A few weeks ago I received a question that inspired this post. She wanted to know how I tracked my time when I was texting with clients. She told me sometimes when she received text messages she wasn't in "work mode" and often forgot to write down that time to track. This question originated from the article I wrote: How to Make Money as an Interior Designer. In this article, I lay out how much money you may be leaving on the table by not charging for as little as an hour a week.
If you're spending an hour a week texting clients and not billing them for it, you could be losing $6500 a year (based on $125/hr)! AN HOUR A WEEK. $6500 lost for not tracking your texting.
I get it, texting feels more casual and may feel a little weird to charge for. But you are communicating with your client and propelling their project towards completion. You may not want to charge for a "Scored the greatest rug for your dining room today!" or "On my way", but further discussion on their project that takes you any time to research, look up, think about the design - you should be tracking that time.
Pros & Cons to Texting for Business
But today I want to talk about more IF you should be texting with clients. Here is something that may shock you: I don't text with clients. Texting is not an option in Capella Kincheloe Interior Design, it is one of my set it and forget it processes. I communicate with clients via email or with my business phone number that doesn't receive texts.
The reason I don't text is because the "cons" far outweigh the "pros" for my business.
- Popular method of communication
- Potential miscommunication - the shorter your sentences the more they can be misconstrued.
- Hard to track - As my friend above mentioned, it is hard to remember to track this time.
- Hard to document - Three months later you can't find that text where you confirmed sizing with client and now it's wrong. Or the text from your contractor that he said black and you said red and now it's wrong.
- Easy to forget - If I don't respond immediately to texts, sometimes I forget they happened. Anyone else?
- Missed texts - Sometimes text messages just get missed.
- Hard to separate work hours from personal hours with text.
If You Must Use Text for Business
Not using text for business is good practice in my business, but you may be a text wizard and it could be unfathomable that you give it up. Here are some pointers for using text for work more effectively in your business.
Consider a separate phone or phone number for your business. This makes your business look more professional and is just good practice in general. Another good practice is only to respond to texts during business hours. I swear it's possible to ignore that knee-jerk reaction to respond and wait until a more reasonable hour of the day. If it was a true emergency, I'm pretty sure most clients will pick up the phone and call. You don't need to be on call 24/7.
You need to be disciplined about tracking your texts. Both in documenting the information contained in the text as well as the time you spend texting clients. How do you track the time you spend texting? You just do. However works for you, reviewing the phone at the end of the day to record the time billable, or sending yourself an email every time you get a text, or using a smartphone app, or just the notes app in your phone. However works for you is how you should track your business texting time. But you must be disciplined because it could be costing you thousands of dollars a year.
Second you must be disciplined about tracking the important information that the texts contain. Any decisions or directions that were provided in the text make sure you send a copy of it to your email with the date/time of the text. You want some kind of documentation for the future in case you can't remember, can't find the text, the client doesn't remember, or something comes in incorrectly. This is called protecting your ass. And when we must juggle as much information as we do, it's necessary.
How to Stop Clients from Texting
Okay, so you're on board with not using text for work! How do you keep clients from texting you?
First, as I recommended keep a separate business phone number. Let your clients know that you don't use text for work and let them know why. This is best to implement with new clients, it's harder to train existing clients to stop texting if that is what they are used to. But you can also let existing clients know that you are no longer using texting for business communications and that it'll likely save them money, you'll be more efficient (not having to mentally switch tasks), and that it helps you keep better records of their project.
If you have a client or vendor that has a hard time adopting your new process, you can create an error message that you send back when you receive a text from them: "Error: this number does not receive SMS messages". Another option is simply to reply via email, including their text message in your response. Keep it up and they'll likely get the point, if not you'll have to reinforce with a talk. Take it a step further and return the text with "Got your message! I will respond via email."