New clients can come from a variety of places. Some may be referrals, others may come from cold emailing, calling, ad campaigns or other acquisition strategies. No matter where the potential client came from, you need to know how to take the next step to close the loop and earn the client’s business.
If you’ve been tracking your pitches then you know the next step in the process is following up. Following up is very important because you never know whether someone needs an extra nudge to make the decision to work with you for the first time or rehire you for another project.
How long should you wait before following up
When I was single (10+ years ago!), the common advice for dating was to wait three days before contacting a potential love interest. Now that most people communicate through texts and Facebook messenger, that timeline has probably shortened to three hours.
When thinking about the best time to contact a potential client for a follow-up, consider this: most full-time workers get hundreds of emails each day. Of these hundreds of emails, dozens require quick responses and action. These days, everyone’s inbox is crowded so following up too quickly may backfire and your email may get deleted.
You should give the potential client some time to read over your email and think about your proposal. After reaching out, wait 5-7 business days before you follow up.
This time frame gives potential clients a chance to think over your proposition without feeling like you’re hounding them.
There’s a fine line between seeming like a responsive freelancer interested in someone’s business and someone desperate for clients (or money).
Set a reminder in your Google calendar, or other organization app, to email the client back 5-7 days after your initial email.
When I follow up, I send the potential client a version of this template.
I recently emailed you about [service, offer, job position] and I wanted to follow-up to see if there were any questions I can answer or further information I could provide to help you make your decision. I’d love to hear more about your business and how I can be of service to you.
I hope to hear back from you soon.
Following up with a former client
A former client is someone who you’ve already worked with in any capacity. It doesn’t matter if you worked with this client two weeks or two years ago. It’s good business practice to occasionally reach out to see if former clients need assistance again. Sometimes an email from a previous freelancer can remind a client that they have something they put on the backburner that they’d like you to do.
Reaching out to a former client can be one of the easier ways to get more business when you’re experiencing a slowdown. You have already established a relationship with this client and they can vouch for your good work. It’s a low to no risk situation for them because they know the value you bring. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to reach out to clients that you’ve had issues with in the past or who were unhappy with your work for any reason.
When to check in with a former client
When reaching out to a former client, I’d suggest sending an email about three months (or one quarter) after completing a project. This gives the former client a chance to review your previous work, but it’s not enough time to forget working with you. If you want six months to a year, your former client may have changed jobs or responsibilities or not clearly remember what work you did.
Again, you can keep track of when to contact a former client in your Google calendar or organization app.
When following up with a former client, I send a version of this template.
I hope everything is going well with you since we last spoke.
In [month, year] I did [description of project/task] for you. The results were [describe the outcome of the project]. It was great working with you and I’d love to do so again. Do you have anything I could take off your plate?
I hope to hear back from you soon.
What to do if you receive no response to your follow-up
No matter how perfect a follow-up may be, there’s a good chance that you won’t get a response from every one you send out.
You may want to send one more email, two weeks later, restating your follow-up email. If you haven’t heard anything by that point then you can assume that they aren’t going to respond.
Put them on a list to contact in the future and reach out again in a few months. Be aware that not everyone is going to need or want your services. Keep trying and don’t get discouraged by the process. Everyone gets rejected, but the freelancers who get consistent work are the ones who prioritize following up with potential and former clients.