How to Avoid an Email Filtering Nightmare

email filtering

Today I discovered a new nightmare for freelance writers everywhere. What happens if you suddenly stop receiving emails but aren’t aware of it? Unfortunately, that’s what happened to me this week. I want to write about it here so it doesn’t happen to you.

The Background

In late 2016, I wrote for a client who required me to get a few expert interviews in the medical field for an assigned story. The editor recommended that I use a service that pairs up writers who need interviews with sources who want to give them. It actually worked out kind of great.

However, my work email address ended up on a list of journalists (it has since been removed). Since then, PR companies and all of these other people constantly email me, add me to their email lists, and put me in group emails to feature them in an upcoming story. The problem is that I don’t really write those kind of stories. Even if I did, I’d reach out and wouldn’t include a company merely because they harassed me by email to do so.

In the beginning, I responded to each one of them and explained this to them. They didn’t really care and kept emailing me anyway. I’d hit unsubscribe, but that rarely worked. They even told me they’d rather email me against my wishes just in case I could help them out in the future…

Last Week: A Solution

Since then, I receive anywhere from 30 to 70 of these emails a day that I usually just delete at this point. It wastes a lot of my time and makes me angry. My email provider, Zoho Mail, recently changed many of its features when it became part of a suite of products, instead of a standalone service.  On Thursday, March 9th, a pop up asked me if I’d like to filter “emails like these.”

I was so excited. Of course I’d love to filter these emails out. They’re wasting my time and it takes longer to find client emails because of them. I happily selected “Yes” and moved on with my life.

Starting on Saturday, strange things kept happening. I wasn’t receiving emails that I should have been, even from clients who were supposed to email me. I’d email them but never get a response. I grew nervous because I didn’t want my clients to think I didn’t care about them or turned into a flake. (As someone who has worked with contractors to design logos, build websites, etc., my biggest fear is appearing less than trustworthy, missing deadlines, or not being there for my clients. I know how frustrating this can be).

Realizing the Problem

Yesterday, I called a few of my clients to ensure that they received my work. Fortunately, I was able to talk to one of them this morning, when they called me back. They had emailed me that they received the work. I went through my spam folder to find the email and it wasn’t there.

On a whim, I checked my trash folder. There I found 99 client emails (plus several hundred of these other junk emails) in my trash folder. I had to spend four hours emailing clients, apologizing and trying to make things right. Had I not checked the trash, I can only imagine what could have happened.

Key Takeaways

Even though this is my 7th year freelancing, I find that it’s never too late to be forced to learn valuable lessons. Today I learned:

  • Check your trash folder and spam folder every few days
  • Don’t rely on email filtering options
  • Follow up on changes you make. I would have found these sooner if I followed up on the filters on Friday

Fortunately, my clients are all pretty amazing and I don’t think this will have any long term effects. What snafus have you encountered with your email? Let me know in the comments below.