Here’s a common freelancing scenario…
You’ve tried calling a prospective client 10 times, left five voicemail messages and sent five emails and you’re now contemplating sending a text message. You don’t want to pester the guy but he did say that he was interested in your services so you don’t want to let him down by not keeping in touch. So you convince yourself the client is waiting to hear from you but is too busy and you soon find yourself well on the way to being faced with a restraining order.
So what’s the etiquette of keeping in touch with clients and how can you avoid verging on stalking?
You say to yourself that after five phone calls and three emails you’re not going to contact that particular client again. But what if on the sixth call they answer and are delighted to hear from you? Or the seventh call or eighth call?
Having a system in place for chasing clients can help to wipe out the temptation to spend all your time hopelessly pursuing clients who are never going to speak to you. Whether you’re following up an interested prospective client, inquiring with an existing client for more work, or chasing payments you have to draw the line somewhere or you’ll simply be wasting time when you could be contacting clients who genuinely want to have a conversation about your services.
Write down a process for contacting clients and stick to it. You could decide three phone calls, two emails, and one voicemail is enough, or perhaps you might want to double this – whatever works for you. If your client has your contact details then they will most likely contact you if and when they need your services, so once you’ve followed your contacting process for the love of god let them go!
It’s annoying if you’ve spent a whole day putting an amazing proposal together for a potential client and then you don’t hear anything from them.
If they’ve led you to believe that they’re interested in hiring you then they should be polite enough to tell you if they’re no longer interested. Unfortunately, busy schedules can mean that you’re unlikely to be at the top of their ‘to contact’ list. It can be tempting to send them a strongly worded email telling them how rude they are, how they should have picked you or how much time you spent putting a proposal together for them.
However, you don’t know who they know and if you send an abusive message to them your name will soon get round for all the wrong reasons. Also, it could just be that they’re taking their time looking through your proposal and those of other freelancers so don’t make them decide against hiring you by sending them a slightly unhinged and angry email.
Often I’ve come out of a meeting, confident that the client will be signing up to my copywriting services in a matter of hours, only to hear nothing but silence from them for weeks.
This can be tough as you feel entitled to some kind of feedback, especially if you’ve travelled a long way to see them or there’s a sizable project on the table. What I’ve found though is that projects can be delayed for many reasons including budgeting problems, lack of time, no clear project management or a more pressing matter commands the decision maker’s attention.
By being patient and keeping in touch with the potential client (following my own contact process), I’ve found that if a client is interested then they will contact me when they’re ready, even if this is months after I met them.
Claim money you’re owed
Chasing payments can be one of the most stressful parts of being a freelancer. Cash flow is vital to a successful freelancing business so if you find your clients are ignoring your payment terms then you could be in serious cash flow trouble.
One way to avoid this is to clearly state your terms before starting to work with a company. For example, I offer 30 days payment terms on my copywriting services and clearly state this in my terms and conditions. If your clients aren’t clear as to when they have to pay you, they’re not going to make your payment a priority. Having a set process for chasing payments also helps. It could be that you decide to give clients five days grace after their invoice is overdue and then contact them on the sixth day if they’ve not paid, or you might send them a reminder a couple of days before the invoice is due.
Accounts departments can be horrendously busy so you will need to be persistent. Keep a record of all your interactions with a company if you find they’re really putting off paying you as this will come in very handy if you end up having to threaten the company with legal action.
Know when to let go
If you follow the tips above you can ensure that your dignity will remain intact and you won’t be in danger of crossing over to stalking territory. If you never hear from a client again then the best way to deal with this is put it down to experience and bear this in mind when you approach potential clients (or potential late payers) in future. You will soon start to recognise the time wasters amongst the genuine prospective clients.