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  • Diana Schneidman

How fast do you get back to freelance prospective clients?

Prompt response to prospect queries shows you’re open for business.

Is this you?

You’re too busy to check voicemail so you don’t. Then when you check it in a few days you find stale messages and are embarrassed to call back.

Your email inbox loads up constantly. Of course you’ve terminated the notification audio signal that there’s something new there-–and if you haven’t you should because the bell will drive you crazy and really break concentration—but you allow stuff to scroll down to Hades. Out of sight, out of mind. Right?

You empty your spam folder from time to time having no idea what’s in it. If someone asks you about something they sent, you assume the problem is the sender and simply claim not to have received it.

How often do you check your voicemail? Review email? Scan incoming texts?

If you have a marketing program in place and are actively pursuing business, the best answer is “often.”

Then there is the follow-up question: Once you get the message, when do you actually respond to it?

Here, the best answer is “quickly.”

And another follow-up question: How often do you look through your spam folder before deleting?

If your spam folder is highly accurate, you may not need to review it. If it’s not so good, you should review it regularly and delete so it’s easier to review the next time.

How you follow up with incoming prospects is how you do everything . . . or worse.

If you are making effort to get more work, or even if you’re light on effort but have good intentions, you’ll want to make the most of incoming contacts.

Of course, you can’t respond to every call the moment it rings, especially if you are concentrating on a client project. Completing paying work is the highest priority—or at least it’s tied with bringing in more paying assignments.

You are not obligated to call everyone back within minutes. Or even hours.

I aim to call back within 24 hours. However, if I’m awaiting an important detail from a client, I watch for it assiduously.

Some of the big-name freelancers hire someone else to reply to incoming prospect contacts. They demonstrate the value of their time while also respecting the prospect.

Nor are you obligated to dig in immediately on every request a prospect makes, whether this request is to generate free ideas in an initial conversation, prepare a proposal, pin down what you will charge or even meet a quick turnaround demand by getting to work right this moment.

You have the right to set your own due date and reject assignments that don’t fit your schedule or your niche at this time.

It is far more professional to be upfront about your decisions than to postpone them via unresponsiveness.

What makes this topic kind of crazy is the belief by some freelancers and their advisors that clients are impressed when it takes us awhile to get back to them and when we must postpone their project because we are so busy with other work.

Freelancers are easily convinced that clients want service providers who are so busy that they can hardly fit in this client. If they are in demand, they must be better, goes the logic.

These freelancers believe that responsiveness is seen as not being in demand which equates with making a poor impression. They believe if you wait a few days to call back and you schedule clients a few weeks out—even if you secretly need the money now—people will clamor to hire you.

Yes, this logic serves the freelancer’s fantasies, but I don’t buy it.

Who wants to get tied up with someone who can’t provide timely service? And if the contract calls for partial or better yet, full payment up front, it feels risky to pay when the service provider is so busy . . . or perhaps slow . . . or maybe just flaky.

Certainly if we’re busy, we should schedule client work for a future date and let them know this upfront.

And if we can fit them in, that’s our message to them. Not that we have nothing else to do but simply that we can fit them in.

Here are my guidelines:

When I am at my desk or otherwise accessible, I check my phone to see who is calling. If I recognize the name (or company) and really want to talk to them, I do so right now. I’m pretty good at getting back to work on my original project, so for me it is not a problem.

If I don’t recognize them, I wait to see if they leave a voicemail. If they don’t, I assume it is not important. (Unless I’m really curious.)

I check incoming messages of all types every few hours.

I make a point of getting back to clients and prospects to let them know I am interested. However, I don’t feel obligated to prepare for every return contact I make. No use evaluating their content, looking at their entire website, and such if I don’t know what they are looking for.

These evaluation activities actually are forms of consulting. No need to provide services that are potentially worth money simply to find out what’s going on. After all, the call may not even be a potential assignment.

And if I am watching TV or doing a crossword puzzle, I pick up the darn phone. Why put off something that can be handled right now?

Originally posted 3-14-17

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