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  1. #1
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    New Freelancer looking for e-mail/phone advice

    Hello

    I am very new to freelancing and have 2 situations where I was looking for advice on how to better handle these situations.

    The first situation is where I have an individual who 10 months ago said he was interested in having me develop his company a basic website. He was unfamiliar with what type of content he should make available so I put together an informal write-up describing what I felt was appropriate. I sent this to him in an e-mail and heard nothing. I waited a week or so and e-mailed him again just asking if he had any questions from my original e-mail. I did not hear anything. If I had to do that situation over again, I should have called him over the phone but instead, I waited. To make a long story short, I never heard from him. How I initially met this person was he provided a service I used at my home (carpet cleaning), so last week I called him and asked if he would be interested in exchanging services and he said he was. So I again put together an e-mail and sent it to him but I have not heard anything. It has almost been a week. My freelance work is on the side of my part time job where I struggle at times to make phone calls to people since my cell phone does not get the greatest service inside of the building. That is why I normally e-mail. Is this a situation where I should always just call the person? He said on the last phone call that he did get my e-mails and had saved them since he was interested. I guess I am frustrated since if he is interested, why is it so difficult to make contact with him?

    My second situation is I received a lead about a potential web design opportunity. I e-mailed the lady and the next day I received an e-mail back from her asking when would be a good time to meet with her. I responded to the e-mail that same day providing all the information she needed to contact of me and when I was available. One week has now gone by and I have not heard anything.

    The reason I wanted to outline both of these situations is to see how others handle communication with potential clients. For example, when you send a potential client an e-mail, how long do you wait before you try and contact them again? Do you try to contact them again through e-mail or do you then try the phone? In my previous freelance opportunities, we almost exclusively discussed things over e-mail. Is this the norm for others or does it require more phone conversations?

    I would appreciate any advice anyone could provide.

  2. #2
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    Hey there,

    I prefer using email myself so I always have a "paper trail" and have things in writing incase something is disputed - but email is just too flaky to really trust these days.

    If I'm sending something important via email now I'll ask the recipient to reply quickly and let me know that they got it, otherwise I'll call if I want to be 100% sure they heard from me.

    Steve

  3. #3
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    My preferred method is phone, but ultimately it's whatever seems most appropriate for the prospect in hand.

    Don't beat yourself up over prospects who don't respond - your first example is a classic example of a 'tyre kicker'. You'll get a lot of these - they are just talking-the-talk and have no intention of actually moving forward. Over time, you'll spot these people quite quickly so you'll waste little time with them.

    If someone doesn't respond after a week, send them a quick boilerplate email to chase them up, and perhaps do this again a week later. After that, personally I'd definitely give up, although some people advocate continuing to drip feed emails to them until they (perhaps) bite. I may do that with a potentially lucrative client, but not the average Joe who contacts me with his piddly static web site enquiries.

  4. #4
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    Thank you for the response. My situation is that I have developed for many years at work but I can not share my work code as an example of what I can do since it requires a username/password to login. I have only completed 2 freelance projects so I am trying to get a few more so I can have more examples to demonstrate my work. So I guess I am in a situation where I want there business more than they want my services which is probably why it bothers me that they are not responding in a timely manner.

  5. #5
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    What you’re experiencing is totally normal, I am continually amazed at how flaky people are! I constantly have people tell me they need something right away then not respond to any contact for weeks, it’s just how people are. Calling can be a good way to put people on the spot but you will continue to see this issue either way, unfortunately it is just a part of freelancing.

  6. #6
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    People flake all the time - sometimes they're just too nice to tell you no and you need to walk away. Having said that, emails do get lost, they fall into spam filters - but in general, if someone doesn't respond to me after two emails, I move on.

    I don't see any sense in calling and putting them on the spot. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

  7. #7
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    I do understand what all of you are talking about. I started freelancing about a year and a half ago and it was odd, because I got 2 offers right away. It seemed pretty easy. Since then in a little more than a year, I have only had 1 offer which makes me think I am approaching things in the wrong manner.

    To help, let me explain a little on how I have done things. I have an “Intro E-mail” that I saved. It provides my 2 example sites (one job was just to update a site and I was not that impressed with it so I do not want people to see it as an example of my work). It also provides a little description about my services. It outlines my professional experience as well.

    The angle I have tried to use is that this is not my full time employment so I feel I can deliver a professionally design and constructed site at a fraction of the cost. The draw back is that I do not have 40 hours a week to devote to the project. Instead I try to keep it between 10 to 15 hours a week. What is your opinion on this type of an approach?

    I then wait about a week for a response and then send a follow up e-mail. If I get a response, I always respond within 24 hours.

    My goal is not to work full time as a freelance developer but I was hoping to get some sort of consistency on the side. My biggest hurdle is just finding leads which I imagine is other peoples concern as well. I keep telling my self… its all about odds… if I ask enough people or send enough e-mails, eventually someone will respond.

    Any way, I just vented a little here. If anyone has feedback, advice, words of wisdom, it would be appreciated.

  8. #8
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Your absolutely right, to a certain extent it is a numbers game; however selling is just as much a professional discipline as coding or designing. I head up a pretty successful web development team but I am not personally much of a coder or a very good designer. What I do excel at is sales and it has taken me a long time to learn how to sell and I can tell you this much; it can't be done by email. People only ever buy anything to solve a problem or satisfy a desire. You need to bring out the problems and desires in order to offer a remedy or solution. That can only be done by talking to your clients; face to face; on the telephone or by instant messenger. This is called scratching the itch in sales jargon; email as far as I am concerned is for confirming things and keeping a written record. Think about the way you buy things and transfer your experiences to the way you sell or offer your services. It's that easy. Remember people are not interested in you, only in what you can do for them.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  9. #9
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    That was a great response!!! Thank you for the feedback.

  10. #10
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    mpobyme definitely has a point, but it's worth noting that (for whatever reason) some prospects will simply prefer to conduct the sales process via email - at least in the early stages. While it is ideal to have prospects adhere to your own preferred sales process (you should certainly push for this), ultimately you need to be flexible and accept that some people don't want to talk to you 'just yet'. It's not always a sign of a time waster or tyre kicker - some people are simply not comfortable dealing with this stuff 'in real time'.

    I'm a major advocate of the phone, but have closed many a deal through email only, or certainly performed most of the groundwork to that closure just via email. Just develop a structured process and set yourself some ground rules - don't spend hours typing away detailed responses, just keep the emails quick and to the point and if it gets to the stage where you are being expected to spend too long on your responses, suggest that matters are moved to the phone or a face-to-face.

    Most importantly, learn to be flexible as all prospects are different.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Member personinneed's Avatar
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    I find, like TryingToLearn that it's good to work up a few form formats that work as e-mails or as mail letters. It saves on effort, and with a decent editor, can sound quite convincing. Perhaps it's uncommon, but I've found that people often do not respond well to cold calls. They react as if I'm a telemarketer and either browbeat or hang up. It's kind of discouraging for phone attempts.

  12. #12
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    If you are cold calling; you are a telemarketer in everything but name. Looking for our kind of work by cold calling is like looking for a needle in a haystack. A far better approach is to network and use your contacts as reference. Since the original post I have done a little research into our clients over the last twelve months which has confirmed something which I have refrained from saying because I wasn't absolutely sure. Average order value from clients dealt with mainly by email £3056 (approx $6000) other £4136 (approx $8000) which is a substantial difference. Totally unscientific but worth noting.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Member personinneed's Avatar
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    You're probably right in that regard. I did have an inkling that it simply wasn't working out, but I was reluctant to change my routine.

  14. #14
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    Mobyme – when you say to network and use your contacts as references, could you explain that process a little. I understand what networking is but how do you learn of potential clients through your network? I always mention (all 3 times) to my clients that a reference is the best way you can say you like my work but that is about all I do.

  15. #15
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    It's not something that can be done overnight but there is nothing to stop you starting the process tomorrow. Every single person you know from every walk of life is part of your network; make sure that everyone of them knows what you do for a living and that you are available for work. Get some good quality cards printed and give one to anyone and I mean anyone that you are introduced to. Life has a great way of giving things back to you, so get involved in some form of charity work; yes it's hard work but remember that the people you meet are part of your network too. Be pleasant, give people a helping hand if you can. Be generous with your time and money because you are going to get repaid tenfold. When you pay your bills enclose a card with your cheque. It's all part of the process. Imagine you are having a conversation with somebody who is having a problem with their car; if you have a friend or are acquainted with somebody who owns a garage you are going to recommend them. You will do the same if it's a guy that helps out at the same charity as you or is a customer of yours; it's a natural thing to do. You will start to get told about mutual friends and acquaintances who are looking to get work done. Now you can telephone and it's not a cold call "Hi, this is xxxx, I was talking to xxxxx and he told me you were thinking of getting a website built for your company". Well, you can see the way it works. When you have completed a contract ask the client if they are happy with it and if they say yes, say "Great, so you wouldn't mind if I gave your number to a client who was wondering about using me or not in the future" They are not going to say no. Then finally always do your level best to deliver the best work you can on time and if you make a mistake, own it and put it right. I know what I have just written is not everybody's cup of tea but it works for me.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  16. #16
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    Thank you for taking time and explaining your networking approach. I can see how this would work. I currently do not have a business card so I would say that is probably my next course of action (designing and printing a business card).

  17. #17
    SitePoint Addict jessebhunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TryingToLearn View Post
    Thank you for taking time and explaining your networking approach. I can see how this would work. I currently do not have a business card so I would say that is probably my next course of action (designing and printing a business card).
    Yeah ... I'd definitely recommend getting some business cards printed. Pretty much anyone I meet that is even slightly interested in my services asks for a business card.

    Business cards are so inexpensive, there's really no reason to do without.
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