• Advice

How to be persistent, not pushy

At the Freelancers Union blog, we talk a lot about the importance of pursuing gigs with confidence – and that means reaching out to potential clients. But how do you ensure that you’re being persistent, without becoming pushy?

Here are my tips for being a go-getter without crossing the line.

Give it time

Following up is a good thing – but make sure you’re giving your potential client breathing space.

When we push too hard, too fast with potential clients, we’re signaling that we don’t believe in the strength of our pitch. Resist the urge to bombard that dream client with pushiness. Instead, start cultivating a long-term relationship.

If you’ve sent an initial pitch, wait at least a week before you follow up. Don’t take it personally if you haven’t heard back; people get busy! Focus on other things for a bit, and be patient. Follow common sense social cues, and give people space to respond.

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A “no” isn’t a “never” – but it isn’t a yes

The good news is that you don’t need to win people over instantly, nor do you need to give up at the first hint of rejection.

Again, focus on building long-term relationships: “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “never”!

Even if you haven’t heard back from a potential client (or if they turned you down), hold onto their contact information. Jot down notes about where, when, and how you interacted with them, for future reference.

If you’ve been rejected, politely express your interest in future opportunities and (if it feels right) ask if you can keep in touch about your services. Maybe the next project will be a better fit! If they say no (unlikely but possible), cheerfully thank them for their time and move on.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, let it go. Look for greener pastures. Don’t try to convince them that they are making a mistake or that you are the right person for the job. Don’t ask them what you did “wrong” or ask for notes.

You do NOT need to convince every potential client in the world to hire you; you need to find the clients who really dig your work. Don’t burn those bridges, but don’t keep building new ones, either.

Keep it friendly

The quality that makes potential clients cringe isn’t persistence – it’s pressure. Undertones of desperation or pushiness are unlikely to get you the gig.

You may punch and kick the air as much as you like in the privacy of your own home. You may whine at your computer screen. You may curse your conspicuously empty inbox. But in communications with potential clients, keep it friendly and light, light, light.

Even if you’re struggling (and we’ve all been there), come from a position of strength; you have skills that they need, and you want to collaborate with them. As far as clients know, you are a tremendously successful and busy freelancer - they are lucky to have the offer of your services!

Don’t beg, plead, or devalue your work. Avoid the hard sell (almost nobody likes it). Keep your tone friendly, collaborative, and professional – speak peer-to-peer, and be almost beatific in your acceptance of delayed responses to inquiries. Remember that when you’re looking for gigs, every communication becomes an important clue about your temperament and response to obstacles; put your best foot forward.

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.