2020 has easily become the most challenging year for me when it comes to turning leads into clients. In previous years, a referral wasn’t work at all. With experience to back me up and a handful or awards, it is a trusted referral that pushes people in my direction. In fact, most people referred to me choose to bypass the early Q/A about the process and simply jump right into the work. After all, they’ve already probed their friend about the qualities they want the most in a writer.
2020 has been the outlier. When in previous years 80% of my leads become clients, this year has been less than 15%. It’s been bad. The reason? Money. Businesses have been shut down, and when not shut down people are scrambling to ensure that if they do lose their job, or are put on furlough, they will still have a savings to depend on. Writers, contractors, and other freelancers are often subject to the trickle down affect. While most of 2020 I was lucky to have a full bucket of work, as we approach a year of instability, I’ve found that while referrals continue to come in (more than normal), the transformation of lead to client continues to be deficient. Glancing at my list of leads right now, I have seven people on that list. Sounds good, right? These are the remaining of people who have said, “I am moving forward; I’ll call you Friday,” or a variant of. But, come Friday I hear nothing. The next week, nothing. And it continues.
The three tips below are geared toward leads whom you’ve already communicated with and have indicated they are excited to start. But, they suddenly disappear. Whether it is money, nerves, or another reason you are being ghosted, that doesn’t mean the lead does not want your services. It just means that something is holding them back right now. To turn these long-term leads into future clients it’s important to be respectful and consider these three tips:
Be mindful to not be pushy
It is very challenging to not send out daily text messages and emails to potential leads who are not responding back. And you will come up with plenty of reasons as to why someone isn’t responding, especially after they say that they will and give you a time and date to reconvene your amazing conversation. However, in today’s world “ghosting” or simply ignoring text messages, calls, and emails is commonplace. In fact, I’ve had several clients tell me that in my effort to reach out they would keep my most recent message as a reminder to contact later, and delete all others.
This tells me that there is a fine balance between me trying to reach out or send a reminder, and a lead’s interest in eventually moving forward. If you do intend to reach out, I’d suggest reaching out no more than twice a week for the first week and once a week thereafter. That is enough to not be overly pushy, while still keeping you in your lead’s mind.
Have a Game plan to step away
As in the first example, when leads are not following up, you need to define an approach to faze yourself out. I didn’t have this going into 2020. I didn’t need it. I had so many leads prior to 2020 transition into clients that I simply left it up to a lead to follow up. This year is different though and I developed a contact plan to slowly step away. I feel this allows me to let the lead understand that I am interested, and at the same time, give them space.
This is my plan:
- Reach out via email or text on the initial day we were supposed to talk or start, if I have not heard back.
- Text or email one week later.
- Wait another week before texting or emailing.
- Wait two weeks before sending a last message.
My first message is simple: “Hi, I am following up regarding our conversation to collaborate on your memoir. Please let me know a good time and day to talk and where I can answer any additional questions.”
In my last message I add the following: “I understand that we all get busy and I want to respect your time. I would love to discuss your book idea more at a later date and when you find you are ready to move forward please keep me in your thoughts. This will be my last message until I hear from you. Best wishes and I hope to speak soon.”
Follow-up regularly with your referrers
The first two tips are based on a lead who is not responding. One person many freelancers neglect is the referrer. Following up with the referrer does a few things:
- Shows that you appreciate the time your referrer has given to help you find more clients.
- Keeps your referrer that you followed up on their lead.
- May result in your referrer providing insight into what is happening and if the referral is still a potential lead.
- May result in the referrer contacting the lead on your behalf.
What not to do
When you feel like you are about to sign with a new client only to find yourself ghosted it’ challenging. I am well aware of the thought, why won’t they just contact me and say, ‘I’m not ready now, but maybe in a couple weeks or months?” The feeling of limbo is an obstacle all freelancers will face, and the goal is to keep your mind moving forward on new leads rather than keep yourself handcuffed to a lead that may not pan out. When you have a project you really love at your fingertips, it is even more difficult to let go.
We know it is important to be respectful, but what about when you feel you’re not being respected? Yup! Still important. Here are a few impulses you should NOT act on when you really really really just want your lead to respond when they are not.
- Send a text, email, and call several times a week.
- Give an ultimatum: “If you don’t get ahold of me by… Then don’t even bother.”
- Provide a guilt trip, “You know, I really needed the money, you promised you would hire me, and now I’m being evicted. Thanks.”
- Beg: “Please, I really really need your project.”
- Send Nasty-grams: “Forget it, I gave you everything I could, you said you’d hire me, and now you’re showing who you really are. You suck, I wouldn’t want to work with you anyway.”
- Contact anyone except the referrer regarding the person.
- Reach out on other communication channels such as social media to find another means of contact. If they aren’t answering texts, emails, and calls then they are not ready to talk to you.
- Negatively name and talk about the person online. Remember, they have not hired you and insinuating, suggesting, or stating they will hire you is not the same thing as hiring you.
I am a full-time freelance writer specializing in books, though I also write blogs, web-content, and handle several other types of projects. To see what I offer visit my rates page or contact me with specific queries and questions. I’m also available to help mentor you through your first book. I’d love to work with you, and if you know anyone else looking for a writer I offer a generous referral fee.
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