what is the correct response and your communication style.
After a few days doing this, once you both feel comfortable, you can move on to the next step…
B) Instruct your new email manager to start replying to emails they feel confident enough to reply to
Your email manager should be able to quickly take over replying to basic emails, common questions and filtering messages to folders, like a ‘No Reply’ folder for system notifications and newsletters.
This is a great opportunity to create new folders as you realize a need for them. Make sure you tell your email manager to come up with their own ideas for new folders — they should feel empowered to better organize your inbox without you telling them to.
Just don’t go too crazy with folder creation. I find fewer heavily used folders is better than lots of folders you rarely use, which can clutter up your email inbox.
At this point, you should monitor how your new email manager replies to make sure they are not making errors and you like their style. Ideally, they won’t screw up replying to basic emails, but if they do, it’s better that it happens early on before they move on to mission critical emails like customer sales and support.
You will find out quickly if you have hired the wrong person for the job. If they struggle to reply to basic messages and/or their written communication is not up to standard, it will be obvious from just reading over their first few replies. If that happens, tell them the trial training period is over, they are not the right person for this job and then go back to searching for the right person.
C) Create template email replies and training videos
Assuming basic emails are handled well by your new email manager, you can begin handing over responsibility for all email replies/filtering to them.
At this point, it will quickly become apparent that there are certain procedures you have in place that you do automatically in response to emails, that need to be documented so your new email manager can replicate the process.
For example, you might have an onboarding process for new customers triggered when a new sale email comes in. Or you might have a process for handling an invoice from a contractor or working with a certain software tool.
It will be easy to spot these situations because your email manager will ask you — “How do I handle this email?”.
When that happens you have an opportunity to do one or both of the following…
- Come up with a new email template, which your email manager can use as a response each time that type of query comes in (my team uses Yesware for Gmail to create templates)
- Create a training video or document to show your email manager what to do when this type of email comes in
These templates and training resources will come in very handy in the future as your team grows. These are your first ‘systems’, processes that anyone can replicate that govern how your business operates.
If you’ve ever wondered how to create a business that runs without you, and a business you can one day sell, these sorts of systems are a big part of meeting these goals.
If you're not running a business, it's still vital you create these email templates and systems. It will make running your inbox so much smoother, it will save you money and time because you don't have to keep showing people how to do the same tasks over and over again, and if you have to hire a new email manager in the future, it will take them less training because they have templates ready to go.
Coming from experience, I know what you’re probably thinking right now…
You’re going to sigh, and say to yourself that you’re busy enough and have no desire to add more work just to document and create systems for all the work that you currently do!
I felt the same, but I have to tell you, I found the feeling of having to teach people the same thing over and over again more annoying! If I create a training video, I can show it to each new recruit we hire so the training process becomes more autonomous.
However, I have one little secret to reveal to you...
You can teach your email manager how to do something, then you can ask them to create a training video or article to document how to do what they just learned how to do.
That way you’re new email manager is not only handling email, they are creating systems in your business that you will be able to refer to for years to come as you hire new people.
Would You Like My Team To Handle Your Email?
If after reading over all the steps above you've come to realize you don't want to go through the difficult challenge of finding the right person to handle your email and train them yourself, then I have some good news...
We currently have openings to take on two-to-three new Inbox Done clients each month.
You can apply for your very own Inbox Done email manager, someone from the same team who manages my business email.
Your personal email manager will -
- Immediately begin learning about your current email needs, including what products and services you sell, how your business or job works, and how best to take over managing your email.
- Create filters and folders and organize your inbox to keep things streamlined, easy to navigate and systematized.
- Build a custom email template library tailored to the specific types of emails you receive each day.
- Then once the basics are covered, move on to create more sophisticated email processes, like sales followup, to help you convert more leads into customers.
- They can also come up with email systems for dealing with customer support queries and help you to reduce your refund and cancellation rates.
The big difference you will notice straight away is how much time you suddenly have available.
Imagine what you could do if you never had to handle your email by yourself again... create new products? travel? spend time with your friends and family? go to the gym? work on new marketing strategies to grow your business?
However, there is one condition...
I don’t want anyone in your email inbox who I can’t trust. Since I won’t compromise our quality of service, and since my current team is small, we can only take on a few new clients every month.
Our services will always be boutique because we believe each email inbox is unique and needs unique training to best service.
Instead of going through the often laborious process of hiring a virtual assistant who may or may not write quality emails, or trying to find someone that you hope you can trust, I’m giving you access to a vetted email manager, someone I would trust with my own email inbox.
You might be surprised by how simple this transition is to make and laugh at yourself for waiting so long to do it. The difference this service will make in your day-to-day life could lead to a big breakthrough, freeing you up to focus on rapid business growth by increasing your bottom line.
At the very least, hiring an email manager will give you a taste of freedom. You will see how bringing someone else on board — even just for an hour or two per day — can drastically reduce your stress and unlock some much needed time.
If you’re ready to taste the freedom, apply here.
After we make sure you are a good fit for our services, we will be in touch to begin the setup process.
I can’t wait for you to see “No New Mail!” in your inbox every day and experience the freedom I’ve felt for the past 12 years.
Here’s to your freedom,