If you don't live under a rock, you probably know what Gmail is, but you might not have given it the chance it deserves. Gmail is my favorite email application simply because of the flexibility. of it. There's very few email hosts that allow you the same amount of plugins and features as gmail.
As I write this, keep in mind that I use Gmail with Chrome, so all the features may not be available across all web browsers. AYou should also know that I've used Hotmail, Outlook, Comcast, Yahoo, BlueHost, Mail, Inbox and Apple Mail - and Gmail is BY FAR my favorite.
(Gmail is free to use! There are options for business accounts if you'd like a custom email address and additional features, but these aren't necessary to use the things I'll b talking about in this post. )
Taking an hour or two to set up your gmail might seem insane, but taking this time to organize your emails will save you more time in the long run.
Unlike most email providers, Gmail doesn't user folders, it uses "Labels". Label are essentially the same idea but with a huge bonus, you can store emails in multiple labels. Meaning I can label my email as "Homework" but I can leave it in my inbox until I do it. Then when I'm done, I hit the Archive button and it's removed from my inbox and stored in my Homework "folder".
You can have as many labels as you need, including sub-labels to help you organize them. You can also color code the labels in your Gmail sidebar to help you quickly find the one you need.
Here's a look at my labels to give you an idea of how I use them.
Different types of labels
The "Pipelines" folder is actually a part of the Streak CRM app, which we'll talk about it later on. Evernote is a regular label without sublabels while Home is an example of a label with sublabels.
Quick sidenote about the Evernote Label
I use IFTTT to automatically send any of my emails labeled as "Evernote" to a notebook in my Evernote account.
This helps me file and archive my important emails, and because Gmail allows multiple labels, I can save copies of my bills in Evernote, but still save them in the bills "folder". You can get this recipe right HERE.
Gmail works extremely well with IFTTT, you can see all the recipes on my page HERE.
Choosing which labels are shown
Under your settings and the labels tab, you can choose which labels are shown in your sidebar, and which are hidden. You also have the option of only showing the label when there are unread messages.
For example, I don't see my spam folder in the sidebar unless there is an unread spam message.
You can access all the labels by clicking the "more" button below your labels.
Color coding and sub-labels
To add a color or sublabel, hover over the label you want to change and click on the little arrow that appears (it'll show up on the little color block). This will open up some options for you to choose from.
Filters are how you can automatically move emails into specific labels. Filters are fairly simple, but there are a couple ways to add them.
- Directly from an email
- Directly from your inbox or label
- In your settings
Filters are my secret to keeping my inbox empty. I have over 100 filters at this point for all kinds of things. Email addresses I know are spam - I have a filter to send them straight to trash. Emails from any .edu email go to my school label. Emails with these words in the subject are starred as they are usually something that needs to be seen right away, "important" "right now" "due" or "don't forget".
You can add a filter for every single email address, or just for general subject lines. Gmail has a ton of options for filtering your mail. I get around 500 emails a day, but only 20-50 actually show up in my inbox. This saves me a TON of time for more important things.
I'll talk about filters more in the video, so keep on reading for right now :)
Google is always working on changes and improvements to their apps. From your settings, you can click on the tab "labs" and there are a bunch of options for you to try out. One of my favorite lab is the undo button, allowing you to stop an email from sending a couple seconds after hitting send.
Another lab I LOVE is canned responses. You can pre-write emails and send them out with a couple clicks. I use canned responses for guest post requests, people asking for advice I give out often or responses to sales pitches.
Look through the labs and try them out to see which ones work best for you.
Overview of Gmail
How to get a custom email
If you want a professional email with your own domain name, Google has a program that makes this super simple. You will need a custom domain name to do this if you don't already have one you can buy one on GoDaddy, Register or Domain. You can also purchase a domain name through Google while setting up your account (starting at $8 per year)
- Go to the Google Work Gmail page HERE
- Click on "Get Started" and fill out your basic info to make an account.
- You can set up your email using the express or custom way, if you've never done this before, use the express setup!
- You'll need to verify your domain to prove it's your own. You can insert an HTML tag into your site's homepage by copying and pasting the coding in your custom CSS for your homepage. In Squarespace, you just need to click on the settings for the homepage and then go to the advanced tab and add the code to the header section.
- Go back to the Gmail set up and click “verify.”
- Once you’re finished you can login to your Google apps account HERE and click “Users.”
- Under the Users section, you can add a new user, which will create a new email address. Adding an email is $5 per month or $50 per year per user.
- Once you're signed up you can access gmail and use your new email address.
Gmail Apps + Plugins
What I Use
There are a ton of apps you can use with Gmail, these are just a few of my favorites:
- Streak CRM
We'll talk about this more in depth below.
Sign contracts or have clients sign contracts directly from their emails. They won't have to leave gmail to sign anything, making a much simpler and quicker transaction.
See the LinkedIn profile of the person you're emailing. It shows their LinkedIn card in the right of your email. I email so many people a day, this makes it much easier to put a face to the name.
- Dropbox for Gmail
Preview dropbox files, seamlessly share files and save files all without leaving your email If you use dropbox as much as I do, you'll love this app.
- Evernote Web Clipper
If you use this already, you know there are about 1000 uses for this plugin, what you might not know is that if you clip an email with it, it'll save the email in a special format in your note. Extremely helpful if you use Evernote to keep track of old emails.
- Annotate & Comment
I haven't used this too much, but it can be really helpful for people working with a team. You can annotate, write on, highlight and make notes on PDF files from within your emails. The email recipiant can then see all of it!
- Go To Meeting for Google Calendar
This isn't exaclty a Gmail plugin, but it is helpful if you watch a lot of webinars. When you add a date to a calendar from your email, this plugin will add additional information if the event is held through GoTo Meeting.
YouTube, Drive, Calendar
I wanted to dedicate a little section just to Streak because it's such a powerful tool. Technically, Streak is a Customer Relationship Manager but you can use it for a ton of things. I use Streak as a sales funnel, bill tracker, wedding planner and client log.
Streak allows you to create pipelines (think workflows or processes), schedule emails to send later, keep all your emails from one person in one "box", schedule reminders for emails, snooze mail for later, keep notes and info for each client/contact, create better canned emails and see when clients open your emails.
All of these tools can be used by any business owner who works with clients or customers. Or you can use these to simply keep your projects organized.
Streak can be a little confusing when you first start, mostly because it has SO many features. I've been using it for almost 6 months and I still don't use half the features they offer. I really believe the best way to learn is by doing, so install it and play around with it.
boxes & pipelines
A box is created for each contact/client. Boxes hold all the emails, notes, and contact information for a person who you add to a pipeline. A pipeline is the process you create and move clients through,
When you want to create a new pipeline, there are 14 pre-set options to help you get started, or you can create a custom pipeline (click on the image to the left to see these).
As you can see, there are a bunch of options for how to use Streak. The best part about it is that you can add as many boxes (people) to a pipeline as you want, or create seperate pipelines for each project.
When you create a new pipeline it'll look like the one below (this is the product development template).
One of my favorite Streak features is the ability to customize all the parts of your process. You can rearrange, change colors, chage titles, add steps and add team members. Below are some of the screenshots from my pipline creation and how I use it to plan projects.
You can learn more about Streak CRM on their website HERE.