Follow Up to Get Ahead
There’s one action you can take to set yourself apart from other freelance writers. This tactic works when you’re trying to land a project from a new prospect — and with your current clients as well. Plus, it’s so simple, you can start using it today!
What action is it? Following up.
Just the simple act of following up can help you stand out from other writers, improve your client relationships, and provide you with future opportunities.
Consider this. In July, 2015, I discovered a message on my Facebook account that I didn't know was there. Because of other priorities, I haven't devoted the time yet to learning more about Facebook.
Someone at the local radio station had sent the message to ask if she could interview me before my book signing on May 30, 2015. Yikes! Did you note the difference in the dates?
I immediately called her to apologize profusely for the delayed reply. She wanted to speak with me off air the next day, Tuesday, at the station.
I arrived thinking we were just going to chat. Instead, she taped a radio interview about the book. It went very well and was then played several times that Friday. I even got to have my own theme song, Smooth by Carlos Santana with Rob Thomas, played as the introduction.
After the interview, she invited me back for any future events that might occur. And I do have some ideas percolating. At the very least, I acquired another friend.
Following up, even after my initial handling of this event was anything but smooth, created a great opportunity. And it may lead to more in the future.
So, where can you leverage the power of follow-up in your business? Let’s look at three opportunities …
1. Following up with prospects
Even though we know, as marketing professionals, it takes several “touches” to break through the consciousness of a prospect, we don’t always relate that to our own businesses. Instead, freelance writers often give up after reaching out once, maybe twice, to a prospect. That’s actually a mistake. Marketing managers are very busy, and it’s important for you continue to follow up on a consistent and frequent basis if you want to get on their radar.
Too often, freelancers, especially newer writers, will assume the worst if they don’t hear back. The more likely scenario is the marketing manager has been focused on his own workload and hasn’t rejected them at all.
Don’t let negative thinking derail your self-marketing efforts. Set up a marketing system that allows you to communicate on a reasonable schedule. Of course, there’s a fine line between being consistent and pestering. You can be somewhat bold in your follow-up, without turning into a nag.
Rebecca Matter has often said, “Follow up until the marketer says stop.” Follow up politely and consistently, and you’ll stand out from your competition.
Then after you land a project with a prospective client, you can continue to impress with your commitment to follow-up …
2. Following up with clients during a project
When you’re in the midst of a project, follow-up shows you want to ace the project the first time. It shows you want to do the best job you can. That you want to deliver copy that works and you’re striving for the fewest possible revisions. Follow-up creates a more successful outcome because your goals align with those of your client.
Keeping in touch about your progress will increase your client’s comfort level — which is especially beneficial when the relationship is new. Follow-up helps the whole project process go more smoothly. Guesswork disappears. Clarity of thought and purpose reigns. And any questions that come up will be easily answered because the lines of communication are open. (There’s nothing worse than not keeping in touch and then realizing you have questions you should have asked much sooner in the project!)
Here are a few other key points about following up:
- Follow-up demonstrates your detail orientation. Whenever you're in doubt, check it out. Conduct research first, so you can address your client intelligently without wasting his time on answers you could have discovered on your own.
- If something still seems complex to you, you may need to research more. Read all the materials you can find, and if you still have questions, then follow up with your client. If you have questions after reviewing available information, there’s a chance their customers do also. Your copy could eliminate those questions and improve their marketing materials.
- If you're dealing with a regulated industry, follow-up is critical for accuracy. Make sure everything you write meets the regulatory requirements.
- Control the amount of back-and-forth communication by monitoring expectations. State "no need to reply unless … " or "unless I hear from you otherwise by (reasonable time frame), I'll use the following … "
- You will learn from each client how best to work with her. Instead of "springing" an approach on her, you might try asking her up front what type of follow-up would work best for her and then proceed accordingly.
- Always strive to make each interaction with your client as productive as possible for both of you. Be specific, concise, organized, and direct.
Of course, follow-up when the project is over is critical! Follow up shortly after you deliver your copy, and make sure the files were received and that everything is in order. Ask if they need any explanation on anything you’ve provided. Was the copy as expected? Do they need more? Did the graphic design or web team need any help from you?
Finally, mark the project mailing or launch date on your calendar, and follow up with the client on how everything went. Did the copy work out? How are the responses going? Show the client you care about the success of the project, and not just your paycheck. You’ll enhance your long-term relationship and increase your reputation as a valued partner.
And follow-up about the project provides a huge benefit … you’ll actually build momentum and set yourself up for future work. Here’s how …
3. Following up with clients between projects
When you follow up, you’re in the ideal position to get more business. Following up demonstrates concern for your client and their ongoing success. It indicates you’re the type of writer they should be doing more business with. And it shows your willingness to collaborate with your client for the best possible outcome for their business.
Following up between projects keeps your name and your capabilities front and center. From the simple act of forwarding an article of interest, to checking in on what’s on their docket and letting them know you’re available to help them, follow-up makes a difference.
Use a follow-up bid to offer new ideas. You never know what might lead to more work. In fact, many freelancers have commented that the result of follow-up is often the offer of a new project! Just by putting yourself back on the radar, you may get work you weren’t expecting.
Remember, most freelancers do not follow up enough, so your efforts to keep in touch will help you stand out. They show initiative. And, follow-up will help you build relationships that last.
Think of follow-up as the icing on the cake. It is something to look forward to, for it signifies opportunity. The simple act of following up creates the chance to convert prospects to clients, clients to happy clients, and happy clients to long-term client relationships. Even when one project ends, another copywriting adventure will begin!