If you’re a freelancer, contractor, or small business owner, working with clients can be one of the most challenging parts of your job. This is especially true when those clients become mysteriously unresponsive. When this happens, you’ll need to be vigilant in sending a follow up email. And this is where some handy email scripts come into play.
When written with a little thought and foresight, the right follow up email can produce quick results.
If you’re not sure how to do this, don’t worry! Seeing a few examples and understanding how (and why) they work is usually all you’ll need to start using this tactic effectively in your business.
For each, we’ll provide a sample follow up email, and explain why it’s likely to produce results. Let’s start from the top!
Why it pays to design a carefully-worded follow up email
When it comes to creating email scripts, it’s well worth your time to design them carefully. A hastily-sent email can do more harm than good, so you’ll want to be strategic.
This involves a number of considerations. You’ll want to think about the action you’d like the recipient to take, and how you can gently (yet firmly) encourage them in that direction. In addition, it’s vital to pay attention to every single word you use. Tone and intent matter just as much here as content – especially when you’re dealing with an unresponsive or difficult client.
Writing solid email scripts that return results takes practice. However, to get you started, we’re going to present a number of examples you can use and learn from.
We’ve worked with a lot of challenging and hard-to-contact clients over the years, and what follows are the types of emails we’ve found work best.
Five email scripts you can use to follow up with unresponsive clients
Let’s now take a look at the five scripts themselves! By using (and perhaps slightly tweaking) these emails yourself, you can greatly increase your chance of making successful connections.
They’re in no order of importance or relevance, so you’re free to dip into whichever one takes your fancy first!
1. Follow up after a proposal submission
Few things are more frustrating then sending off a detailed proposal for a new project, and hearing nothing back. You’re ready and waiting to get started, and each day’s delay means one more day you’ll have to wait for payment once the project wraps up.
The good news is that a lack of response to a proposal rarely means the client is unhappy with it or unwilling to move forward. On the contrary, they’ll usually let you know of this straightaway. Instead, you’ll often find they’ve been too busy to give it much thought, or even to fully read your email.
In the words of Mercedes Cardona at OMH Communications:
Even so, you’ll certainly want to follow up with this client. You need to stay at the forefront of their minds, and remind them to take time out of their schedule to give your proposal the attention it deserves. Usually, a gentle nudge is all it will take:
Hi [Client name], I was wondering if you've had a chance yet to look over our most recent proposal. [Brief, one-sentence summary of the proposal itself]. We're eager to hear your thoughts, and to get started on this project! Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the specifics of the proposal (as outlined in my previous email).
This message opens with a polite acknowledgment of how busy the client is, and that you understand they may not have been able to give your proposal a thorough look yet. Then, it briefly reminds them of the proposal’s focus, so they don’t have to go back to the previous email in order to orient themselves.
The second paragraph is the crucial element here. It’s a good idea to let the client know you’re excited about the project (even if you’re also feeling frustrated). This enthusiasm can be the push they need. Plus, by soliciting questions, you’re telling them they don’t need to immediately approve or reject your proposal, but are free to voice any queries or concerns they may have about it first.
Of course, you’ll want to close the follow up email with your favorite sign-off phrase and your name. In addition, you should avoid terminology such as “there’s no rush” in this sort of message. While you want to remain polite and thoughtful, you also want to encourage the client to take action as soon as possible (your bank account is depending on it!).
2. Reminder that you’re waiting on a response
This may be the most common situation you find yourself in when dealing with unresponsive clients. You’re in the middle of some kind of project, and you can’t proceed further until the client answers a key question or provides a particular resource. Yet you’re met with radio silence.
Following up promptly in this situation is in the best interests of both you and your client. After all, both of you want the project to carry on smoothly and avoid wasting time. As with the previous scenario, it’s highly likely that the client did see your email, but forgot about it or has it marked to deal with later.
This follow up email can be sent anywhere from a few days to a week after the prior communication, depending on the project’s urgency:
Hi [Client name], I wanted to follow up, and see if you've had a chance to review my previous email. As I mentioned, [briefly restate the question or remind them of what you need]. Once we have your answer, we'll be able to proceed straightaway to the next stage of the project. Let me know if I can provide any further clarification on what we need!
The first paragraph is structured in a similar way to our last example, which is deliberate. Here too, it’s important to acknowledge how busy the client is, and to avoid any air of impatience or frustration.
Plus, reminding them briefly of your query lets them know exactly what you’re looking for. At the same time, you don’t want to get too detailed here, as the client can simply go back to the previous email to read over your full request.
The next sentence is designed to let the client know (politely) the importance of this particular message. In other words, they may not have realized the lack of response has led to a roadblock on your end.
Then, the offer to provide clarification wraps up this brief follow up email, while making it clear you’re ready and waiting to discuss anything unclear in your original message (thus delaying their response).
3. Solicitation for new work
Staying in close communication with your clients is always important. However, it’s never more essential than right after a project wraps up. It’s all too easy for a client to forget about you and move on to the next thing at this point – which is the last thing you’ll want.
Therefore, if you’ve finished a project for a particular client and haven’t heard anything from them for a little while, you’ll want to send along a request for new work. The best approach to this email can vary a bit depending on the specific circumstances, but here’s an example of an effective message:
Hi [Client name], As you know, we recently wrapped up [project name/description of project]. We hope you're happy with the results! We're eager to move forward with the next project – here's all we'll require from you: - [Brief list, in bullet point form, of necessary questions and/or requests for information or resources.] Once we have this infraction, we can move forward to the next phase. Of course, please let me know if there are any questions I can answer as well.
This follow up email relies somewhat on the assumption that both you and your client are aware of your usual process, and have worked on multiple projects in the past. It may need a little personalization to reflect the type of projects you’re working on, but it provides a solid framework nonetheless.
The first paragraph serves two purposes (besides simply being an introduction to the email). It reminds the client of the recently-completed project, and of their (hopefully) positive reaction to its quality. Remembering what a good job you did previously should whet their appetite for more of the same.
Expressing your own eagerness to get started is always a good touch. However, the real star of the show here is the bullet point list of questions/requests. Listing out what you need from the client (instead of writing it all out in paragraph form) makes your requirements crystal-clear. It also increases the chances of getting a response to each specific inquiry.
Wrap it all up with a nudge forward and a request for any questions the client might have, and you have a simple but effective follow up email on your hands.
4. Request for an overdue payment
This one is a little tricky. Talking about money can be stressful, especially if you’re a creative who’d rather have nothing to do with the financial element of the business. This is even more pertinent when it comes to following up with a difficult client who’s overdue on their payment.
First and foremost, you’ll want to go into this communication as polite as possible. Don’t insinuate that the client is negligent, or start making threats. Instead, proceed with the assumption that the client has simply forgotten to pay. Even if there’s another reason for their delinquency, this approach can essentially guilt them into pulling out their wallet:
Hi [Client name], I wanted to touch base, and remind you about the payment due on [date on invoice]. As of yet, we've not received your payment. Could you let us know when we can expect to receive it please?
It’s best to keep this type of follow up email short and sweet. You don’t want the key message to get overlooked. Plus, there’s no reason to throw in a bunch of qualifiers. Simply reminding them that payment is due – politely – often does the trick. However, you do want to give them all of the pertinent information, such as an invoice number, and the email it was sent to originally. The idea is to make payment as easy as possible.
You can essentially repeat this email as many times as you feel necessary. However, if you still don’t receive a response, you may eventually need to get more forceful. Here’s a follow up email you might send if they fail to respond to a few messages like the one above:
Hi [Client name], We have still not received your payment for [project name/description]. We'll be expecting the full invoice amount – [amount of payment] – by [new due date], or we'll potentially have to refer this matter to a collection agency.
This is a firm and straightforward message, which is appropriate for a client who is both failing to pay and to respond. Giving them a reminder of the payment amount and a new due date may finally spur them into action.
If not, you might have to cut your losses with this particular client and consider this a learning experience. Of course, you can actually hire a collection agency to follow up for you – but the hassle and fees involved make this a less desirable option unless the bill owed is very large.
5. The final email
The previous follow up emails are designed to get a response whenever possible. However, sometimes a client simply goes quiet despite your best efforts.
If you’ve sent several messages to a client and they just aren’t responding (and they don’t owe you any money), it’s time to send one last follow up email. It might look something like this:
Hi [Client name], It's been some time since we've heard from you. At this point, we have to assume your priorities have changed, or you're taking your business in a different direction. Please feel free to reach out in the future if we can be of any further assistance!
This message accomplishes a few things. It’s polite and understanding for one, showing that you bear the client no ill will for their lack of response. Even if you don’t hear from them now, you’ll want to keep the relationship on as positive a note as possible.
What’s more, making it clear you’re moving on this way plays on the client’s fear of missing out (FOMO). They should recognize that if they want to continue benefiting from your services, they’ll need to act quickly.
Finally, you’ve made it clear you’re open to any future communications. It’s not uncommon to suddenly hear back from an old client months or years down the line, when priorities and personnel have changed. Wrapping your email up this way gives you the best possible shot of getting a response.
Unfortunately, there’s no way (yet!) to reach through your computer screen and make your client respond to a crucial message. However, sending a carefully-crafted follow up email can produce the results you’re looking for, while keeping your relationship on a positive note.
In this article, we’ve introduced you to five email scripts you can use to chase up unresponsive clients:
- Follow-up after a proposal submission.
- Reminder that you’re waiting on a response.
- Solicitation for new work.
- Request for an overdue payment.
- The final email.
Have you ever had success getting an unresponsive client to talk? Tell us what you did in the comments section below!
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