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How emails show 'YOU'

Besides being a photographer, there is so much more I need to excel at to be a good small-business owner.
Of course I'd love to not have to do anything else besides having fun with my work as an artist, but life turns out to be a bit more complicated. You know, bills to pay and so on...

But if I drew you a chart, photography would actually be one of the smallest slices of the pie!

On being a small-business owner - the behind the scenes

Being a small-business owner, I have to be a strategist, I have to build my brand and products, I have to know marketing and its tools, I have to know social media and develop my digital personality, I have to price what I do, understand finances (eeek), I have to blog, know a little bit of SEO, check analytics, develop interpersonal skills, deal with good and bully clients, and the list goes on.

But if there is one thing I want to talk about first of all, is emails! Yes mails! It seems like such a simple thing to do on our tech era, but it actually is not.

What emails can do for your business

Emails are one of the biggest forms of approach you can have from your potential clients. Even after you have booked them and met them in person, you will still keep emailing them until the day of the actual job, and upon delivering the product.
And if you are like me, you'll become friends, and then you'll keep emailing each other from time to time (hahaha).
Emails can make wonders for your business if you excel at them, but they can also be a trap, delay you, and what's worse, make you loose your potential client.

Your first email shows a lot of who you are personally and business-wise

Depending on the type of business you run, you have to adapt your language and form of communication.

In my case, I mainly deal with families, moms to be, freshly engaged brides and grooms to name a few.
I like to use what I call a 'happy approach', because every time I am contacted for work, it is normally a birthday party, a maternity shoot, a wedding, wedding renewals.
What I love about the 'happy approach' is the fact that it comes really natural to me.
If you know me, you know I am naturally bubbly, and that I am a sucker for love stories. It just naturally melts my heart.
At the same time, I like to keep my emails professional, excited but short and informative, and I always answer them during business hours.

About understanding your clients first email
As a small-business owner, it is also very important to learn how to distinguish the types of clients who really want you for being you, and for the love they have for your work, or those who see you only as a supplier, or a vendor.
I know we all have to pay bills and that our parents say 'we should never say NO to work' and blablabla. But from experience, I'd rather work with less clients but who love me and what I do, then work with a lot of them who see me as a mere servant.
It is also about knowing your value as an artist, and making a stand for it.

The clients I want to work with are the ones who seem to be kind, who show a real interest in having me as their photographer, who like my style and photography approach, who give me details on what they expect and on what their wedding plans are and who invest their time in answering my form questions with love.

Not saying anything less than that is rubbish, and I know we all have agendas, but those are the type of people that are more like me.
They care, and they show how important photography and video from my brand means to them. Those are the types of people I know I am going to have a good time with, which is SUPER IMPORTANT when you are dealing in a business that is 100% emotion and having to deal with cameras pointing at you.
I've worked with couples in the past that had no intention in having a good chemistry with me, and it worked out to be disastrous. Turns out, on 90% of the times, I could have seen that from the moment of their first email.

So if your potential client shows real interest in you, wants you and only you (if you are available) and turns out to be your cup of tea, GOOD!
It also means you marketed yourself right online (which is something we'll talk about on another post).
You are in to check your agenda, and send a happy email back, answering to all their questions.

If their email seems merely interested in how much you cost, it can mean:
a) you didn't market yourself right to reach your target client;
b) they don't see what you offer as priority;
c) maybe they just didn't have time, or don't know how to best sent emails!

In either, don't feel discouraged. There are still things you can do.
I am not the type to not answer. I know people who don't even waste their time, but I believe in second chances, and know that sometimes clients might just be in a hurry.
So I always like to ask a few questions before I decide if they are my type of peeps or not, like:
- How did you two meet?
- What are the plans you have for your day?
- How did you find out about my work?
If they invest time on that email, and if what they have to say relates to you/your brand, they might actually be your client.

Things I always have in mind when answering emails

Emails are one of the biggest time consuming tasks of my day, and it is natural to feel overwhelmed with the amount of messages to answer, and on how you need to adapt to each before you write.
I always try my best to be cheerful, kind, and most of all, show integrity. So for those 3 to work, here are some guidelines that to me, are LIFE:

Set times to answer your emails
It is important, specially if you are a small-business owner, to separate your private life from your work like. And even more if both happen in the same space (I work from home a LOT).
So set your work times straight, and stick to them. It will not only teach you when your work day is about to begin and end, as it will also teach your clients when they should expect answers from you.

For example:
I am in bed. It's 10pm. I check my phone and see there is an inquiry. If I answer it right away I am:
a) Setting no time boundaries to my clients whatsoever.
You are giving the image that you are always available, which on one side is good, means you care, but on the other hand, it is one of the biggest traps a freelancer can get himself into.
You can still show that you care first thing in the morning, on the next day + you'll look more professional.

b) Seeming to be desperate, which if the client you have is the bully type, you will look like the cotton candy flavour he/she likes eating the most.

In my case, I set my schedules from Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 7pm. I will not answer an email before or after that, because that means I am giving myself time for a private life too.
And because we are not robots, and sometimes plans don't go as they should, we have to have some tricks. So here is a golden tip:
Another good way to keep your rules alive is by using Boomerang! With it, you can schedule your emails to be sent whenever you best see fit.

Always say hi, thank you, and goodbye
Even if your style isn't corporate, it is about having manners.
Always start your emails by saying hello to whomever is reaching you (never straight to answering the question), thank them for their email, and always end with a goodbye note, like a 'see you soon', 'I look forward to hear from you', or even a 'xoxo'!

Never answer emails when you are angry
This is one of my most precious messages!
There will be times when you are angry just because life sometimes sucks.
There will be times when a client was mean to you.
There will be times when you are hungry and angry.
NEVER EVER EVER answer emails if you are not ok.
Go for a walk, take a shower, do something else, wait a day. Then write the email. Wait an hour or two, re-read it, then press 'send'.
You will feel much better, believe me, and you won't have said things out of pure emotion.

Always Follow up
Following up is the opposite of being annoying, ok?
One thing is answering/sending an email and two days later to a week following up, and another thing is sending an email, and an hour later chasing the person for an answer.
The first option shows care and professionalism.
The second one will make your client run away.

Keep them short but informative
No one has the time to read an email that goes on for miles.
Be kind and informative when you answer, show off your personality, but don't go around in circles.

Hope this helped!

This is the first of a series of business posts I have in store to show you.
I believe we should be there for one another, specially when it comes to freelancers and small-business owners.
I also love to learn new tricks and tips on how to get better at this so if you have something else you'd like to share regarding emails, please do!
I hope this helped you step up your email game and make you take it to a new level.

The key is to always be you, because that is what your clients are looking to find on the other side!
So every time you sit down for an email session, roll your sleeves up, bring out the best of you, and show them your ace communication skills!

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