In an ideal world, you would send off a project proposal and know what your client thought within the same day. But as contract-based worker knows, this often isn’t the case. However, if you’re tired of waiting for responses that never arrive, sending a follow-up email to a client after quotation might be the solution.

It’s not unusual to wait several days, if not longer, for a response to your proposal or project quote. Sometimes, you won’t even get a response at all.

It might be easy to understand why some clients are slow to respond to your proposals. But that doesn’t make the behavior any less frustrating.

In fact, every quote that goes out without a response is wasted time and, ultimately, lost income.

So how do you stop yourself from chasing down clients who have no intention of acknowledging your proposal? In most cases, sending a follow-up email should be the first step.

Why Clients Aren’t Responding to Your Proposals

As a freelancer or small business owner, it’s easy to fall victim to tunnel vision.

When trying to land a new contract or sell your skills to a prospective client, their response might be the only thing on your mind for several days. So when a client doesn’t respond to your proposal right away, it can be extremely difficult to carry on with your work while you wait.

But you have no way of knowing what’s going on in an unresponsive client’s life.

Maybe their company is short-staffed and their time is spread across several roles. Maybe something is demanding attention in their personal life. Or maybe your proposal is stuck in limbo between multiple decision-makers on the client’s end.

No, these scenarios don’t make ignoring your proposal any less rude. But they do help explain why an otherwise reasonable client would act in this way.

Whatever the reason for their radio silence, you can’t force a reply from your client. You can, however, remind them that your time is valuable and how making up their mind is beneficial to the project as a whole.

3 Reasons to Always Follow Up With a Potential Client

Considering all of the different scenarios that could be going on in a client’s life, you might think following up will come across as rude or impatient.

However, here are three reasons why you should follow up after a proposal:

1. Silence isn’t automatically a “no”

In an age when so many of us are accustomed to instant gratification — whether in the form of text messages, overnight shipping, or food delivery — it’s easy to take a lack of response as a sign of complete disinterest.

True, some clients might choose this route when they opt for a different freelancer or decide to forego the project altogether. But, perhaps in more cases than not, silence means nothing.

By giving up at the first sign of silence, you’re almost guaranteed to lose would-be clients.

2. Communication is increasingly mobile

Just a few years ago, reading an email meant you were seated at a computer in your office or at your home desk. Today, that’s not the case.

While we all like to think we’re thorough and prompt, especially when it comes to business communication, that’s becoming more and more difficult for many people. For instance, an email that once would have been opened at your desktop computer is now being read on a smartphone while dropping your kid off at school.

What does this mean for your client response rates?

It means that it’s much easier to overlook incoming emails. It also means that while your client might read your email right away, they could forget about it by the time they have a chance to reply.

3. Freelancers are salespeople

After a potential client shows interest in your services, you’re likely tempted to drop the sales pitch and get down to business. But this might be a mistake.

According to a study by the Brevet Group, 80 percent of successful sales require five follow-up calls. And until that contract is signed, you’re still selling your services.  

When you think of them as customers, most prospective clients don’t have much reason to reply promptly (aside from common courtesy, of course).

While freelancers and business owners rely on client contracts to earn an income, the average customer is in no rush to hand over their money — even for a service they need.

How to Craft a Follow-Up Email Guaranteed to Grab Your Client’s Attention

Clearly, a well-written follow-up email is crucial to landing your next contract.

But knowing the why and the how of a great follow-up message are two completely different things.

What should you say to your client in a follow-up email?

First and foremost: make it brief.

The purpose of a follow-up isn’t to dive into project details or make amendments to your proposal. If your client hasn’t responded to your first message because of a busy schedule, the last thing you want to do is take up more of their time.

As with any client communication, your follow-up message should be professional, polite, and friendly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be firm in your email.

If your client’s lack of response is interfering with other proposals or deadlines, don’t be afraid to communicate that fact in your follow up. Be honest — but again, polite — about your need to know if they plan to move forward with the project.

How do you ensure your client responds to your follow-up?

One great way to encourage a response is by including a call-to-action near the end of your follow-up email.

Instead of:

Just checking in to see if you looked over the proposal I sent over. Let me know.”

Consider something like:

“Just checking in to see if you looked over the proposal I sent over. I’m free to talk through any questions you have tomorrow or Friday after 10 am. What time works best for you?”

Providing clear instructions and asking a direct question is much more likely to trigger a response than leaving everything in your client’s hands.

When is the best time to send a follow-up message?

That depends on what, exactly, you’re following up on:

  • If you’re following up on a cold call or a project advertised by the client — you typically want to reach out a second time within a few days, while your proposal is still fresh on their mind.
  • If you’re following up on a request to meet or for a consultation — aim to follow up within two or three days of first trying to set up the appointment.
  • If you’re following up on a detailed proposal or project quotation — you want to give your client about a week, with considerations for weekends and holidays, to look over the information.

When it comes to sending a follow-up email to a client after a quotation or proposal, the wait is often the hardest part.

On the one hand, you’ve invested the most time and energy into this scenario and are banking on the client moving forward to make that effort worth it. On the other, though, your client will need ample time to go through your proposal and all of its terms.

So, yes, you always want to stay on top of leads by following up and keeping the channel of communication open.

But you never want to make your client feel pressured into signing off on a project before they’re ready.

When to Move On From a Dead-End Lead

When following up with any client, remember that your goal isn’t necessarily to get a “yes.” Instead, your goal is simply to get an answer of any kind.

This means that — even when crafting the perfect follow-up email to a client — you should prepare for a “no.”

Rather than putting everything on hold while you wait for a client to respond, continue reaching out to potential clients and drafting proposals. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to withdraw or postpone these proposals when the original client gets back to you.

If the client does decline your proposal, you’ll already have other prospects lined up.

No matter how much time and effort you put into your proposal and follow-up messages, some clients will just disappear. But as long as you keep looking forward, these bad leads are nothing more than a small waste of time.

Make More Time to Follow Up With Prospective Clients

While following up with a client won’t always mean landing the gig, it’s an important step if you want to improve your response rates and build better client relationships. And once you do get approval from a prospective client, you can move forward with their project knowing your persistence was key.

Of course, getting a client to sign off on your proposal is only the first step to business success. At invoicely, we might not be able to track down your unresponsive clients, but we can help manage your time tracking, invoices, and expenses.

Learn how invoicely streamlines the financial side of freelancing — for free — so you can focus on landing your next client.