What Really Happens When You Follow Up with Clients
With just a few minutes of follow up per client, freelance writer and editor Joy Drohan got 6 new clients. Freelance writer Brandon May did the same thing—and got 3 new clients. Joy and Brandon have found a simple way to win more clients: they follow up with clients who are interested in their services but haven’t hired them yet. I call these interested clients. Staying in touch with current and past clients also helps freelancers win more clients.
Joy, a freelance writer and editor in environmental and agricultural sciences, got 6 new clients in 2017 and 2018 by following up with interested clients. “By consistently following up, you increase the odds that you will be the person who pops into the client’s head when project time rolls around,” says Joy, owner of Eco-Write.
And Brandon got 3 new clients in 2017 and 2018—including 2 anchor clients—by following up. “Two of the clients contacted me more than a year after I initially contacted them. They’re now my biggest clients,” says Brandon, a freelance medical writer and owner of May Medical Communications.
Anchor clients make it easy for you to grow your freelance business. These big clients give you lots of steady work, and it’s usually high-paying,
Brandon and Joy aren’t unique. I’ve won many great clients by following up regularly. So have dozens of other freelancers I know.
Stack the Odds in Your Favor with Follow Up
The odds are against us when we first meet or market to a prospective client.
That’s because less than 10% of clients need freelance help right away. Up to 90% of the time, prospects aren’t ready to hire a freelancer when you first contact them, say freelance gurus Ed Gandia and Ian Brodie.
But, if you focus on winning clients soon instead of now, the odds go up—a lot—because:
- 4 in 10 prospects you reach out to are likely to need freelance help over the next few months, says Gandia.
- Many clients are likely to need your help within 12 months, says Brodie.
So now you’ve gone from less than a 10% chance of winning the client to a 40% chance. I’m not a gambler, but those odds sure seem good to me.
And it’s a lot easier to win a client who’s already interested in your services than it is to find and reach out to new prospects.
Get More Clients with Follow Up
Follow up only takes a few minutes now and then. And it’s a lot easier than going to networking events, crafting customized direct emails, or other types of marketing.
Yet, most freelancers never or rarely follow up with interested clients.
Be Helpful, Relevant, and Persistent
Follow up is about being helpful, relevant, and persistent. It’s not about “selling yourself.” In fact, most of the time, you shouldn’t even mention your freelance services.
Learn More About the Right Way to Follow Up
Here’s how Joy and Brandon follow up with interested clients, so those clients think of them first when they need freelance help.
How Joy Follows Up with Interested Clients
Joy likes to send interested clients valuable resources, like a link to great sources of free high-quality photos. She also sets up Google alerts, so she knows about awards, projects completed, or other accomplishments. “If a potential client is in the news, I can contact them to say congratulations,” she says.
One of Joy’s new clients in 2018 had contacted her about being part of a new list of science grant application editors for their faculty. By following up to ask how the project was going, Joy showed her interest in the client’s work. Within a year, she was working for this client.
Try Picking Up the Phone
Joy also likes to follow up by phone, and finds this works well for her. “I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve gotten the preferred contact on the phone with the first try,” she says.
“I’ve had several people chat with me then about their potential needs, and I’ve been able to suggest how I might be helpful to them and to find out more about what they’re working on,” says Joy. She likes to call people on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday afternoons, when they aren’t as focused on their work as they are earlier in the week and in the morning.
Set a Follow Up Schedule
About every 6 months, Joy follows up with interested clients and past clients. She puts follow up on her calendar so she remembers to do it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had someone offer me an assignment immediately on follow-up, but if you come across as competent and can point the client to a professional website showing your relevant experience, you may stick out in their minds when they need an extra hand,” says Joy.
And keep doing follow up. “You never know when someone might need a freelancer, and you want to be the person the potential client thinks of when that need arises,” she says.
How Brandon Follows Up with Interested Clients
Like Joy, Brandon looks for news about the companies he wants to work with, and comments when he finds something interesting. Brandon also likes to send articles that are relevant to the company. “I’m a very non-confrontational type of person, so I make the follow up about offering something of value to the potential client. I try to show them that I truly care and have put the time into learning about the company,” he says.
Make Follow-Up a Priority
Continual follow up is a must for a steady stream of high-paying freelance work, says Brandon. That’s why he makes follow up, and his other marketing, a priority. “This helps me elevate marketing to a higher status in my daily to-do list,” he says.
Brandon doesn’t have a set schedule for follow up. “Whenever I see an interesting bit of medical news or a journal article, or a conference I’d like to attend, I send a quick, friendly email to the client,” he says. For follow up based on a relevant resource, Brandon includes a link to the news or the journal article. If he’s mentioning a conference, Brandon asks if he can expect to see the client there.
Briefly and at the end of the email, Brandon mentions, “I’m available to help out on any new projects.” Notice how he focuses on helping the client, not saying, “hire me.”
“While the ultimate goal of follow up is to get more work, the focus should be on connecting with the client and providing value,” says Brandon.
Follow Up With Your Current and Past Clients
While interested clients are the main focus of follow up, you should also stay in touch regularly with your current clients and past clients that you haven’t worked with for a while.
Joy found out how well this works when she passed along information about a website she thought would be useful to some of her clients. “The same day I got back three replies thanking me and telling me how they might use the site. One person told me of a new project, and I told her to let me know if she needed help with it,” she says. “Now I keep an eye out for more useful things to share.”
Joy learned about the website from the Editorial Freelancers Association, one of her professional associations.
Letting clients know you’re going on vacation (or to a conference) “often shakes loose new offers for work,” says Joy. If you do this about 6 weeks before you leave, you’ll have time to work on some of those new projects that always seem to come in when you’ll be out of the office.
It’s great to tell clients that you’re going to a conference, because it shows you’re interested in learning. And you might have a chance to meet with some of your clients at a conference.
That’s what Brandon was thinking when he reached out to a past client about meeting at an upcoming conference. It turned out that the client wasn’t attending the conference. “But they were glad that I reached out to them because they needed someone for an assignment covering a cancer research piece for their publication,” he says.
Following up with a second client about the same conference got Brandon another assignment, covering part of the conference for the client.
Follow Up With Everyone at Once
An e-newsletter is a great way to follow up with interested clients, current and past clients, and colleagues. Most of the content of an e-newsletter is helpful and relevant, just like your customized follow up. You can choose topics that highlight:
- Your expertise
- Work you like to do
- Types of projects that clients need help with.
11 Steps to Creating an E-Newsletter to Get Better Clients with Less Work will show you how to start an e-newsletter.
Start Your Follow Up
So now you know the benefits of follow up and have some great ideas about how to do it. Get started today and you can start winning new clients soon.
Learn More About Professional, Relevant Follow Up
Learn More About Winning More Clients with Follow Up
Learn more about Joy and Brandon