Let’s imagine that you have spent years building up your expertise in a certain niche – say, puppy training. You have written articles, created courses, published e-books (or real books), filmed training videos and hosted web seminars. Suddenly, your name is out there. Your promotional activities have born fruit, and you are now the ‘go-to guy’ on puppy training. For a while, it’s great. Your products sell like hot cakes, and your e-courses are always full. Grateful clients send you emails telling you how fantastic your information is – and of course, you use their words in testimonials. That generates even more sales. Then one day you sit down at the computer to start on your email – and you realize that it’s out of control.
Increasingly, you are getting mail from puppy-owners assuming you will be happy to dispense free advice. (After all, you are the guru.) People who have done your courses tend to stay in contact, too. Sometimes they just to report success, sometimes they ask for further advice. («I know you’re a busy person, but I wonder if I can just ask a quick question?») At times, you open your email program and find that you have twenty or thirty emails to answer. You’re spending hours every day just being polite to people or answering more questions. What are you going to do? Obviously, you can’t keep this up. Yet you know that these are nice people – their motives are innocent, and you don’t want to offend them. They obviously have no idea how much time you spend on unpaid support – or how the time spent on all those ‘quick questions’ can add up. Here are a few strategies that can help you take control of your time again. 1. Outsource Technical Support. This is the first thing you should do if your expertise has started producing a good income. Your time is precious: use it to create new products or to enjoy well-earned leisure time – not to give technical support. Create an email forwarder (or a new pop mailbox) on your website, which will forward all support issues to the person you hire. Make sure this ’support’ address is included on the ‘thank you’ email that goes to all customers who buy downloadable videos, e-books or software. 2. Create a FAQ Page on Your Website. You will find that the same problems or questions come up again and again. Each time you get a different question, add it – and your answer – to the FAQ page on your website. Suggest that clients check this page first to see if the answer to their question is there. 3. Create Website Forms for Support or Contact Your email will decrease if you ask clients to fill in a contact form on your website rather than emailing you directly. Put a polite note on your website explaining to people that because of the volume of mail, it has been necessary to use a website form.
Here, you can direct people to consult the FAQ page before they fill in the form, or to Tech Support, if this is the issue. 4. Create Quick Explanations Using the Signature File Your email program should allow you to create new signature files. (In Outlook Express, this is under Options/Signature Files.) If your business is not yet large enough to outsource support, use the signature file to create quick answers to common questions. (For example: a common question is «I’ve downloaded your e-book but it won’t open in Acrobat. I get a message saying that the file has been corrupted. What do I do?» Mostly, this problem arises because the customer is using an outdated version of Acrobat Reader. So, you create a new signature and call it «Acrobat Reader». Type out a few lines that say something like «Most problems in opening PDF files are solved when you download the latest version of Acrobat. You can download it here…. If this doesn’t solve your problem, please contact me again.» Create similar signatures for any common question. One of the first that you should create is a friendly paragraph explaining that your email volume is so high that you can no longer spare the time to address problems personally. Suggest that the FAQ page is a good source of information… and perhaps provide a different email address for URGENT concerns that are not covered on the FAQ page. Most people will respect your time once they understand that you get large volumes of email and simply don’t have the time to answer individuals. You’ll find that a collection of signature files that address common questions will save you a great deal of time – you can respond with a few clicks of the mouse, rather than typing it all out again. Bottom line: If you don’t recognize the value of your own time, nobody else will – so take action NOW to regain control.