Most freelancers know that you should follow up with potential clients – it’s a great way to differentiate yourself from the pack, and it helps build valuable relationships.
But many of us cringe whenever we write that thank-you-please-keep-considering-me email or note. We feel embarrassed, needy, or worse – creepy.
But the truth is that you don’t need to feel shy or sheepish! Following up is decidedly smart and fundamentally non-creepy – as long as you keep 3 simple rules in mind.
1. Avoid the hard sell
Following up is a good way to keep yourself in the forefront of a contact’s mind – it’s not an opportunity to pin them to the wall and TELL YOU IF YOU GOT THE GIG, DARN IT.
Play the long game. Develop a relationship. Follow up in a nice, low-pressure way.
You want to come off as self-assured, not desperate – professional desperation undermines your value and is, unfortunately, off-putting. Focus on the client: their needs, their progress. What can you do to help them out?
And, for Pete’s sake, keep follow-ups to a reasonable limit: aim for quality, not quantity. Sending multiple follow-up messages in a short period without any response quickly makes you look… slightly nutty.
2. Be friendly, appreciative, and concise
Again, avoid pressure or aggression – nobody likes being pushed, but most people enjoy being wooed.
Keep it short, sweet, and active. Don’t overwhelm them with paragraphs and paragraphs of your thoughts; opt for pithy, rather than verbose.
Thank them for their time, and make sure you include clear, readable, up-to-date contact information. Don’t make them search for the best way to reach you.
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3. Have something new to say
Make sure that when you follow up, you have something relevant to say. It’s a good idea to reiterate any interesting points you covered in your last meeting – that shows you were listening – but try to add some extra ideas or context if possible:
“Re: our last discussion of your content needs – here’s some of the representative work I did for Client X, which I thought might be up your alley.”
If it’s been awhile since you met with your contact, news about your evolving freelance business is a good excuse to follow up. Just keep it relevant:
“Hey, Bill! It’s been awhile since we chatted, but I wanted to let you know that I’m now incorporating graphic design work into my website design – check it out here! Would love to talk about how that might help your business, since I know you’re starting that new site.”
Do your research. If they’re starting a new venture that seems pertinent, mention it! Just be clear how you found out about it – it’s perfectly fine to say you saw something online or in the press.
The truth is that most people are fine with follow-ups. They like (or at least are open to) being informed about what you’re doing – and how you can help them out!
As long as you keep it polite, friendly, relevant, and limited in quantity, you won’t come off as a creep. Instead, you’ll be a valuable and evolving contact… and nobody minds that.
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.