Getting Work

Following Up: A Simple Hack to Get More Work from Existing Clients

Your existing clients already know and trust you. You just have to ask them for more work.

Three clocks (with yellow, red and gold frames respectively) and a blue alarm clock, on a wooden table

Why Follow Up?

As a freelancer, one problem you may face is running out of work.

No work = no money, so that’s when you may start hitting freelance jobs websites to look for new jobs.

But competition for jobs can be fierce. It may be pretty demoralising to not hear back from any of the dozen jobs you’ve applied for.

Before you start panicking like a headless chicken, there’s another method of getting work that you should know about.

It comes with substantially less competition, as the prospects already know and – if you did your job well – trust you.

It’s called following up with your existing clients.

Over the course of your freelance business, you’ve probably already built up a decent list of clients. So why not tap on them for work?

Here’s how following up works:

  1. Set up reminders for yourself to follow up with your clients regularly
  2. When you get the reminder, send your client a follow up email!

Following up doesn’t take very long to do, and can do wonders in keeping your business afloat. In this post, we’ll look at tools for setting up follow-up reminders, how you can write your follow-up email, and when you should start following up.

Setting Up Follow-Up Reminders

The first step is setting up reminders to follow up with existing clients for work. This post will cover the following methods:

  1. Google Calendar reminders
  2. Gmail’s snooze feature
  3. Use a task management app
  4. Use a spreadsheet

1. Google Calendar reminders

If you use Google Calendar to keep track of your schedule, you can make use of its Reminders feature to remind yourself to follow up with your clients.

Here’s how to set up a Google Calendar reminder:

  1. Click on the day that you want the reminder to appear.
  2. Switch the event type from “Event” to “Reminder”. This is the most important step!
  3. Fill in the details of your reminder. You can also set your reminder to automatically repeat at certain intervals.
  4. Save your reminder.

Interface for creating a reminder in Google Calendar

Once you’ve completed a reminder, click on it and hit “Mark as Done”.

If you don’t, the reminder will show up in your schedule for the next day (and the next, and the next etc) until you’ve marked it as complete.

Note: Make sure that you’ve enabled your Reminders calendar in the “My calendars” menu. Otherwise, your reminders won’t show up. You won’t be able to create reminders either.

2. Gmail’s snooze feature

Gmail’s interface has gone through a massive overhaul recently. You may love it or hate it, but with the redesign comes this cool new feature: email snoozing.

If you’re used to snoozing your alarm clock (oops…guilty as charged), you already have an idea of how email snoozing works.

In summary, you email will pop up at the top of your inbox at your chosen date and time, so you can take follow-up action on it.

Here’s how to snooze your emails in Gmail:

  1. Click into the email that you want to snooze. This could be the last email with your client after you’ve completed a project successfully, for example.
  2. Click on the Snooze icon above the email. This icon looks like a clock Clock icon and is located at the strip of icons at the top of the email. It’ll also say “Snooze” when you put your mouse cursor over it.
  3. Choose when you want to snooze the email until. Gmail offers some template dates and times, but you can also pick your own.

Tadah! That’s it.

So if one day this old email from your client reappears in your inbox with “Snoozed:” in its title, you know that you have to follow-up.

Until then, if you’re wondering where to find your snoozed emails (because they’ll disappear from your inbox), check the “Snoozed” tab in your Gmail menu.

Probably the only drawback to this method is that you can’t add any notes on why you’re snoozing your email. Having this feature would be handy if you snooze your email for more than one reason.

So if possible, try to snooze the emails which will remind you to check in with your client. For example, an email where you’ve told your client: “Let me know if I can help with anything else!”

The Gmail interface, with arrows pointing to the Snooze clock icon, and the Snoozed tab in the Gmail menu where all snoozed emails will be filed

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Don’t use Gmail? Check if your email client has a similar email snoozing feature.

3. Use a task management app

You can use a task management app to set up future tasks on following up with your clients.

As I’m currently using the Todoist task management app, I’ll go through how to set up a task in Todoist:

  1. Click the “Add Task” button.
  2. Type in your reminder, including details such as date and time, project name and priority.
  3. Save your task.

Creating a new follow-up task in the Todoist task management app

When you’ve completed the task, just check it off.

4. Use a spreadsheet

Another option is to set up a spreadsheet of all your clients and choose dates that you want to follow up with them on.

You can create the spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, or Google Sheets. I recommend the latter as you’ll be able to access the spreadsheet from any device with an Internet connection.

The problem with this solution is that you’ll have to manually check your spreadsheet to see who you should be following up with.

This shouldn’t take up too much time, but the main issue is whether you’ll remember to check your spreadsheet.

If you prefer a solution that’s more hands-off, check out the other 3 methods discussed above as they provide automated reminders.

But if you already keep a spreadsheet or list of your clients, you might find this option handy.

How Do You Follow Up?

So you’ve received the reminder to follow up with your client. How do you do so then?

No need for any fancy or long grandmother stories. Keep your email short and get straight to the point.

For example, try this simple email template. Feel free to tweak it to suit your style:

Dear [Client Name],

Hope you’ve been well!

I’ve just wrapped up some work for another client and am free to take up new projects. Is there anything that I could help you with at the moment?

[Your Name]

After you’ve sent your email, cross your fingers and wait for your client to reply!

Pro tip: In your email, you can also ask your client if they know anyone looking for freelance help.

Because even if everything is currently all good with them, they may be able to refer you to someone else.

When Should You Follow Up?

Sometimes, your client may tell you themselves.

For example if your client has casually mentioned that they’ll need you for a project in 2 months’ time, you know that you should follow up in the 1 to 2 weeks before that.

But if they don’t have a timeline in mind, there’s no magic formula on when you should follow up with an existing client.

Setting your reminder to go off around 4 to 6 weeks after the completion of a current project is a good rule of thumb.

Whatever you do, just don’t be annoying and spam your clients with requests for work every other week.

Time to Follow Through with the Follow Up

Following up can be a simple yet effective way of getting new business from existing clients.

However, the challenge in doing so may be to remind yourself to follow up.

Currently this isn’t something that can be put on autopilot, so be sure to set up your reminders diligently!

Otherwise, you may only remember to follow up when you hit a painful dry spell. Ouch.

Then after receiving a follow-up reminder, send your client a quick email to remind them of your existence and availability for work.

Who knows – you may just catch them at a time where they’re looking for help with a new project.

And the result, if they hire you?

You get more work, and also save your client the hassle of calling up their freelance contacts one by one. Everyone wins! 😎

So if you’re looking to get more work from your existing clients, try the simple hack of following up!

You may be surprised how well it works for you.

Have you been able to get more work by following up with existing clients? Leave a comment!

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

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