Replying to business queries is an inveterate part of your freelance life. In most cases you don’t have a secretary to handle your business related correspondences.
Whether it’s pitching for a new project or replying to prospective clients who are interested in hiring you, you constantly need to send emails. This becomes a repetitive and time-consuming exercise if you work on smaller projects, and almost every day you handle new projects.
For instance, I am a website content writer; sometimes a project constitutes of just one page and sometimes it contains many pages of well-researched content. Working on smaller projects means in a single day I get many queries through my website and I have to reply to all of them and sometimes multiple times because the clients have many questions even if they want just one page written.
Set An Auto-Responder
An auto-responder immediately sends an e-mail to the person trying to get in touch with you. Now an auto responder doesn’t look as personal as you may want your messages to be, but it is the best way of telling that person that you will be soon getting in touch with him or her. And this puts that person to ease to a great extent.
Automate as much as you can. Personally I haven’t used them, but some professional auto-responder companies and software tools can generate custom auto-responders according to the message of the sender.
If you feel there are some set patterns of expressions or information that you use in your replies, then put a comprehensive repository of answers on a web page and include that link in the auto-responder. When a new client contacts you, what is he or she mostly likely to ask you?
- What are your rates for your different services?
- What sort of work you have done so far?
- Testimonials, if any?
- How much time do you usually need to complete a project?
- How do you accept payments (CC, PayPal, Wire, etc.)?
- What exactly do you do (yes, they ask that too!)?
You can put this information on a web page and hyperlink to different sections, just like an FAQ page.
Set A Time For Sending Queries And Replying To Queries
Mention on your contact page, when they should expect a reply from you. Use some international timeline and convey to them that you check your email messages only during a particular period of the day.
Tell them that the rest of the time you are working on client assignments and they will appreciate the seriousness you devote to your work. I suggest you don’t reply to your queries the first thing in the morning because sometimes this work can stretch to a couple of hours and you will tire yourself even before starting your work. Reply to your queries after handling a big chunk of your work.
Save Some Templates
Are you writing the same message again and again? Then save a template message — all major email clients like Outlook Express and Thunderbird allow you to save templates. With the help of a template you can quickly create a new message and send it out.
Make Your Messages Short
This you must have read on many websites lately. Create shorter, concise messages and make a rule that you won’t go beyond n sentences in your e-mail messages.
Use bullets wherever possible because bullets let you create shorter and even monosyllabic sentences saving you lots of time in the process. Some even suggest that if there are multiple messages from the client then reply to all of them in one single message; don’t send individual replies.
Personally I think this depends on the nature of your message. If the replies are shorter, than I suggest that you quickly reply individually because going through multiple emails and copying/pasting messages and then compiling the replies can be really time consuming.
Seek Outside Help If Possible
If you feel that most of your replies are of general nature, you should outsource this task to someone else and spend your own time doing work, or promoting your services and products. You can even seek the help of a family member, after giving him or her some training.
Although you are the only one who can create customized rate quotes in case you don’t charge fixed rates for your services.
Replying to queries as I mentioned in the beginning is simply unavoidable and, whether you like it or not, it is a major part of your work, and hence you really need to organize it to make sure you don’t end up replying to business queries all the time, and be totally exhausted by the time you start working on the actual assignments.