Sometimes, you’ve gotta be that “in your face” type of freelancer. By that, I mean client follow-up. You may have to duck in and check up on clients to make sure you’re getting the work. Especially in business, the early bird gets the worm. A client may not always think of you for a project first, so it’s good to stay visible without being obnoxious.
This is especially true if you have a client that gives you ongoing work. I don’t follow up much on clients that need a one-time thing. If I’ve written the website content for a restaurant, there’s not much else they may need other than maybe a brochure or a new menu at some point in the future. They have my contact information if they need me.
But if you work with ongoing clients–such as marketing or advertising agencies–the pipeline is rich for continuous work. So what can you do if you don’t hear from that client in a while? Get in their face. A little. Nicely.
This can be hard, to be quite honest. I’ve “ducked in” on clients and have been assured that more work is coming–and then it never turns up. Instead of getting forceful or becoming a pest, you otherwise need to let go and stay in touch. But you can’t bully a client into giving you more work–that wouldn’t look so good for your business. That’s why I’m offering up a few ways to stay visible to your clients.
Contact the client directly. When staying visible, you don’t want to gravel for more work. The best way to do this is to open up some communication but not regularly hound the client for projects. When I’m feeling disconnected from a client (and wondering where my next big project is), I like to email or call to check in. I simply let them know that I am checking in to see how everything is going. I tend not to call because I don’t want to put anyone on the spot, but calling may be a good option if your relationship with the client is based largely on phone conversations. Otherwise, keep it brief and let the client know that they can contact you when something comes up.
Follow up on a previous job. Another approach to staying visible is to email or call, but instead of feeling awkward wondering if the client is thinking you are begging for work is to follow up on a project you recently did. Most of us do this anyway, but it’s a great chance to let the client know you care about their projects. A simple message to let the client know you wanted to follow up and see if they needed anything else on the project, or to inquire about how the client liked it, will keep your name fresh in front of your client’s mind.
When not to use this tactic: A year after you wrapped up a project for the client. If you don’t hear back after a duck-in or two, it’s okay to contact the client but it is likely that inquiring about the project may seem awkward. Chances are, they are well beyond the project you did for them.
Ask about additional services. I only do this if the client mentioned during project creation time that they were considering adding things in the future. For example, if you did a website for the client and they mentioned creating a brochure or adding a blog, that’s a viable reason to reach out after the project has wrapped up. Don’t wait too long to check in on something like this–you want to secure the work when they client is still singing your praises. And obviously, if the deal went sour, I’d rather not set myself up for potential rejection.
Send out an email campaign. So after you have ducked following a project, it’s good to stay in touch. Instead of emailing about work, why not stay visible by sending out your regular newsletter? This way you don’t have to seem desperate for work but again, you are staying visible. This is why it is good to get your clients to sign up for your email newsletter campaign. Sometimes I sign my clients up automatically and simply let them know if they want out of the newsletter, I can take them off or they can quickly unsubscribe. But sending out an email is a useful way to stay visible but not be a pest.
Timing is everything. After you’ve made your initial “duck,” it’s good to step away for a while. The client knows how to reach you. As much as you want to ask if you’ve done anything wrong or if they can “pretty pretty please” give you more work so you can pay the rent, it’s best to stay professional. You don’t want to play hard to get like you are dating, but you don’t want to be in their face too much.
Cope with the silent treatment. If you have a client that is just not responding, try to keep your insecurities at bay and focus your energies on other clients–or getting new ones. Chances are that all of your clients won’t stay with you forever. Losing a few here and there doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong–it’s just the way this business goes. They may not need your services anymore, and yes, they may have found someone else. The last thing you want to do is demand they give you more work, or explain why they haven’t done so. They have the right to use others in the same profession as you–as frustrating as that may be. By staying on the ball and remaining professional, hopefully a duck-in produces more work. If not, there are plenty more clients out there who will appreciate all of your follow-up efforts and won’t think you’re a “quack.”