Imagine this: you’re in talks with a potential client, you’ve emailed back and forth about the scope of the project, budget and so on. Then all of a sudden, the client goes dark.

You don’t hear anything back for days and begin to think it might be a lost opportunity. Not so fast. keep in mind that according to The Marketing Donut, 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes.”

That “no” might come in the form of “not now,” “not yet,” or no answer at all. And check this, 44% of sales people give up after one “no.”

As freelancers, our livelihood depends on the number of clients we can get. If we give up after the first “no,” we’re literally throwing away opportunity (and money).

Sam Parr, founder of Hustle Con, met more than 27 CEOs of large companies like Amazon, Honest Company and Pandora because he hustled with cold emails and following up. He followed up for six months with Alan Schaaf, the CEO of Imgur, before he got a response. He booked Schaaf to speak at his conference.

The key? Persistence.

He says, “You have to be ruthless about following up. Don’t be afraid to follow up over and over and over again.”

But here’s the problem: There’s a fine line between persistence and annoyance. How do we send multiple follow up emails without annoying the person?

Here’s an example of a follow up email that is, without a doubt, annoying to the tenth degree.

Hi Cambria,

Just checking in about our conversation from last week. Are you still interested in working together on a new design for your website?

David

Imagine getting that email five times. I’d mark it as spam to avoid ever seeing it in my inbox again. That email is annoying for four reasons:

  1. It doesn’t say anything about how I would help Cambria
  2. It’s obvious I just want to book a client and make some $$$
  3. I don’t show that I truly care about her or her business
  4. I don’t provide any value

There are a surprising number of mistakes in such a short email. Let’s walk through how to write an effective follow up email and avoid being annoying.

1) Open your follow up email with context

This is especially important if our prospect previously said, “not yet.” We can’t assume that they all of a sudden want our services. We shouldn’t open with, “Hey, do you want to hire me now?” Instead, we should find another reason for checking in.

Review their social media profiles and do a Google search for their business to see if they’ve made any announcements or if they’re working on something new. 

Three examples:

  • “I saw that you tweeted yesterday about looking to hire a copywriter …”
  • “Just heard that you released a new product …”
  • “Last we spoke, you mentioned that it’d be best to check in this month …”

2) State why you’re following up

They know we want to book them. So it’s best to be transparent about it, but focus on how we can help them succeed. Instead of saying, “I’ll design your website for $XX,” we can emphasize how building a new website would help them make more money. 

Examples:

  • “I wanted to ask for some advice on …”
  • “I’m checking in about my proposal I sent last week. I’d love to further discuss how I can help you succeed.”
  • “I wanted to introduce you to a copywriter …”

3) Provide value (even if you don’t get paid for it)

Just because they aren’t ready to hire you, doesn’t mean you can’t help them. And how you help doesn’t need to be related to your services. You can provide value in the form of an introduction, a useful article, webinar, case study and so on.

Examples:

  • “You mentioned that you’re looking for a copywriter. While I’m not a copywriter, I have two friends who are taking on new clients. I’d be happy to make an introduction for you.”
  • “If you still aren’t ready to do a complete redesign of your website, here are three easy changes you can make in the meantime to improve your website … “

What’s the point? You show that it’s less about the money and more about wanting to help them succeed. Plus, it makes it more likely that they’ll hire you for your services instead of someone else because you’re building a relationship.

4) Craft an eye-catching subject line

The best email is useless without a good subject line. We want them to open the email.

Here are some examples:

  • “looking for a copywriter?”
  • “easy improvements for your website”
  • “awesome social media guide”

5) End with a call-to-action

Maybe you want to schedule a time to talk, grab coffee or ask for advice. Make it clear what you’re asking and what you’d like for them to do and make it as easy as possible for them to do it.

Examples:

  • “I’d love to get on the phone and discuss how I can help with your website. Would you be open for a call on Wednesday at 2pm, 2:30pm, or 3pm? If those times don’t work, name a time and I’ll make it work.”
  • “I’d love some brutal feedback on the beta version of my product. If you’re open to it, I’ve attached specific questions below.”

The final result

Now to put it all together, here’s an example of a solid follow up email …

Hi Ben,

I read your most recent article about hiring a content team from scratch.

We are building our a content team ourselves. I’m trying to get insight from others who have gone through similar challenges.

Would you be available for a 18 minute call? I’ve provided the specific questions I’m exploring below. Happy to tell you about the other perspectives I’ve found. How is:

* Next Wednesday at 4pm, 4:30pm, or 5pm?
* Next Thursday at 3pm, 3:30pm, or 4pm?

If none of those work, name a time and I’ll make it work.

David

Boom.

Let’s stay persistent with our follow ups. Let’s book some clients.

How do you follow up with clients without annoying them? Share your tips in the comments below! 

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David Ly Khim

David Ly Khim

Growth Marketer at Sidekick
David Ly Khim is a growth marketer for Sidekick. He writes about email productivity, career development, and marketing. When he isn’t writing, he can be found reading a book or on the dance floor.
  • Great post thanks David! Solid lessons for us at CloudPeeps HQ as well. 🙂

  • Great article thanks David

  • Kathleen McCarthy

    Excellent article that I needed right now! 🙂 Thanks, David, for the excellent advice. I am making use of it now, by stalking – ah, unm, researching! – two prospects on social media, prior to crafting a strong follow up email.

    Thanks!