When a Prospective Writing Client Says “Maybe” — 3 Ways to Follow Up


When a Prospective Writing Client Says “Maybe” – 3 Ways to Follow Up. Makealivingwriting.comLike it or not, sales is a necessary part of your freelance writing business. Strong closers get more business. Weak closers don’t.

To close more sales, you need a follow-up strategy.

What do you do when a prospective writing client says “I’m interested” but doesn’t pull the trigger? You gently wrestle them to the ground and wrangle a “yes” or a “no” from them.

Here are three strategies you can use to turn a “maybe” into a “yes” or a “no.”

1. Some prospective writing clients aren’t worth it

Sales is a numbers game. The more prospects you touch the more likely you’ll get a “yes”. That’s why follow ups are overrated. Some freelancers just don’t do it.

You have to ask yourself, is your time better spent chasing maybes around the mulberry bush or finding a prospect who is actively seeking a writer like you? As hard as it may seem, there are prospects waiting for a writer like you to make the right offer. Your job is to find them.

2. Stay in touch (in a non-salesy way)

If you’re like me, you believe there are only two answers—yes or no. Maybe you shouldn’t take “maybe” as an answer. In that case, if the client isn’t ready to say “yes,” wait them out. But stay in touch.

One way is to send periodic updates. Once a month or so, without being a nuisance, send the prospect something interesting. Here are four nonthreatening ways to do that:

  • Run a Google Alert on their name. When they win an award or earned media attention, congratulate them.
  • Follow them on social media and share their content.
  • E-mail them a link to an article about changes going on in their industry.
  • If you write something relevant to their niche, tag them on Twitter or send them the link through their preferred medium.

3. Get them to ask you to follow up

To win at sales, you have to overcome objections.

A “maybe” is a “yes” at a later date. When a prospect says “not at this time,” be gentle, but press in.

Ask a question such as, “What would it take for you to say ‘yes’ to my proposal?” or “Mr. Prospect, level with me, what is the real reason you’re not ready to do business right now?” This is usually where prospects will either say they aren’t interested or will ask for a call back.

If a prospect asks for a follow up, be sure to do so in the requested time frame, then revert to Strategy 2. If the client says they’ve lost interest or you sense they’re stringing you along, employ Strategy 1.

There are no maybes — only yeses and nos.

Allen Taylor is the author of E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books and curates The Content Letter. In a former life, he was a telesales professional who never took “maybe” for an answer.

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  1. Kevin Carlton

    Hi Allen

    I don’t particularly like going ring-a-roses with follow-ups either. Though I still do follow up and it still sometimes works.

    What I’ll often do is create some sense of urgency. You know, say something like: ‘My post-Christmas schedule is starting to fill up. So I’m just checking whether you want me to fit you in.’

    I rarely do outbound pitching, as most of my work is from inbound enquiries. But I’ve noticed that, when prospects say ‘maybe’, it’s more a ‘maybe’ to whether they’re going to have the work done in the first place.

    They all too frequently contact several copywriters about getting some writing done. Then they waste everyone’s time by deciding not to go ahead with anyone.

    • Carol Tice

      Yes, if prospects could only make a firm decision that they are DOING a project before they contact writers! That’d be my dream.

      • Randy Robinson

        Carol do you think it’s possible some of these potential clients working with a limited budget, and have a hard time trying to justify spending (investing) money into something that may or may not return results.

        Most people don’t have a problem investing in something, they know will be good for them, or their business.

        • Carol Tice

          If they don’t know how to do marketing that works or don’t have the budget for it, they’re likely just not your client, Randy. Good clients have done it, know what works for them, and are looking to do more of it. AND understand the value of paying a real pro.

    • Allen Taylor

      Great tips, Kevin. A sense of urgency is a necessity in sales. Otherwise, clients could string you along forever. I like your low-key way of pushing that button. One thing to keep in mind is, you can’t control a client’s response to your offer, so it’s often more productive to focus on what you can control–your own time management.

  2. John Soares

    I think the proper strategy varies depending on the specific niche. I primarily write supplements (test questions, lecture outlines, student study guides) for college textbooks. Often when I contact a potential new client, they really don’t have any work for me now, but they likely will need a freelance writer within the next few months. Thus in my case it’s important to follow up.

    • Allen Taylor

      Good point, John. It’s important to understand your niche and devise a strategy that works for that niche.

  3. Bonnie Nicholls

    I have gotten gigs from following up, so it often works for me. On one, my original contact had left the company, but I had another contact that she’d cc’d me on. At the beginning of the year, I pinged that other contact, and it turned into regular work.

    • Allen Taylor

      Great going, Bonnie! I love it when that happens.

  4. Charlene Talcott

    I do some work for non-profits. I will be contacted by the director who then has to take the proposal to the board for approval. The original proposal will include ways that paying all of this way will actually pay for itself. If I hear the board is still considering it (which is their maybe)after the board meeting, I will suggest ways we could modify the proposal that are comfortable to me.

    • Allen Taylor

      You have to have some patience when working with committees, government agencies, and non-profits. The upside is, you often know their deadline for making a decision in advance, so then you know when you to follow up. Great idea about modifying your proposal.

  5. Kate Johnston

    This is timely for me. I’ve been in a back-and-forth with a potential client for a few weeks now, and then silence. Ugh. Knowing there are ways I can check back in with her without pitching a sale is perfect for me. Thank you!

  6. Allen Taylor

    Great, Kate. Good luck!

  7. Sherri

    Hmm…I don’t think I would feel comfortable saying, “What would it take for you to say ‘yes’ to my proposal?” or “Mr. Prospect, level with me, what is the real reason you’re not ready to do business right now?”

    I like the tips on sending informational updates tho.

    • Carol Tice

      I think the secret to freelance success is…getting comfortable with saying things like that. 😉

    • Allen Taylor

      You have to do what feels comfortable to you. Sometimes, clients just need a little nudge to push them one way or another. You can figure out a way to do that using your own personality and verbiage.

      I have been following up with one client for about five months now and it looks like I’m finally going to see the payoff–probably next month. On the other hand, I decided to let another prospect drift away because I’ve made several concessions, sent two contracts, and now I hear nothing. I was sure he was ready to go, but I sent the second contract and didn’t hear a word. If they’re flaky like that, I just let them go.

    • Monica Leftwich

      I agree with Sherri. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to sound like that in an email. Especially the “what’s the real reason you’re not ready” question. While I’m all for trying keeping their business, editors are not obligated to explain anything to me at the end of the day (even though I’d be a little pissy about it if they don’t!). And I would be scared that trying to squeeze an explanation out of them in that manner would just annoy them and then I’d really lose out on the deal.

      • Carol Tice

        I think that’s more a question for a marketing manager than a publications editor, Monica.

  8. Allen Taylor

    Thanks for weighing in Monica. I think that closing technique works best on the phone where you can get a spontaneous reaction. Also, this is more for business clients rather than editors.

    • Monica Leftwich

      Thanks Allen for clearing that up. I personally see editors as business clients and treat them as such. And yes, the approach described sounds like it would work way better via a phone or F2F conversation than email.

  9. Williesha

    I like the idea of Google alerts for their name or business. I tend to follow up maybe twice and give up, unless it’s a particular company or person I *really* like. Then my version of following up is simply developing a relationship with them until work becomes available. That has worked a couple of times and doing it again right now.

  10. Deena

    Thanks for a great post, Allan. Your ideas, especially the “stay in touch” ones, were very helpful, and I am looking forward to using them.

    Kevin, I agree with what you said about urgency and prospects making firm decisions.

    It’s very liberating to let go after you have followed up with a prospect in whatever way you have decided is appropriate for you. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but the time drain going back and forth with potential clients becomes not worth it after a number of days/weeks/total email hours have gone by.

    I recently got a gig which I’ve been nursing since October, and I finally gave the guy a deadline, which helped. Other times I haven’t gotten the gig, or the person decided not to do the project. The latter is usually a reflection of a potential client’s management style, and I’m happy not to be working with a person such as that.

    Don’t let yourself succumb to scarcity mentality when you don’t get a gig.

    Best of luck to all of us in 2016!


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