Horkey HandBook Blog

How to Follow Up When You’re a Freelancer

When was the last time you followed up with a prospect?

Let me guess, that’s something you don’t do very often.

I know I usually send an email, and think to myself that whatever will be, will be. No point in bugging my contact. Surely, they’re busy.

But Chad is here to teach us how to follow up with a prospect and why that can make all the difference and seal the deal. It turns out, it’s not that hard to do it either. 

For the record, Chad did follow up on his cold pitch to Horkey HandBook, so he does really practice what he preaches.

Take it away, Chad!

Your job is hard enough as a freelance writer. Creating content isn’t even the real struggle. It’s finding the work. You research potential clients, prospect, craft the perfect pitch, and then you wait.

You win some. You lose some. But you live to pitch another day.

Did you really lose the ones you didn’t hear back from?

Let me ask you this:

How often do you send a follow up e-mail to the pitches who don’t respond to you?

If you don’t follow up, you definitely need to start. The research, prospecting, and pitch has already been done. The hardest part is over!

The follow up is an essential piece of any sales role. Uh oh, he said it. That bad word … sales!

I get it — you’re a writer and that’s where your passion lies. But make no mistake, you’re in sales. You’re selling yourself in a market where the supply is higher than the demand, and competition is fierce.

Here are a few statistics from the National Sales Executive Association:

  • 2 percent of sales are made on the first contact;
  • 48 percent of people never follow up with a prospect;
  • 80 percent of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact.

Let’s say you send 20 pitches per week, and on average, you get one new client from those. While it’s great to get new clients, wouldn’t you want to increase your conversion rate? I know your competition does. That’s why they’re sending follow-up emails.

Continuing to source new work is (and should be) an ongoing process. But if you’ve already laid the groundwork for other opportunities, taking a few minutes out of your day to send a follow-up email should be a no-brainer.

Work smarter, not harder. Start following up!

Enroll in our mini course to find out if being a virtual assistant is right for you

1. Why You Should Follow Up

First, what is a follow-up exactly? Well, in relation to what we’re talking about, a follow-up is simply a correspondence email or phone call after the initial contact.

If you’ve never forgotten to call or email someone back, I’m inclined to ask which planet you’re from. We’re human, and we forget things.

I’m sure you’re busy. You have errands to run, kids to pick up and drop off, Yoga, Pokemon Go … whatever. Your prospects are no exception, and they are equally busy.

A follow-up will not only remind potential clients that they’ve forgotten to contact you, it will also show them you’re serious about helping them. This is a win-win.

Perhaps the person you cold pitched didn’t need your services at the time of your initial contact. Maybe your warm pitch isn’t happy with their original selection. A lot can happen in 2-4 weeks. They could have an immediate need now that you wouldn’t have known about if you didn’t send a follow-up.

How to Follow Up as a Freelancer and Why You Definitely Should2. How to Approach the Follow-Up

I hardly know anything about golfing.

What I do know is that if your shot lands on the green, you don’t get out your driver for the next one. As with golf, your approach to the follow-up depends on where your first pitch landed.

The difference is that in golf you can see where your ball actually went.

Unfortunately, your pitch is slightly more ambiguous.

It’ll help if you ask yourself these questions:

  1. How qualified are you for this role?
  2. Are you pitching a job you have little interest in, or is this your niche?
  3. Do you have pertinent writing samples, or are you using generic ones?

If you’re very qualified for the role, you may want to swing for the fences.

Instead of a generic follow-up inquiring if the role was filled and expressing your interest, try to lead with why you’re such a good fit.

Generic writing samples are fine to use since they showcase your skills. But if you have writing samples that make you a home-run candidate for the role, send them again. Maybe the body of your email wasn’t enticing enough to make the prospect open your attachments the first time.

Speaking of which, don’t resend the same email you sent the first time!

It may have been great, but it didn’t get a response. You should also try using a different subject line to grab their attention!

Gina’s Tip: We have a lot of resources about pitching on this site. These are just a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for additional resources, just put “pitch” in the search bar to find more.

  1. The 90 Day Pitching Challenge
  2. How to Pitch Without the Right Samples
  3. How to Write Pitches That Get Noticed
  4. Finding Clients to Pitch: Exactly How I Would Do It Today
  5. 5 Ways to Up Your Pitching Game

3. What to Say in a Follow-Up

Again, this is situational. Factor in what we discussed above after you’ve asked yourself the three questions.

If it is something you feel you’re perfect for, something like this would suffice:

“Hello (insert name)

I reached out to you via email on (insert date) in regards to the (describe the specific opportunity and where you found it). I wanted to follow up with you and see if the opportunity is still available.

This is an area I am extremely passionate about. Below, you’ll find my relevant experience:

If the opportunity has been filled, I’d greatly appreciate any consideration for other opportunities in the future. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you!”

It doesn’t have to be worded exactly like this. What is important is that it addresses the following:

  • Insert their name and make it personal.
  • Relay the type of contact it is so they know whether to check email or voicemail.
  • Give them the date so they can find the original email easily.
  • Restate which opportunity it was and where you found it, just in case they posted more than one.
  • Let them know to contact you for future roles so they can save time and money by not posting the job again.

4. When You Should Follow Up

I follow this general rule of thumb.

For a warm pitch, I send the first follow-up email 10-14 business days later. If after another 10-14 business days go by and you don’t get a response, send a third follow-up. After that, it’s up to you if you send more or not.

Most of the jobs you pitch aren’t going to be “one and done” gigs. That means that even if they have someone completing their work now, their situation could change at any time. Sending a follow-up email every 4-6 weeks to prospects you’ve never heard back from even after a few follow-ups is still a good idea.

Following up on cold pitches is a little different.

Since there is no immediate need (that you’re aware of), you have to walk the fine line between annoyance and persistence. I generally extend these a week out from warm pitches and send the first follow-up email 14-21 business days later. Then I follow the same timeline as for a warm pitch.

Your follow-up method can be whatever you’re comfortable with.

There are no rules. Do try and show professional courtesy though!

Always Follow Up

Realistically, you’re going to fail more times than you succeed.

Both with the initial pitch and with the follow ups.

But persistence will get you paid. You’re in an incredibly competitive market. Odds are, the people who are successful aren’t more talented than you. They’ve just mastered the art of prospecting, pitching and following up.

You can be equally successful if you remember three things:

Stay positive. Remain optimistic. Always follow up.

Enroll in our mini course to find out if being a virtual assistant is right for you

Chad DresdenChad Dresden is a freelance professional who turned his love for writing and experience in sales into a digital marketing business. Chad specializes in creating a holistic approach using social media management, content marketing and SEO to grow businesses. He’s based in Detroit and owns CSK Digital Marketing. He’s a lover of traveling, bourbon, fitness and his Boston Terrier, Rocky.

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey

FOUNDER & CO-OWNER

Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.