Some writers swear they never follow-up, others spend hours trying to figure out when and how they should follow-up with potential clients. I got tired of both approaches and asked the client what I should do. I was amazed!
Follow-up secret #1
It happened this way. I was calling (I’ll name him) Jack for the umteenth time because he’d said he thought he’d like to hire me but wasn’t sure when. So I noted in my calendar to call him in three weeks time. He was pleasant and thanked me but we weren’t getting any closer to a gig for me. Finally I just asked him.
“Jack, do you want me to follow-up with you?”
“Oh yes,” he assured me.
“So how often?”
“Well, I do want to hire you for the web content we’ve been talking about,” he said slowly. “We won’t be ready for another month or two. How about you call me in a month. I should know more then.”
That felt so good and so different than my usual silent guessing, I tried it on another would-be client. This time when I asked,
“Do you want me to follow-up?” the response was different.
“I always enjoy talking with you Anne, but the truth is we’re not going to be hiring an outside writer for at least a year and the truth is we’re unlikely to hire outside even then.”
Although I didn’t get the result I wanted exactly, our conversation still felt good to me. I wasn’t begging, I wasn’t guessing, I was treating the client and myself as equals! The more often I use this ‘trick’ the better it feels and the better it works.
I’m not sure why I’m so surprised. We are in a service business. Most of our clients or potential clients are adults and know what they want and need. Asking them if and how they want us to follow-through only makes sense.
Follow-up Secret #2
Once I had the clients telling me what they needed because I asked, I realized I needed to add one more refinement. If the time they give me is more than a month a way I’ll cut that time short.
For instance, if a potential client tells me to call back in six months, I’ll schedule the follow-through for three months. If they ask me to call in a month I’ll usually call in three weeks.
The reason I do it this way is I know things often change in a hurry. By cutting their suggestion in half I’m reducing the likely hood they will start without me because they’ve lost track of me. So far not one person has said “hey, you said you’d call in six months and it’s only been three” or anything like that. Most vaguely remember me and that I asked them when I should touch base, but that’s all they remember.
Sometimes I’ll even tell them I cut their estimate in half and ask them if that’s okay with them. Usually they say yes. Once in awhile they assure me it will be at least as long as they stated. Often we chuckle at the difficulties in projecting when they’ll need a freelance writer.
I’m free of the fear of offending or being a pest and the client is happier too I suspect because I’ve included them in the follow-up decision making.
What do you think? Will you try this method? Or not?
Write well and often,
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