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How Freelance Writers Can Make More Money by Tracking Every Lead

tracking every leadTracking every lead sounds like a lot of work, particularly over the working life of a freelance writer.

Besides it also sounds boring, at least to me. And I know I’m not alone.

It’s really a matter of developing systems that will let you accomplish more than you ever dreamed, including solid lead tracking.

Why tracking every lead leads to more money

Probably ten years ago someone from the midwest found my website and called me to write a press release. He paid promptly and seemed to be happy with my work. Almost by accident I made a point to send him an email or give him a call every now and again.

About a year after the first press release he responded to one of my emails and wanted me to write a series of 25 emails, one every other week. I boosted my pay a bit which was okay with him. I had a predictable amount of income from that one client, largely because I touched base with him every now and again. Recently, after several years of no gigs, he contacted me again with another writing project.

That’s why we should track every lead and ask for referrals. This gentleman has given me several referrals over the years – none of which has resulted in any work, but I touch base with those folks about twice a year. I’ve gotten one gig because I’ve asked each of the referrals for referrals. I really wish I had begun this process much earlier in my writing career.

10 Steps to tracking every lead

  1. Tracking every lead – In order to follow-up on every lead you’ve got to be able to track each one. Some people use spreadsheets, others use a CRM. I use the free Capsule  CRMThere are other’s out there that don’t charge for their basic tracking. I also, in a whole other context use Google Sheets to track leads because I’m working with a partner who already had that system set up and we can both make edits etc. there.
  2. Create a plan to follow-up leads – you need a plan for following up leads if you’re to be consistent. It might look something like this:
    • Enter lead into your tracking system.
    • Make the initial contact, probably a phone call.
    • During the call make notes about the results of that call – enough so a year later you’ll have some idea of what happened.
    • Sort leads into hot, warm, and cool categories (see below for more detail)
    • Set follow-up appointments  immediately with hot leads. This gets repeated until they buy or sort themselves into a different category.
    • Close the sale. Exactly how you close will be up to you, but it usually involves noticing buying signals and being willing to ask for the sale.
    • Develop plan for servicing each closed sale, including when and how often to ask for referrals.
    • Schedule follow-ups for warm and cold leads. The timing and type of follow-up will depend on many factors. It might be a call, or an email, or a newsletter or some combination of all of these and several other ideas.
  3. Sort leads into hot, warm, cool categories – as a general rule you won’t know how hot or how cold a lead us until you contact the person. One approach is to consider every lead hot until they prove otherwise. Another is, after some initial talk, to just ask them how likely they are to buy from you now. In fact a combination of approaches probably makes the most sense. Hot leads move to sales unless it becomes obvious they belong in the warm or cold category.
  4. Expect to follow up with leads forever – How many times you have to touch a lead before they buy runs from, some say, 6 to 9 times. In my writing practice I find that people generally buy in the first call or two or move first to a warm lead status and then, if they don’t convert, to cold. It will vary according to your skills and your market. Leads that don’t buy, however, can give you solid referrals, but will only do if they are asked. And, after who knows how much time they may also turn into buyers. Of course you don’t want to waste time massaging them when you could be working with truly hot leads. You just don’t want to lose track of them either. Autoresponders, newsletters, twice yearly calls, a snail mail postcard, social media and many more ideas will let you stay in contact without costing you a ton of money or too much time once you get a plan in place. Make sure you automate as much as possible so you’re not distracted by the warm and cold leads and can focus on the hot ones.
  5. Create a plan to service your customers – as writers our ‘servicing’ is the actually writing and rewriting until the contract is fulfilled. Checking back with a client in a month only makes sense – they may buy more or give you a referral or both.
  6. Get in the habit of using your CMS. (See #1) Make sure every lead gets in and that every interaction you have with a lead or customer gets recorded.
  7. Integrate your calendars – make sure the calendar on your desktop, your phone, your tablet and the paper calendar on your desk and on your fridge at home are integrated. You want to be able to reliably schedule what you need to schedule and making sure all your calendars have the same information makes it possible. Okay, the calendar on the fridge just needs either the times you’re available or the times you’re not – but make sure it’s up to date and info you need transferred to your other calendars.
  8. Automate where you can – there are a gillion tools out there to help you in tracking every lead. On the other hand, you don’t want tech to get in the way of building relationships. You know you can’t automate everything – or that if you try, your sales will bottom out in a hurry. Take a good look at each tool you think might be helpful. Take advantage of trial periods to test. Be willing, however, to leave your desk and meet a customer in person or to pick up the phone and establish voice contact. I research, choose and learn only one tool at a time.
  9. Templates can help or hinder follow up. There are great templates for email and horrid ones. The same is true of websites, forms that collect contact information, and business cards and logo design, and, well the list could go on. Use them when it’s appropriate; personalize them when you can.
  10. Watch out for distractions. Entrepreneurs like to think of themselves as creative folks and most of them are to one degree or another, but don’t confuse creativity with distraction. Learning to say ‘no’ and to set your work life up so you can stay focused are the keys to eliminating distractions. Saying ‘no’ will also help you create the time to make tracking every lead a doable job.

Whew, this is a lot! I’ll bet, however, that you’ve gotten at least some of it done. You might want to print this page and bookmark it so you can track your progress. Expect it to take several weeks to get this all set up. Expect too that some of your new systems will need tweaking to get working properly for you. Note too, that as you and your business change over time, you’ll want to change tools and methods as needed. On the other hand, once you get this all in place and in the habit of using it regularly I suspect you’ll be delighted.

Do you have any questions about this? Post ’em in comments and I’ll do my best to get them answered.

Write well and often,


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