The Secret of My Proven Freelance Follow-Up System

Carol Tice

Staying OrganizedIt’s a question that plagues every freelance writer who’s trying to get new assignments.

You send out a query letter or letter of introduction, to a magazine editor or a business’s marketing manager.

And then, you wait.

And wait and wait. And wait some more.

There’s no response.

Now what do you do?

You’re dying of suspense. You want closure. Will they give you a freelance gig or not?

The best way forward

This agony of not knowing causes writers to ask me:

It’s been weeks…should I follow up on this?

To end the mystery, here is my own followup system.

I’ve been using it since I first started as a brand-newbie writer in the ’90s, and have used it more recently as an experienced freelancer. It’s worked great all the way through.

Ready?

I never follow up.

Yes, really. I just don’t.

My system is that I send query letters out and then immediately forget about them and move on to send more queries.

I assume if they’re interested, they’ll be in touch.

The problem with follow-up systems

I know other writers who have follow-up systems. Two or three weeks after they send a query, they send a reminder.

Here’s what I don’t like about that…

In the meanwhile, writers will often fritter away the hours worrying about the fate of this pitch letter, and fantasizing about how great it would be if this assignment would happen.

Waiting and worrying is negative. You want to be a writer, not a waiter.

Also, there’s the anxiety of wondering if you’re doing follow-up right. Should you have called instead? Waited another week? Emailed at a different time of day? Mailed a nice note?

My policy of never following up allows me to skip all these stresses.

Yes, I’ve heard from writers who say they’ve had success landing the gig with that follow-up call. The editor realizes your email went in spam originally. They pull you out of the slush pile and look again. And maybe it pays off.

I just think the dynamic of begging an editor to pay attention to my pitch feels sad and desperate, and I don’t want to go there. I’d rather crank out more marketing and connect with clients who love my ideas and are dying to work with me and get right back to me with a “yes.” So that’s how I do it.

How to up your success rate

To begin, accept that the norm for freelance pitching is no response. It doesn’t mean anything about you as a writer. It’s just how it is.

This may hang out there forever, unresolved. Get comfortable with that.

Editors are very busy. You probably won’t hear back.

If you never get responses to your pitches, it could be that you aren’t developing salable story ideas and are writing weak pitches. It may be worth taking some time to learn more about how to pitch.

Beyond that, moving on instead of puzzling over why this pitch didn’t get an immediate response means you can send more queries. It also keep you in a more positive head space, which is bound to help you be more productive.

The one thing we know about pitching is that it’s a numbers game.

No follow-up means more pitches. More lines in the water mean you catch more fish.

It also means less paperwork. I jot a note in a Word file about who I pitched what when, just so I don’t forget and pitch the same editor the same thing again a month later.

Other than that, I move forward immediately to the next pitch. That’s the system that’s gotten results for me.

What’s your follow-up system? Leave a comment and share your approach.

41 Comments

  1. Marijke

    I follow up most times, but I don’t stress over it either. I send off the query or LOI. A few weeks later, if I notice I haven’t heard back, I’ll shoot over a quick follow-up email. This has landed me some work and it only took a few minutes of my time.

    In other words, you don’t need to have “follow up” and “stress about non-responders” in the same thought, let alone the same sentence.

  2. Joe

    It’s the nom to do a follow up, whether it’s pounding the sidewalk looking for a job, or doing this.

    It’s expected.

    A lot of opportunities are lost when follow ups aren’t done.

  3. Sherri

    I send out letters of introductions to businesses. I’ve found when I do a follow up phone call several weeks later, the person is nice, but I get “Yes, we saw your stuff. It’s nice. We don’t have anything right now.” So I’m thinking just sending a one-shot email is enough in most cases, at least for businesses where you’re not pitching. They do see your stuff and either they’re not interested, or not interested yet.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah…it feels like you’re annoying them. Which is sort of how I evolved to my point of saying, “You know, I think if they need me or like my story idea, they’ll be in touch.” I don’t like annoying people.

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