Today’s writing post isn’t about writing, or it isn’t in the strictest sense. It’s about running a writing business, or more specifically, running my writing business.
When I started my business full-time nearly a year ago, one of the things I learned quickly as client work started coming in was that I needed a way to keep track of contacts, projects, and followups.
One day, I came across a technique someone else was using. I don’t remember who it was or where I saw it — not that it matters; mine’s not exactly the same — but it gave me an idea.
Since virtually all my contact with clients is via email, I decided to use built-in GMail features to organize those contacts.
I created a folder labelled [Follow-up]. Since GMail labels sort alphabetically, the bracket makes it jump to the top of the label list. I created sub-labels for every weekday. By prepending them with numbers, I can have them appear to sort chronologically.
Whenever I email (or reply to an email from) a client, I attach one of those 5 labels to the email, then I archive it.
For example, if I send an edited draft to a client for approval on a Tuesday, I’d label it with Thursday or Friday, which gives them 2 – 3 days to review it.
Each weekday morning, I open up the label for that day and review the emails listed there.
I run through each email and decided what to do with it. I might send a follow-up email, then relabel it for a few days later. I might review our conversation for a meeting we’ll have later that day. I might even decide that the client needs more time to respond, so I’ll move it a day or two ahead.
After a while, I needed to add a couple of other labels. One is “Later” and another is for the following month. If I send a quote to a potential client, and they ask me to follow up in a few months, I’ll throw it in the “Later” label. The next month label is for things I need to follow up at the first of the following month.
I’ve been using this method for about 10 months, and it’s been a lifesaver. It’s reminded me about projects I’d completely forgotten about, and it’s helped me to keep on top of outstanding invoices or quotes.
What’s your favourite productivity practice?
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