It’s hard to pin down but some say that in business to business sales there’s at least a 37 percent turn over every year. My hunch is it’s higher. Many of those move on to other sales jobs, but a lot just quit and get a different kind of job.
The same thing is true of writers – many quit, often saying they can’t make a living at it.
If you drill down, the reason for quitting actually has little to do with the industry itself. Writers often fail because they simply don’t follow up. Or they don’t follow up enough.
Let’s start by talking about the two kinds of following up freelance writers must do if they are to succeed.
Two types of follow up
There are two types of follow up – the first is usually when a potential client first contacts you. This might be because you answered their ad, or you did some cold calling, or they found your website, or someone told them about you. These you want to respond to as quickly as possible. You’re likely to find yourself being interviewed and you want to remember you should be interviewing them too.
The second type of follow up is with clients you have written for and clients who didn’t hire you the first time.
You want to make sure that the clients who have hired you remember you when months or even years from then they need a writer. It also makes sense to re-contact those who haven’t hired you from time-to-time. Yes, those who didn’t hire you may need you down the road and if you don’t keep in touch they’re likely to forget you. Following up quarterly or even twice a year probably makes the most sense.
Ways to follow up
There are basically five ways freelance writers can follow up with clients and potential clients.
In most cases, when you’re responding to a potential client who contacts you by phone. It’s generally the most immediate and you can definitely get a sense of the other person from their voice on the phone. There may be several email exchanges before you go to the telephone.
The phone can work for checking in with clients you’ve done work for in the past, although I limit this one to a very few special people because it’s so time consuming.
Texting is getting more and more interesting as both a marketing method and a way of following up. At the moment, at least, texting has an incredibly high open rate – much higher than email. There are text marketing programs that allow you to send messages to groups of folks and it’s easy to see how that can work with you want to contact a group of former clients or those who didn’t hire you. Some of these offer caller ID so you know who you’re talking with when your smart phone rings.
This software tends to charge by the message and that can get expensive if your list is long. In other words, if you send one message to 200 people, that’s counted as 200 messages.
You’ll often have an email exchange with potential client before you talk on the phone. It’s a good way to get phone appointments set up. You can also email past clients just to check in, but except for maybe a few special clients you’ll probably want to go to a newsletter.
These days newsletters are almost always electronic. If you don’t have one yet, get yourself an autoresponder like Mail Chimp or Get Response or Aweber. Setting up a quarterly, annual or twice a year email for past clients and those who didn’t hire you can bring some nice response.
Believe it or not, snail mail, that old fashioned delivery system for paper newsletters, flyers and post cards can work when you want to remind both past clients and those who haven’t hired you yet of your existence. There’s some expense involved and designing the piece can be time consuming, but it may be worth it once in a while.
How do you maintain contact with clients?
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Write well and often,