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Hit Send: Making the Case for Following Up as a Freelance Writer

by | May 15, 2019

As a freelance writer, sometimes it feels like a losing battle to get work.

You send dozens of email pitches to prospective clients but hear nothing but crickets — or at least, that’s what often happens to me.

Recently, though, I had a mindset shift. I’m not just a writer; I’m a business owner.

I’m selling my services. And if you’ve ever been on a company’s email list, you probably know that they follow up with a vengeance, time after time after time. Does it work? 50% of sales happen after the fifth follow-up, so that’s a yes.

Here’s why following up on your pitches is so important for freelance writers, and the best ways to do it with success.

Don’t be afraid to follow up

Too many freelance writers are afraid to follow up. They think it makes them seem pushy or annoying and they’ll never get a client from a follow-up email, so why bother?

I used to have the same fears — that is, until I started getting clients from follow-up messages.

Think about your inbox. It’s crowded, you’re busy and sometimes things fall through the cracks. If you delete a message without reading it (and without fully realizing what it is), would you be mad if the sender emails you again a few weeks later?

Of course not — especially not if they’re offering something of value.

Remember, the person on the other side of the computer is just that: a person. If you follow up after an appropriate amount of time and do it with respect and kindness, they should have no problem with your email.

Do follow up correctly

How long should you wait before following up on a piece of marketing? Use five business days as a bare minimum; people are busy, and they don’t have time to dig their way to the bottom of their inbox each day.

If you’re approaching or returning from a holiday, give people even more grace. And remember, life circumstances can strike at any time, making email even less of a priority.

There’s a little controversy about how many times to follow up with any one client. I know some writers who don’t follow up at all. I know others who keep following up for years. I fall somewhere in-between.

I used to send two follow-up emails to each prospect — one a week after my initial point of contact via LOI (letter of introduction), and one more two to three weeks after that first follow-up.

Eventually I realized that I was getting lots of responses to the first follow-up email, but zero responses to the second. So I decided to let prospects go after just one follow-up message. And with job applications, I rarely follow up at all.

Experiment and figure out what works for you.

You also may want to make sure your emails are getting opened. Use a tool such as Hubspot Sales or Streak, which is a Gmail add-on, to see if your initial email was opened. If it wasn’t, you might have the wrong email address, or your message may have landed in the recipient’s spam folder. Whatever the case, you don’t want to waste your time sending emails into a black hole.

Finally, change your mindset about following up. You’re not just asking for work — you’re cultivating a relationship. Consider sending your point of contact an article that made you think of them or wishing them a happy holiday during the appropriate times of year.

Craft your follow-up message carefully

A good follow-up email has three primary components:

  • A compliment to the company
  • A reminder that you’re available
  • A timely hook to bring it all together.

For instance:

Subject: Congrats on ABC award!

Hi [first name],

Congratulations on winning ABC award for XYZ initiative. That’s pretty cool — this must be such an exciting time for you!

I wanted to reach back out and send you an article I recently had published about [relevant topic]. With your new XYZ initiative to [do something similar], I thought you might find it interesting.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at my calendar for the next few months and was wondering if you could use any help producing content with the holiday rush coming up? I’d love to hop on a call and discuss your needs. Are you still focusing on blogging as a big part of your content marketing strategy?


[your name]

Yes, following up really works

But does this method really work? Yes, absolutely!

I keep a handwritten log of all my marketing efforts — sending LOI’s to companies, applying to jobs from job boards and pitching article ideas to magazines. My log for LOI’s (it’s very basic) has four columns: company, date sent, date of follow-up and the response.

When I flip back through my notes, one trend stands out — often, I got a response from the company after I sent a follow-up message. Sometimes they said no, sometimes they asked for clips of my work, sometimes they said to check back in a few months. And other times, I won big.

That’s what happened when I sent an LOI to the marketing manager of a leading digital marketing agency in my state. Over a week passed and I hadn’t heard anything, so I sent her a quick note just to make sure she’d received my message.

She responded and said she’d been on vacation and had missed my email; she was impressed with my experience and wanted to know if I could write a blog post for the agency’s website? (I could!)

That turned into a steady stream of work equaling $1,000 a month for the next few months.

Thanks to that freelance position, I became very well-versed in digital marketing and gained many new clips to add to my new portfolio. In that case, following up was 100% worth it — and if you begin following up with your prospects, you could win big, too.

Photo via Nong Mars / Shutterstock