What is the acceptable timeframe for returning calls/e-mails?

(10 Posts)
GettingGoing Thu 21-Mar-13 11:10:49

Obviously this depends on the relationship and a variety of other things - but I would appreciate some general advice.

There are two issues here:

One is that I make sure I have a very quick turn around of e-mails and phone calls. As a result I'm constantly working and getting a bit perplexed about the fact that others keep me waiting before returning my calls and mails! I'm thinking I can probably afford to slow down a bit and be a bit more patient as well.

I imagine it depends on who is the client, but what would you consider an acceptable time to keep someone waiting
a) if you were the client
b) if they were the client

Many thanks

WilsonFrickett Thu 21-Mar-13 11:32:07

I always return as quickly as I can, however I have been known to do an acknowledgement, ie 'thanks for your email, I've had a quick scan but am on a deadline for another project, will respond at x time.' And of course 'x' varies depending on relationship, urgency of query, etc.

Having been a client, usually if I'm out looking for a freelancer it's an urgent request, so I'll keep calling and emailing people till I get a response. In that case a quick - 'yep, can do it but can't discuss it till tomorrow' is brilliant because I know I've found who I need and can get on with something else.

I know I get work because I respond quickly and am flexible though. One of my clients always talks about how they can plan using me better and I smile and nod while thinking 'noooo, that's going to lose me work!'

GettingGoing Thu 21-Mar-13 11:52:44

Thanks Wilson. I send holding e-mails too - but many don't.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Thu 21-Mar-13 14:33:23

Are you literally talking about client emails or emails from "others". I find I have a smaller amount of actual client emails and then a whole raft of others including suppliers (which could be to do with a client), contacts, sales people, friends, e-newsletters etc.

I try to respond to clients that day, but it depends on what I am doing and what they are asking or I need to ask.

Something that has helped me recently is to split my freelance emails out into a separate inbox. I was looking at google apps but opted for hosted Exchange via BT. It means that when I have deleted an email via my phone, it has gone from the inbox. I spent a lot of time previously "managing" the same emails!

I always think back to this course I went on - www.thinkproductive.co.uk/in-house-workshops/in-house-workshops-getting-your-inbox-to-zero/ when trying to manage the emails. It is based on the Get Things Done approach - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done

For me managing emails then helps me be more responsive but that might not be your issue.

As Wilson says clients usually use freelancers when they don't have time to do things themselves so responding quickly is good. However it sounds like there might be room for delaying some responses in order to let you move away from the PC etc.

Could you try to "audit" your approach (eg what/when do you respond, to whom, when do they then respond back etc) see when you can afford to respond a bit later?

GettingGoing Fri 22-Mar-13 00:48:51

I'm talking about e-mails from everyone.

I use gmail on a PC and tablet. They syncronise, so I only deal with things once. I wonder sometimes whether I need to make myself less available; people probably think I have no clients at all, whereas it is really that I am up all hours working!

My inbox is usually pretty much at zero - I don't mind doing e-mails, but I do them at the expense of the more projecty work that I procrastinate about.

I contacted someone recently after a few previous e-mails (I am the client) and have not had a reply for five days (not a holding e-mail either). Is that shoddy, or am I being difficult?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Fri 22-Mar-13 10:39:09

I think there is something in "training" clients re their expectations of how you are.

I just think back to when I was employed. I had to make an effort not to email my team in the middle of the night, if I couldn't sleep and decided I needed to work. I used to write the emails, save them and send them during the day. I didn't want to teach them to expect emails over night nor feel they had to respond. Different scenario but maybe something in it.

It is rubbish that a supplier took 5 days to respond. Did you try to call them if it was urgent. I am very wedded to email personally and use the phone as a last resort but maybe they are more phone based etc?

If you think you are appearing too available then you probably are. Easier said than done to change your approach though.

I think I am similar with emails. What I try to do now is work for an hour, then have 15/30 mins looking at emails MNtting. Then I go back to work for another hour etc. They really do steal time. This could also mean you automatically delay your response to clients...

I saw your other thread about hours etc. I sometimes find keeping a track of time helps me focus when I am really busy. I use www.paymo.biz/ which is free. You can also invoice from it and it has a phone app.

Not sure if any of this is any help.

GettingGoing Sat 23-Mar-13 13:13:32

Thanks Margot - there is a lot there that I need to think about. I have had a look at paymo and may sign up for that.

Are you aware of any on-line networking forum of small business owners? (or tiny business owners in my case!).

Many thanks for all your help (have replied to the pm)

Talkinpeace Sun 24-Mar-13 23:05:08

DH does his email after 5pm, regardless of what time it comes in.
I do mine at Lunchtime and early evening.

VERY FEW emails benefit by being answered within three hours.
Many emails sort themselves out if left for a few days - the larger the number of recipients, the less attention any one of them should pay to it.

Phone calls - answerphones are your friend - screen ALL calls and pick up those that you know are urgent.
Call back within 24 hours.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 26-Mar-13 20:38:46

Talkin talking lots of sense as per usual smile

Re online networking GettingGoing I personally have found LinkedIn Groups are good for connecting with those in your niche. However, I have found the SME ones are generally full of people trying to sell themselves which isn't very helpful and kills a group generally!

This site is good - www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/ - esp if you have a specific question. I have 2 logins, one for numpty questions and then one in my business name should I reply to somebody about their marketing etc. I would say that some of the posters can be harsh - like anyone forum I guess!

Somebody on a thread on here mentioned this ihubbub.com/freelancers which looks ok.

I have to say that I have found getting out in person is the best form of networking for me. I do have online "friends/followers/those I follow" and a few have turned into contacts (not really clients though) but the most useful/last connections have been where I have met people in person...

Sorry probably not much help!

If you want moral support (am guessing here) could you try to find a business buddy, somebody that is in a different field but is willing to chat to you and you to them about starting up a business. There are probably start up forums out there, maybe try them?

GettingGoing Wed 27-Mar-13 20:00:05

Thank you both - will take all your suggestions on board

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