I’ll admit that I’ve had some difficulty with follow-up in the past. I usually assume that if an editor or client doesn’t get back to me, they’re just not interested and I move on. Now that I’m trying more diligently to build up my freelance clientele, however, I’ve had to change that thinking pattern.
It turns out that there are plenty of reasons why a client might not get back to you, and most of them have nothing to do with their lack of interest.
1. They’re busy. It’s very possible that they just might not have found time to answer your email or return your call. After a reasonable amount of time has gone by (no more than a week) a follow-up email or phone call can be the perfect prompt to get the ball rolling.
2. They didn’t get (or forgot about) your message. Even the most organized people can overlook emails, forget items on their to-do lists, or misplace messages. A follow-up on your part can put you back on their radar. Even if the client doesn’t have work for you right away, the follow-up indicates you’re still interested and available if and when work comes up.
3. They’re overwhelmed with other responsibilities or deadlines. Again, this comes down to busy-ness, but we all have long lists of things to do. When several items on that list are urgent or coming due, things like answering emails or reading queries may fall to the wayside. A check-in via phone call or email to make sure you’re still in the client’s queue is totally acceptable. Express understanding for their delay in responding and then ask when you should follow up again.
4. The budget is tight. Clients may be uncomfortable letting you know that the money to pay you just isn’t available, so they may fail to get back to you. A quick follow-up call will let you express your continued interest in completing the work and may even provide the opportunity for you to discuss a payment plan or other options that the client hadn’t considered previously.
These are only a few reasons why a potential client might not respond to a query or quote, so follow up really is imperative to landing that business or assignment. While it takes a little extra time on your part, it really is worth the effort. Take my own recent experience as an example:
A potential client contacted me and requested a quote for some work. The client responded to the quote within 24 hours, requesting some clips and contact information for a reference, which I immediately provided. Then I waited. And waited. After several weeks with no response, I decided she must not have been interested and wrote it off as a lost opportunity.
But then my coach encouraged me to follow up anyway. After a little hemming and hawing, I finally picked up the phone and made the call. And do you know what happened? After a month of no news, that potential client became an actual client in the span of about 15 minutes.
The lesson here? Don’t let business opportunities fall through the cracks. Follow up on every query or client lead. Some of them won’t pan out, but some of them will. And that means more money in your pocket.