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Of Frogs, Princess and Freelance Writing Leads and Follow-up

follow-upFollow-up is, of course, a must when it comes to landing freelance writing clients, unless, of course, it isn’t.

Carol Tice published a provocative article called The Secret of My Proven Freelance Follow-Up System. There she says, “I never follow up. Yes, really. I just don’t.” Which is an approach she’s made work for her.

If, however, you read the comments, you’ll find some agree and do no follow-up while others find they have to follow-up or their business dries up.

Like so many things in freelance writing, the decision of if, when, and how to follow-up depends on more than a few variables. Some of the variables include your personality and some are market forces.

You’ll never land every possible lead

One of the first things every freelance writer needs to accept is that you’ll never land every lead. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing magazine article, ghost writing articles for blogs, editing scientific papers, ghostwriting books, creating audio and/or video or even film scripts. No matter what specialty you develop or stumble into, more leads will say ‘no’ or ignore you than will say ever say ‘yes.’

Even worse, some that say ‘yes’ will end up not hiring you – ever.

The nos are not about you or your writing

Learning to accept the direct nos or the implied nos of no response is key to staying in the freelance writing business. There’s no getting around it, rejection is part of the game. The reasons for rejections are endless. They range from a very genuine ‘I don’t need you’ through ‘I don’t have enough time to even consider if I need you’ to ‘Yeah, I’d like a pro but I have no budget’ and on to ‘I want to hire my niece – she just graduated from high school and got an A in her English classes.’

None of these are about you or your writing. How could it be about you? They don’t know you from Adam or Eve. If they don’t like your writing that’s a decision of theirs, usually based on some amorphous idea they have that they can’t communicate to you.

All that’s happened is you’ve found more frogs than princes or princesses. And usually there are way more frogs!

What about follow-up?

I follow-up with some potential clients and ignore the rest. If I answer an ad through Craigslist or other job board I do no follow-up, knowing they will contact me if I seem to meet their requirements. I don’t follow-up on over the transom article queries or submissions – and I don’t worry about people stealing my submissions either. If I’m cold calling and reach someone who seems interested in what I have to offer I’ll ask them how or even if they want me to follow through. If they say later in the week, I’ll ask for a day and time; if they say in 6 months, I’ll agree and schedule a call back in 3 or 4 months.

Sometimes I get referrals, particularly for ghostwriting books. I’ll call or email until I make contact and have a conversation about their possible project. Often the response is ‘not now’ for various reasons. I’ll ask how they want me to follow-up with them and make sure I do roughly what they suggest.

I, like you are looking for the clients who will treat me well and pay on time. In my world that means I follow-up with some and not others. Do I know I’m doing this ‘right’? I don’t worry about that; I’m only interested in what works today, knowing it may change tomorrow.

In other words, how your follow-up, if you follow-up, and when is up to you. Try things until you find what works for you.

What’s your experience? Let us know in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer



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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Whether I follow up or not depends on where the lead came from and how reliable it seems.

    I get a lot of enquiries through the Warrior forum and I can often tell that they expect a pro but only have the peanuts to pay with.

    I’ll get some that ask how much for this or that but no other information. I do reply in most cases and list questions I need answered before I can give them a fair quote.

    I have enquiries from people who seem genuine and want to go ahead BUT after quite a few emails, they stop replying. I do follow them up several times but if I still get no response, I move on.

    There’s a saying in sales and it goes like this:
    Some will, some won’t, so what…next!

    I have a small handful of regulars and they don’t need to be followed up. As others have said, you get a feel for the people you should follow up and the ones you don’t want to waste more time on.

    Yes, you may lose some because you did not follow up, but only you can decide.

    • You said: There’s a saying in sales and it goes like this:
      Some will, some won’t, so what…next!
      Right on Laurence!

  • When it comes to work, the only “nevers” on my list would probably be: I never treat people with disrespect, and I never take advantage of others. (I’m sure there are a few others, but I can’t think of them off hand.)

    Whether I follow up with someone or not really depends on what the job/project/market is. Like you Anne, I wouldn’t waste time following up on a job listing—no big surprise since half the time I don’t find the listings worth applying to anyway. Those places tend to be inundated with responses so I don’t expect a personal response.

    However, if it’s a potential client I’ve actively sought out, I’ll follow up at least a couple of times because it demonstrates follow-through. I like to think some of those clients might be testing to see how dedicated and professional I am. But I won’t obsess or get all stalker-y over not hearing back after a follow-up.

    As with most things in life, it’s a delicate balance. And each writer needs to figure out what works best for them. Maybe it’s never following up, maybe it’s always following up, but more likely it’s somewhere in between.

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