1 Easy Way to Land More Freelance Work: Follow Up
Would you spend a few hours a month doing one easy thing to get more freelance work? You should be saying Absolutely! Please tell me what it is. So I will: Just follow up with interested clients.
Clients often say they want to work with us. Sometimes, their need for freelance help seems urgent and you expect to start right away. Then you don’t hear from the client again.
Other times you market to them. Maybe the client said they’ll put you in their freelance database. But you never hear from them again.
While this is very frustrating for us, what’s really happening is that the client is too busy to hire a freelancer or just doesn’t need freelance help right now.
Even if it seemed like the client needed to get started on a freelance job yesterday, things change fast, and competing priorities become more important. Clients who say they’ll put you in their freelance database or keep you in mind for future freelance work aren’t lying to you or blowing you off. They just don’t need freelance help right now.
Be First in Line for Freelance Work
The way to get more freelance work from more of those clients is to follow up, so that you’re first in line when the client is ready to hire a freelancer. Being first in line means that the client thinks of you—and not another freelancer—at that moment.
These stories—from me and just two other freelancers—are proof that follow up really works.
One of my clients, who I’ve been working with since 1998, hired me nearly two years after he first said he wanted to work with me. During that time, I had been following up regularly, with my newsletter, holiday cards, and occasional emails.
Over the years, I’ve made at least $1.8 million from this client.
A few years ago, I worked on a project for an Ivy League nursing school that was so big I had to bring in three other freelancers to help me. My contact there was someone I had worked with at another organization. He had been on my follow-up list for about a year when he called me.
When the project ended, he called me “an absolute pleasure to work with” and told me that he “couldn’t be happier with the final product.” But he didn’t need any more freelance help.
I kept him on my e-newsletter list and sent him a card at the holidays. Two years later, when a colleague at the nursing school needed help with another big project, he referred them to me. The colleague hired me after one email because she trusted the referral from my contact.
Over two years, freelance writer Brandon May got 3 new clients and freelance writer and editor Joy Drohan got 6 new clients by following up. Two of Brandon’s clients hired him after more than a year of follow up. Now they’re his biggest clients.
Learn more about how 2 freelancers get more freelance work
Dozens of other freelancers I know have gotten more freelance work through follow up with interested clients. Also get more freelance work by following up regularly with current and inactive clients and colleagues, especially other freelancers.
Interested Clients are Most Likely to Hire You
Follow up with interested clients is easy to do. Interested clients is my term for clients who’ve said they want to work with you but haven’t hired you yet. This includes clients who have come to you about freelance work and clients you’ve marketed to who said they’d put you in their freelance database or keep you in mind for future freelance work.
You’re much more likely to get freelance jobs from a client who already knows about you than from a brand-new prospective client. And you’ve already put some time and effort into attracting the interested client’s attention.
Most freelancers rarely or never follow up.
How Clients Buy Freelance Services
Here’s why. Freelancers provide B2B (business to business) services. Even if your clients are non-profit organizations, universities, or other organizations that aren’t businesses, the B2B rules still apply.
Clients rarely buy B2B services the first time they hear from a freelancer (or any business). That’s why meeting a client once or sending one direct email and hoping that the client will hire you someday rarely works—even if the client said they were interested in your services. Marketing Charts says that:
- 6% of customers take at least 4 months to buy a service or product
- 4% take 7 months or more.
Most salespeople—79%—give up somewhere between the first and second follow-up, says Josh Turner in The Trust Equation. Now, I know freelancers aren’t salespeople. Salespeople are trained in selling, and they like to do this. We don’t.
Even if 79% of freelancers give up after one or two contacts—and I’m sure the percentage is much higher—that’s good news for you. If you follow up, you’ll stand out.
That’s why you need to follow up with clients who said they’d put you in their freelance database or keep you in mind for future freelance work. And follow up with clients who seemed ready to hire you is even more important because they were ready to hire a freelancer and are even more likely to need freelance help soon.
Follow Up is Helpful, Relevant, and Persistent
Professional follow up won’t be uncomfortable. And it’s not about “selling yourself.” In fact, most of the time, you shouldn’t even mention your freelance services. Follow up is about being helpful, relevant, and persistent.
If your follow up is professional, you won’t be bothering or annoying anyone. Clients often appreciate the follow up, because they need great freelancers—even if they don’t need you right now. One of my new clients recently thanked me for following up with him (for the third time), because he had “a million things going on” and keeping in touch helped him remember that he wanted to work with me.
How 3 Freelancers Follow Up
Joy likes to send interested clients useful content, 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. Brandon likes to comment on news about the companies he wants to work with. He also sends his interested clients relevant articles. I send links to useful content, comment on LinkedIn posts by interested clients, and send them my e-newsletter and holiday cards.
How to Follow Up
Most of your follow-up should be customized to the client organization or your contact person, or your freelance friend. Commenting on news is an easy way to do customized follow-up about clients or the contact person. Ways to find news to comment on include Google alerts, the company’s Newsroom page, and LinkedIn posts.
Another easy way to customize follow-up is by sharing relevant content like blog posts, reports, and podcasts. And while you’ll send the content to each contact person individually, you can usually use the same content for multiple contacts. Sharing relevant content is a great way to follow up with freelance friends too. And if your freelance friends do similar work, you can send the same content individually to multiple freelancers.
Sign up for e-newsletters in your industry(ies) and target markets so this content comes right to your inbox and you don’t have to waste time searching for it. Also use this content in LinkedIn posts.
Generic Follow Up
Generic follow-up—sending the same thing to everyone—works too. Developing your own e-newsletter is a great way to follow up with everyone on your list at the same time. Most of the content in an e-newsletter is useful and relevant, not promotional.
An e-newsletter lets you highlight your expertise and preferred work. For example, I love doing content marketing for hospitals, healthcare marketing agencies, etc. The feature story in a recent issue of my e-newsletter, Engage!, focused on how to engage digital audiences. The story shows that I can help clients engage their audiences.
Generic follow-up also includes holiday cards. These should be print cards that arrive in the mail shortly after Thanksgiving—before cards start getting lost in the holiday rush.
A Friendly Reminder About Your Freelance Services
Once or twice a year, it’s fine to send interested clients and inactive clients a friendly reminder that you’re available for freelance work. But this must be part of your follow-up process and not the only time you contact these clients. Send a professional, low-key email.
You can also send a similar email to your freelance friends. Let them know what type of work you’re looking for and ask about what type of work they’re looking for. Only do this as part of your follow-up process.
Develop Your Simple Follow-Up Process
Now you know how to follow up with interested clients, current clients, inactive clients, and freelance friends. Next, you need to develop a simple process to make it easy to follow up regularly. Consistent follow-up requires three things:
- Developing a list
- Scheduling the time
- Developing your content library.
Put your targeted follow-up list in a tracker with a schedule for following up. You can do your tracker in a spreadsheet, a database, a Word document, or any other format that works for you. Record each follow-up, and any response you get, in your tracker.
Mark time for follow-up on your calendar—and treat it like a deadline for a client. Get it done.
Having a content library ensures that you’ll have lots of content (blog posts, reports, podcasts, etc.) ready when you need it. Stock your library (a folder on your computer with the content or a list of links to content) with:
- E-newsletters that are relevant to your clients
- Relevant LinkedIn updates and tweets (I get lots of content for follow up through LinkedIn)
- Resources from your professional associations.
If something is timely, send it along right away. Otherwise, file it away for your scheduled follow up.
Turn More Interested Clients into Actual Clients
Professional, consistent follow up with interested clients puts you first in line when they’re ready to hire a freelancer. Once you develop your follow up process, it only takes a few hours a month to land more freelance work.
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