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How Successful Writers Follow Up With Clients & Editors

writers follow up with clients & editorsIn comments, I got this question:

An editor gets back to you, sounding interested and suggesting tweaks to your idea. Within 24 hours you get back to them with more research and a fresh outline, incorporating their feedback. Then you don’t hear from them for over a week.

Is it worth following up at this point?

We’ve all had this kind of thing happen. Maybe it’s not an editor but  a client who doesn’t respond as quickly as they had in the past. Or maybe communication with a prospective client bogs down.

We want to follow through effectively, but we don’t want to appear greedy needy and or feel we’re pushing. I often suspect it’s easy to trap yourself  by over thinking this sort of thing.

No magic follow up formula

There is no magic formula that will assure you you’re following up at exactly the right time. Think about it – how could there be? We are all so different!

Sometimes editors give us clues in market listings by indicating roughly how long it takes them to respond, but it’s hard to know when that was written and how valid the information is now. Clients will sometimes remember to tell you enough of their schedule so you have a feel for response time, but often they won’t or what they tell you changes. How writers follow up with clients & editors is a matter of judgment not rules.

Walk in their shoes

The best approach is to quit thinking about yourself and your needs and instead give some thought to what may be going on in the client’s or editor’s head. Try a little empathy.

The questioner seems to be dealing with a magazine editor. Magazine and newspaper editors are faced with incredible deadlines, either daily or monthly. If magazine editor editor has been communicating with you regularly and the communication stops, the chances are it’s because they are in the last throes of closing the magazine for the month. Failure to respond for a week or even 10 days isn’t necessarily the end of the world. In fact, when I’m dealing with a magazine or newspaper editor I ask when those deadlines are. That way I can support the editor by not expecting communication during certain times while keeping myself from going crazy was worry.

In the case of clients, after you’ve worked with them for a while you will get to know their pattern of response. When that pattern changes it’s totally okay to ask what’s going on. I have a long-term client who I may not hear from for a month or two. If  it seems too much time has gone by I send a quick me email asking if he’s okay. He’s been appreciative that I’m interested and I find out that he’s still alive.

When you’re in communication with a potential client it’s makes perfect sense to ask them what to expect. I will sometimes say something like “What’s the next step? And when should I expect to hear from you?” It’s not rude to ask these kinds of questions –  it’s only good business.

Common sense

In many ways deciding when to follow up is mostly a matter of common sense. This is hard to do if you’re unsure of yourself and feel you’re making a mistake by following up too soon or too often.


Take a deep breath and think about what’s actually happening. The truth is you haven’t heard from them when you expected to hear from them, that’s all. Ask yourself how you might follow up if you are dealing with a friend and not worried about the next writing gig?

Remember, you are a professional writer who is offering your services to other professionals. The editor or client and you are all peers.

Trust your instincts

You can trust your instincts and feelings about these issues. If it feels like it’s time to follow up by all means do so; if your inner voice says wait then that’s the right thing. Just be sure you’re coming from an attitude of service and that you’re getting your own fears out of the way before you make the decision.

Have you got a question about writing? Email me or ask it in comments and I’ll do my best to answer you here.


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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Sue Chehrenegar

    If I have been patient as I waited for a reply to my first inquiry, regarding a writing job, and if I then provided the same site with further examples of my expertise in the indicated area, how should I respond to this offer: We are willing to give you a trial run?

    Sue Chehrenegar

    • You can, Sue, but it probably makes better sense to move on since they sound like difficult clients.Don’t expect a reply when you apply online – in most cases you’ll only hear if they are interested.

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