You may have a million excuses for why email is not your thing, not your priority, or not something you're able to 'manage'. But there is a reason to why client's need you to respond quickly. Sometimes potential new clients are price shopping, sending out emails and trying to find the best vendor at the best price. But sometimes, sometimes the first person to respond is the one to get the job. You snooze, you lose.
I'm not saying you should work 24 hours a day, incessantly hitting refresh on your email inbox. BUT I would certainly advise having a good response time (I personally like 4 hours). So think about a reasonable schedule, like "I'll check my emails at 8A, NOON, 4PM and then one more time at 8P, but that's it!" Think about your #worklifebalance and about your ideal clients. Are they millennials? The average response time of millennials is SIXTEEN MINUTES. WHAT!?! Okay that is like on it. So think about that, then add details about your response time to your contact page...
I pride myself in responding within X hours during normal business hours, can't wait to hear from you!
Use your vacation minder when this isn't possible. This might be a day when you know you won't be able to respond to emails (being able to check them doesn't do diddly squat for a 'response time'), or it absolutely should be when you are on vacation. Gmail is THE BEST for this, and I use mine ALL the time in the summer (because I love vacation). I'll put something like this out there:
I am out of the office today, and the next day, and the next day, and....
I will return on X day and can be reached in case of an urgent matter via phone.
I always have my phone number in the standard signature of my emails, so if there truly is an emergency I am reachable. To be honest, there rarely is an 'emergent' matter, but perhaps I plan it that way...
Your website contact form should have an auto responder, it should either say "Thanks, I'll be in touch shortly!" or send them a questionnaire to gather more information from them. This makes the client feel acknowledged, and gives you a little more leeway.
It's also a good idea to have your "open"/business hours listed on Facebook and on Google. AND add it to your contracts, that you are only available during normal business hours. That way there will be no complaints!
Why does this even matter? (If you are truly asking that I hope, at least, you don't have a snarky tone, because it does matter)
Responding in a consistent and timely manner givers your clients and fellow vendors a sense of comfort. Like, 'phew! They are still here for me, they do still exist, they will show up to the wedding'. It makes them feel valued and it makes you look like you either A) Can afford minions like office workers or an assistant or 2) Have the ability to care about your clients concerns. And caring tends to mean, 'yay we are friends!' And friends do things for one another. You provide a stellar customer service experience, your clients give five-star reviews and referrals at every chance they get. WIN. WIN.
Prosperity, Love & Happiness,
Header photo credit: Thomas Lefebvre