The Simple Follow-up Email
The “in-conversation” emails.
So you used this essay to send a great email and now you’ve got clients replying left and right. Great job! Receiving a positive response is a great first step. Now comes the most important part. Following up.
You should put leads in different groups depending on what stage they’re in. You’ll want to follow-up with some leads more often than others.
In my lead generation service, Workshop, I allow freelancers to group the leads I send into different groups. (I also remind them to follow up with these leads every week).
For a client who has responded positively I recommend the group “In Conversation”, because these leads are different than a lead who has never responded. While you should follow up with both, the people who have responded positively to an email should get more aggressive follow-ups: every 4-5 days until you get a solid “no” or “not right now”. It’s your duty to remember. Embrace the no. Try to get to it as quickly as possible.
So how do you follow up with someone who’s replied favorably to your email? Simple. Ask one question:
“Hey! This sounds good. Are you looking to bring me on in the next month?”
You don’t want to waste your time or the client’s time on a project that is too far into the future.
The lets help you find out what’s right for you email
If they respond that they’re looking to bring you on sometime in the next month, then you should begin talking about the project seriously. When you confirm the project will be happening soon, it’s time to schedule a call.
“OK great. I’ve structured similar projects with past clients in your situation a few different ways. The best way to find out which one is right for you would be a 15 minute call where we can meet and discuss what you need.
Does next week on X at X:00 work?”
This call will allow you to ask everything you need to know about their budget. I like to recommend monthly retainers for the bulk of my clients. If they can’t schedule a call, ask about their budget over email.
Follow-up later email
On the other hand, some leads won’t have a project starting for a few months. If this is the case, move them to a “Staying in Touch” group and reply:
“OK I’ll follow up with you then. I love X about your company so you’ll be high on my priority list.”
It’s great to take the follow up on yourself because it means the client doesn’t have to do anything.
Lastly, the most likely response to any of your emails is no response. The key to turning positive replies into paying clients is to actually follow up.
Losing an opportunity in your inbox is so common that usually the consultant who snags the client is just the one who actually follows up.
If a lead doesn’t reply to one of your emails (and trust me they won’t) you’ll need to follow-up until they respond again.
The follow-up email.
Following up is a delicate flower. You don’t want to do it too quickly or too often. But most importantly you don’t want to not do it. If I had to get twice as many clients by just doing one thing it would be making sure I follow up with every single lead and past client.
Besides actually doing it, the key to successful follow-ups is that you don’t want to rush the conversation. You just want to make sure you’re having it. Focus on the present situation. Avoid phrases like “I can start tomorrow” when you haven’t even established whether they want to hire you.
You want to have everything ironed out before you begin closing the sale. You need to establish what you will be working on, when you will be starting, whether you’re tackling the right problem, whether you know their business intimately, and how much you’ll be getting paid.
Rushing through these things doesn’t help you or the client. A client can tell when you’re just telling them what they want to hear. That’s another reason it’s extremely important to make your follow-ups short.
If you send a long rambling email, you’ll leave a client thinking: “I don’t even want to reply to this because I know I’ll get an even longer response if I do.”
You don’t want to be too fast to follow up either. One follow up in the first week is fine, and two in the second week.
Here’s the sequence. You’ll be amazed at how simple it is:
“Hey haven’t heard back from you on this, is it still something you’re looking to do?”
1 week later:
“Hey there, any update on this?”
3 days later:
“Hey is this project still a priority for you?”
At this point, if you haven’t heard back to your cold email it’s OK to end the conversation and walk away. However, you should let them know by sending one last email a week later:
“Hey there, since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.”
That’s it, resist the urge to add anything else to this final email. The abrupt ending will cause clients to respond more often than not.
By following this sequence alone you’ll see a huge increase in new clients. Use this sequence, most people won’t.
It will also be a load off your mind to know exactly what you’re going to say to every lead and not have to worry about any lead because you’ve closed the loop on every conversation.
The testimonial email.
The easiest way to get testimonials is by minimizing the client effort involved. When you’re coming close to the end of a project, send an email like this:
“Oh and by the way, I’m thinking of doing a case study about ProjectName on my website – with your permission. I would also love to include a testimonial from you about my work with CompanyName. Something like this would be perfect:
Using Robert’s design services to create a website that measurably attracts more customers is a guaranteed investment.
In fact, if you’re busy at the moment, I can use that quote for now. Either way, let me know. Thank you!”
This works most of the time, because all a busy client has to say is “yeah, sure,” and the work is done.
The referral email.
Once I get a testimonial (which is basically an endorsement to the whole world), I’ll go in and ask directly for a referral:
Thanks for the testimonial. This was an awesome project.
I’d like to continue working with you. I have a few ideas for what we can do in the next few weeks to add to this project and make it even more successful.
I’ll send those over soon, but for now, if you know of anyone who would benefit from a similar service, I would love it if you could send me their email. I’ll let them know that you were thinking this might be right for them, and answer any questions they have about how your project worked out (I’ll also cc you on the email)!
Again, this approach does all the hard work for the client. They simply email me with a name, and I take care of the rest.
The fully-booked email.
One of the questions I get from Workshop customers who have booked themselves solid is about approaching clients when your work calendar is already full for the next few months.
It may seem like you have to stop all sales activity but the opposite is true.
When you’re booked in advance it’s actually the best time to email new leads because it means you can take your time, make sure there’s a good fit, and negotiate from a position of power. It’s the opposite of when you’re in dry spell because you don’t need the job. You can even experiment with different approaches.
In fact, awesome freelancer Paul Jarvis deals with this all the time. He continues to land work despite being booked 6+ months at all times. Here’s what he tells prospective clients:
“Hello Client, First thing I want to let you know ASAP that I’m booking months out in advance.
If you need someone immediately I’ll be happy to recommend someone else, but if you’d like to work with me specifically – fair warning – the longer you wait, the longer it will be until we can work together.
ONLY signed contracts with down payments go into my schedule, and only then will any of my clients save a spot in my schedule.
This email indicates how in demand you are (the truth) and makes them sign on quicker to make sure they get into you schedule. Everything you say is true, and even better it’s clear and upfront with the client.
It puts you in a position of power and creates scarcity, separating you from the crowd.
The retainer upsell email
Clients will often need small updates and tweaks to their website. When they ask about your availability down the road or what it will cost to make a change to their website in the future, they’re really asking if they can trust you won’t disappear the minute you hand off a project. They want to know you won’t leave them out to dry.
This creates a perfect opportunity to up-sell a retainer agreement because you can position the retainer as a premium way of ensuring you’re available to them if they need help:
“For small maintenance updates like that it would probably be best to do some sort of small retainer. For example, some of my clients pay $X00 every month to have me on call for up to 4 hours. They have that time reserved just for them no matter what.Otherwise, I’d still be able to do pretty much any small updates you need (at my normal $X00 hourly rate) – you would just need to wait in my queue if I have other clients.
For companies of your size I usually recommend option 1 because I can sometimes be booked weeks or months in advance, and in that case, updates wouldn’t be as fast to get done (with option 2).”
This positions you as a very in-demand freelancer yet you also get to remain flexible to their needs. It’s great to have a handful of clients paying hundreds of dollars every month for minimal work too because you can count on that revenue.
In fact, recurring revenue like this is great for consultancies in general because it kills the feast or famine cycle.
How to end your emails.
Freelancers regularly shoot themselves in the foot with their closing statement.
“I’m not sure if you may be interested in something like this, but if you are feel free to let me know what you would like to do.”
This does you no good. You’re trying to not sound pushy but you are undermining your credibility. Instead, emails should end in two things ways.
• A yes or no question.
• A suggested instructions on what to do next.
Your email should be written based on what this next action step is.
For emails where you’re contacting potential clients, that means you include how to move forward assuming they’re interested.
As a freelancer, it’s your job to assume they’re interested, and to write the email as though you’ve already gotten the project.
This makes everything more comfortable for the client because they feel they’re working with a confident, experienced, professional who does this all the time.
“I’d like to discuss the details, sometime this week, if you are interested. If so, would it be okay if I sent you a few ideas on how I could help?”
The only goal for an email should be to get a one word reply from the busy person, preferably a “Yes.”
The end of your email should be easy to reply to in seconds.
You don’t want to give a busy lead more work. If the lead can say “sounds good” you’re probably on the right track.
The last step: How to make it easy to hire you.
The last thing you want to do is remove any obstacles that come between you and a positive reply. People are more likely to do something when it’s easy. That’s why you’ve gotta make it easy to read and act on your emails:
• Break emails up into sections.
• Make them easy to scan by using lists and bolding key points.
• Remove all links unless the client specifically requested them. You’re not trying to drive traffic to a website, you’re trying to get a reply.
• Don’t send your entire portfolio. Break out 1-2 pieces that are relevant to their project.
• Match the benefits of your past work to their current needs.
• Remove any job board links. They know they posted on a job board.
• Don’t give them a long questionnaire to fill out. No one wants to do it.
• Use good grammar. Write simply and get straight to the point.
• Once you’ve agreed on the price and scope, link them to an easy payment system, like Stripe, Shopify, or Gumroad.
A good rule of thumb: if someone can just reply “sounds good,” then your email does enough of the heavy lifting.
It means you’ve taken away the hard part: deciding what’s next. Even the busiest people will reply if you make it easy.