What is a follow up email?
A follow up email is an email reminder designed to ensure continued communication after an initial contact. For freelancers, that could mean following up after a cold email, after a networking event, or even after a warm email intro.
Why don’t people respond?
We all have a strategy for tackling emails. Maybe you start by deleting all of the spammy emails from brands, filing any receipts, reading the emails that need immediate response, filing some for later, and then checking out newsletters. Or maybe you do it in a totally different order. The point is that you “triage” your email inbox, meaning you deal with the most important things first and save the rest for later.
If people aren’t responding to your cold emails or have dropped an email chain, it could be for a couple of different reasons.
- Your offer is irrelevant. People are busy. If you’re asking for or offering something that they don’t need, then they’re not going to respond. It's possible they’re going to ghost you completely. In this case, a followup email probably won’t help.
- They get 784,498 daily emails. They just don’t have time to respond to you because their inbox is flooded. This is where a great email subject line that grabs their attention comes into play, which we’ll go into more later.
- They forgot. Maybe they clicked on your email and thought they responded. Or they just straight up forgot.
- They’ve triaged you for later. People who are short on time aren’t going to prioritize you. Make your offer something relevant to their immediate needs and and you’re much more likely to get a response.
- You’ve got the wrong email address. This can especially be a problem when you’re running a cold email campaign with multiple email recipients.
How to write a follow up email
Follow up email templates exist and are a helpful guide if you’re feeling stuck. Just ensure that your follow ups are personalized even if you’re using a template. With that in mind, here are six steps for writing a great follow up email.
1. Decide on an objective
What’s your goal with this follow up email? Do you want to set up a call? Get them to click a link? Offer your services? Figure that out before you start writing so that it’s front and center.
2. Think of a compelling subject line
If this is an email after no response, don’t include “follow up” or “just following up” in your subject line. If your potential prospect didn’t respond the first time, they’re unlikely to respond to an explicit follow up. That email is going to go right in the trash.
Instead, remember your objective and the value you’re bringing. Highlight one or the other in the subject line, although they should be closely related. Remember: You want your prospect to click on that email. Making it relevant makes that more likely to happen. Try something like, “Additional resources for [BUSINESS NAME].” It will pique their curiosity and as long as you actually deliver in the body of the email, could result in a response.
3. Write the opening line
Keep your opening line short and effective by saying something like, “Regarding the below email” or “I wanted to follow up on the email below.” Make it easy for them to know who you are and what you’re referencing by putting it front and center in your email opener. Don’t make them go search for the original email. (Spoiler: They won’t.)
4. Write the body
The body of the email should be a couple of sentences. Add more value to the original proposal — like a reduced price, shorter proposed call time, or a solution to a pain point — and include a very specific call to action. It can help to link out to your scheduling software so they don’t have to respond directly and can quickly schedule a time to speak.
5. Write the closing
For your closing, simply thank them for their time and consideration. That’s it — you don’t need anything else.
6. End with a signature
End with your email signature and make sure it includes any relevant information. At the minimum, include your full name, title, and relevant URLs.
When to send follow up emails
The right timing can sometimes feel like mysterious guess work but, when it comes to cold emailing, there’s actually some science behind it.
Send the first follow up email two to three days after the original email, while the information is (hopefully) still fresh in their mind. Then, gradually increase the amount of time between for subsequent follow ups. Depending on the type of follow up email, plan on sending between three and seven total.
Additionally, avoid sending follow ups in the afternoon, response rates are generally lower then. Aim for morning time, just before most people start work, because that’s when they’re the most likely to respond. Afternoon emails tend to get ignored or triaged more frequently, as the respondents are likely worn out from their day.
Examples of follow up emails
We’ve discussed follow up emails when you haven’t yet received a response to a previous email. In practice, there are other types of follow up emails and they all serve different purposes. To illustrate those differences, let’s look at four examples of follow up emails that a freelance writer might send.
1. Discovery call
A discovery call follow up email is when you’ve already had a chat with a potential client and you want to keep the process moving forward. It might look something like this:
SUBJECT LINE: [YOUR NAME] + [CLIENT NAME] follow up
It was great connecting today! Please see below for the project timeline we discussed. Feel free to send over the first three article briefs so that I can get started.
I’m really looking forward to working with you,
2. Quote or proposal
A quote or proposal follow up email is when you’ve already sent over a quote or a project proposal, but haven’t heard back from the client and want to jog their memory. It should be a nice, polite follow up email and might look something like this:
SUBJECT LINE: [YOUR NAME] + [CLIENT NAME] follow up
I’m really excited to get started and wanted to make sure my project proposal got through. Just in case it got lost, here it is again:
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Look forward to hearing from you soon!
3. Invoice follow up
An invoice follow up is when you’ve invoiced a client and they’ve missed the deadline for paying you. It might look something like this:
SUBJECT LINE: Quick reminder: Your invoice was due [DATE]
Hope everything is good! I wanted to send a friendly reminder about the invoice I sent on [DATE], as I haven’t received payment yet. I’ve reattached it below.
It’s been great working with you on this project and, as a gentle reminder, payment is due on [DATE].
4. Networking follow up
A networking follow up is when you’ve either met someone in person (like at a professional event) or you’ve had a warm email from a mutual connection and want to continue the conversation or build on the relationship. It might look something like this:
SUBJECT LINE: So great meeting you, [NAME]!
It was so great meeting you at the small business mixer this afternoon. I really enjoyed learning about what [COMPANY NAME] does and I think I’d be a great fit for the Blog Manager role we discussed.
Do you have 15 minutes this week to chat about next steps? Look forward to hearing from you!
Final tips for sending follow up emails
Sending follow up emails can seem like a drag or make you feel annoying. But, they’re an important part of the freelancer client acquisition funnel. Here are three final tips for making sure they work for you and for your potential clients.
- Don’t send too many. Your goal is to close a deal, but no one wants to receive 10 follow up emails. Be judicious with your time and theirs and cut it off if you’ve gotten no response from a few in a row.
- Add value. Rather than repeating the initial email and offer, give them a little more to entice them to respond. An email that’s “just following up” isn’t going to be enough of a push to get them to get back to you.
- Include a call to action. If you want them to call you, ask them to call and include your number in the body of the mail. If you want to set up a call, offer your calendar link. Whatever it is you’re looking for, be clear and make it super easy for them to do it. Any friction in the process and they’re likely to ignore you.