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Avoiding Project Failure: Following Up

Nov 16, 2020
(updated: Dec 5, 2022)
Max 5 min read

Relationships are the backbone of any business—from that of a freelancer to a multinational corporation. It costs much less money and time to get repeat customers than to acquire new ones. But where many businesses fail is with strengthening these relationships through proper follow ups.

Building strong relationships is particularly important for freelancers to avoid the headache of continuous cold outreach. Repeat customers simply make life easier. And repeat customers come not only from good work, but from good relationships and effective communication. This includes following up when necessary.

Let’s walk through some of the situations that warrant following up and what should be included in your messaging. 

After pitching or presenting to your client

This is particularly important after the first time you present something to a new client—a pitch deck, a checkpoint on the deliverable, a report, etc. An email recap of the information and an outline action plan of what comes next will be appreciated by any client. It shows you’re attentive and organized, and it keeps the client in the loop with your next steps.

After an interview

If you meet with a potential employer, don’t forget to send them a thank you note after the interview. Keep it brief—express your gratitude and comment on something you learned about the company (i.e. “I particularly enjoyed hearing about the company’s plan to boost its diversity and inclusion efforts.”). A short and sweet thank you email will leave your potential employer with a solid first impression.

After meeting with a potential client

Similarly to the interview situation, emailing a potential client after that first meeting is critical to leaving a strong first impression and building their confidence in you as a reliable professional. Keep it crisp, but make sure you thank them for their time and the opportunity.

Think about this: you and another freelancer both meet with the same potential client. She thinks you both would do an adequate job, so she’s unsure who to choose. But you follow up by thanking her for her time; your competitor doesn’t. Who do you think is leaving a better first impression?

After a networking event

If you go to a networking event (even if it’s a COVID-19-friendly Zoom version), you have an opportunity to follow up with somebody who interested you, who you could learn from, who might have potential opportunities, or is connected to somebody you want to be introduced to.

A good avenue here is LinkedIn. Send a connection request and include a comment about being happy to have met along with a call to action (i.e. “I’d love to meet for coffee and hear more about your business”). Try it. You never know what could come out of a kind LinkedIn message.

After no response to an email

You’ve sent a proposal to a potential client, but one week has gone by and all you hear are crickets. Reaching out again can feel uncomfortable, but it’s normal to reach out 1-2 more times if you do it appropriately. Some of the clients I have now would not be clients if I didn’t reach out after not getting an initial response.

Here are things to consider before sending the follow-up:

   • Call to Action (CTA)

Did you leave a call to action in the first email? Maybe you ended the email with, “I’d love to hear more about X.” Here, the client doesn’t need to answer anything, so if this is the case, ensure that your follow-up instead has a direct question like, “Are you free for a quick phone call early next week?” This will much more likely get you that response.

   • A fresh email

Copy-pasting isn’t the right move here. You’ll likely just make the recipient guilty for not responding the first time. And an inbox like Gmail might even filter you out as spam. Adjust your subject line, tweak your message, and ensure that your CTA is strong.

   • Timing

Wait at least one week before you send that first follow-up. Anything earlier than that might give off an impression along the lines of desperation. It’s difficult to wait, but you always want to remain professional.

Always follow up

Following up one or two times is always better than trying at all. Not trying will guarantee that you don’t get that new client or puts you at risk of damaging relationships with existing clients. Put yourself out there. Freelancing is tough but taking the steps to build your relationships in the business by following up will always be worth it.

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