I can’t stress this enough: If you want virtual world success, you need to reply quickly to all communications you receive. There is nothing more frustrating than sending someone an email and not receiving a timely reply.
A business is a business, whether you work in an office, your own store, or the virtual world. Think of it this way: If there was a café you liked to go to, but each time you went, you weren’t sure they’d be open, would you keep going back with the hopes you’ll get lucky or would you find a new cafe with predictable hours to hang out at? If you found a great grocery store that was open only a few hours a day, would you rearrange your schedule to shop there or would you buy your groceries at a place with more convenient hours?
Online businesses allow you to work your own hours, yes. That doesn’t mean you have less responsibility to take an active part in making sure you check your emails, respond to clients, and manage your business effectively. There are thousands of people in the virtual world competing for business. If you aren’t on the ball, people are going to go elsewhere. No one likes to be kept waiting.
On the other hand, some online businesses (especially new ones) may not pull in enough income on their own. In that case, having another job to earn money is a necessity. If this is your case, then be up front about your hours of availability. Rather than keep people guessing as to when you might answer their emails, let them know from the start what your “office” hours are. Most likely, people will be understanding. They’ll also be far less frustrated trying to guess when you might answer their emails.