Ah, Google. Formerly the darling of the internet services industry, nowadays it gets plenty of flak for its apparent cavalier attitude to privacy (not to mention its plans for world domination…).
Whatever your opinion of the tech giant, you can’t deny they offer some fantastic services – and their free email provider Gmail is no exception.
Offering clean, easy-to-navigate presentation, Gmail is ideal for freelancers – but don’t let the simple exterior fool you. Under the hood you’ll find lots of handy little features to help you manage your inbox influx more efficiently – even if you only have a basic account!
Say you want to follow the paper trail on a previous project; easier said than done if each email is hiding amongst all the others in your inbox.
This is where labels come in handy. If you’ve attached the same label to several emails, you can see all those emails in one handy list by clicking the respective label in the left-hand column.
You can add a label to several emails at once, apply several different labels at once, and even nest labels within other labels. It’s great for managing your clients and the different projects you’re running for each one.
To add a label to any email, simply click the tickbox next to the subject line, then click the pencil icon near the top of the page. You’ll be presented with a list of labels which you already have – you can either click on one of these to apply it, or click ‘Create New’ to make a brand new label and apply it to the email.
So it turns out you added the label to all your necessary emails – except the one you actually need to find. Looks like you’ll be going through your inbox with a fine toothed comb for the next half-hour, right?
Actually, no – because Gmail’s advanced search is here to save the day. Take a look at the search bar on the page – just to the left of the search icon, you’ll see a tiny arrow pointing down. Click it, and you’ll open an Aladdin’s cave of search options.
You can search by sender, receiver, subject line or even words in the content of your email, and specify the arrival time-frame and file size of the emails you want to find.
You can also choose where to direct your search – trawl through your whole account, or narrow it down to labels or individual folders (the latter is ideal if you suspect an important message has landed in your spam by mistake).
If you’re au fait with Google’s advanced search operators, you can type your own search filter criteria without having to open the drop down menu.
But we’re just scratching the surface of what these search filters can do. Take a look at the bottom of the advanced search drop down menu and you’ll see a ‘Create filter with this search’ option.
Clicking this will allow you to set certain conditions for your incoming mail – and the possibilities are endless.
For example, with filters, you can automatically apply a ‘Networking Opportunities’ label to any emails which mention a ‘networking event’, ‘expo’ or ‘conference’ in the subject line.
You can automatically forward any emails from a particular client onto a colleague. You can ensure any email which talks about a ‘deadline’ will never be sent to your spam folder.
You can even automatically delete any future emails from contacts which you’ve already said no to working with (but who can’t seem to take no for an answer).
If one of your filters becomes obsolete, you can simply delete it by clicking the Settings cog icon near the top of your email window, then clicking the Filters tab.
Have Your Say!
These are just a few basic features to get you started – but Gmail offers a lot more. What are your favourite tips for managing your emails? Drop your ideas in the comments below.
I am good at managing my schedule, so I can usually get projects booked in without much lead time. Let’s get our heads together and get your project done.