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The why, when, and what of follow up emails after proposals
One of the most important ways that a freelancer earns clients is by submitting freelance proposals.
Whether it’s in response to an RFP, a request from a lead, or even at the behest of an existing client, you spend valuable time on proposals. It’s time well spent.
But once that proposal is in the hands of the client or would-be client, you don’t just sit back and wait for the work to come.
A follow up email to your client after the quotation or proposal is key. It can close the deal for you. But there are many considerations that go along with that strategy.
We’re here to help with the why, when and what of follow up emails after sending proposals or quotations.
1. Why you need to send a follow up email after the proposal
Let’s explore the reasons for a follow up email.
The first is to consider why the client hasn’t yet responded to you.
If you built a great proposal and made a fair quotation but haven’t yet heard back, it could simply be that the client hasn’t had a chance to review the proposal. Or maybe it got lost in their inbox. Perhaps they reviewed it but forgot to respond.
There’s also the chance that they weren’t yet ready to start this kind of work, or that the problem you were planning to solve isn’t on the current horizon. Your reminder may arrive when they are ready to start the work.
That follow up email to your client may seem like extra work, time that could be better spent elsewhere. Or maybe it feels like you’re pestering the prospective client.
But here’s the kicker:
A follow up is valuable because it shows your would-be client that you’re interested in their success, that you have a vested interest in supporting their work, and that you’re a good fit for their organization.
After all, if you believe the work is worth going after, it’s worth the time to make an effort more than once.
It can also be helpful to provide them with a reminder. They’re likely busy and may need a gentle nudge. In fact, most clients will expect a follow up to a business proposal.
It also keeps your name top-of-mind with the client, particularly if you’re competing with others for the work.
Finally, from your perspective, it’s easier to get work from an existing lead or existing client than to do the work to find new leads.
But that doesn’t mean you should scatter multiple emails without thought.
2. When you need to send a follow up email
The timing of your follow up email is important.
Don’t just send a note haphazardly, at any time or any interval. Be strategic.
First off, you have to be sure that the client has actually received the proposal, and opened the email.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one freelancing tool that allows you to write, design and send professional looking proposals, Bonsai offers a free trial for its services. It includes a read receipt function so you’re sure the client received the proposal.
Once the client receives the proposal or quotation, they need time to review it, so it’s best to wait one week before sending a follow up. That’s particularly true if the client needs to share the proposal with others in the organization.
However, if one week from sending the proposal falls on a Monday or a Friday, wait to send the note. Delaying one more business day won’t hurt, because it’s best to send on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
That’s because people tend to be catching up on Mondays, perhaps finishing work left from the week before. Fridays are another catch-up day, when people are clearing up the tasks of the week. There’s also the risk that the client will look at the note on Friday but not take action, and forget about it by Monday.
And don’t send your emails at midnight or on the weekend. Act like a business, which means connecting with clients during business hours and work days.
If it’s a particularly long proposal, two weeks may be a better time frame. If the client has asked for longer to review, abide by their wishes and send a note once that time has passed - never rush sending a follow-up email to your client after a detailed quotation.
3. What you need to say in a follow up email after the proposal
You’ve got the why and when, let’s get to the what.
Your subject line is the first thing your would-be client sees, so make sure it’s clear and focused. It could refer to previous conversations, to the proposal directly, or reflect what’s contained in the email.
Avoid language such as “just checking in,” “following up” or “just touching base.”
And make sure your subject line is mobile-friendly, because most people now conduct business on smartphones.
Here’s the deal:
The first 50 characters or four words of the subject line are key, because that’s all that will be seen on a mobile device. Make them worthwhile.
Make the email personal, using the client’s name, and focus on them rather than yourself.
Be sure you’re clear about the objective of the email before you compose it. Your call to action has to be clear to the client. Feel free to ask the clients if they have any questions or concerns about the proposal, or whether they need further information.
Be specific about why you’re sending the email. Remind the client that a decision is needed for the project to move forward.
Consider including a timeline, in which you explain that by making a decision by X date, the project can be completed by X date.
You can also suggest that you will call them on a certain date and time, which will give them the impetus to read the proposal and prepare any questions. Leave the client enough time between the email and the phone call.
If you decide against the phone call, or the client declines the call, don’t give up. Send a maximum of three follow up emails, the second a week following the initial one. If there’s still no response, send a third and final email one month after the initial follow up.
Your goal is an answer, even a “no.” And if that happens, have a backup plan in place.
Perhaps there’s another client or prospect who could receive a similar freelance proposal. You’ve already done the work, so why not try to re-purpose at least some of it.
Or maybe there is another product or service you can pitch to the client. You’ve made the effort to find this lead, so don’t give up too easily. Ask to follow up at a later date, let’s say in six months, to see if the client will need the work by then.
If you feel comfortable, you can ask the client what would have made the proposal better, or what might have encouraged the client to formalize the project with a freelance contract.
And if they say yes, you also need a plan! Be ready to discuss next steps and start the work when the client wants.
Whatever you hear back from the client, be sure to say thank you for their business. They’ve given you their time, provided you with experience, and they may change their mind in the future and become a valued client.
If you don’t hear back from a client after preparing a proposal, it shouldn’t be a concern. In fact, it’s not unusual that this would happen. Clients are busy, have multiple priorities, or may have several decision-making stages in their organization. It’s not a reflection on your proposal or your business.
Clients will usually appreciate the time and effort you take to send a follow up email after your proposal. That’s why having a system to follow up with clients is an important part of the proposal process.
Turning leads into clients is one of the most important tasks you will do as you build your successful freelance business. Now that you understand the key aspects of follow up emails after sending a proposal, you’ll be able to find more new clients. You can also consider the option of the integrated tools available to you as part of Bonsai’s freelance suite by signing up for a free trial now.