I’d gone through a few droughts as a freelancer, but this one was bad.
Each day, the stress mounted.
The magnitude of every new client meeting ballooned greater than ever before. Before each meeting, I went in knowing one thing; “I need this job.”
It’s the nature of being a freelancer. By definition, the work ends.
However, this stretch was particularly dry. Each time I thought I had a client, they would slip out of my grasp, like sand through an hour-glass.
Their reasons for backing out at the last minute were always different. Some would have a change in plans or strategy, others balked at my rate, but most just stopped replying altogether. I knew it was something I was doing wrong.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a hole in my sales funnel.
Freelancers have a lot on their shoulders.
Their portfolio, clients, accounting, marketing, contracts, etc. the list goes on and on.
A lot of us don’t have time to think about proactively improving our business, much less looking for the holes in it’s sails. We’re consumed by responding to client issues, technical stuff, and everything else that comes packaged with the aforementioned list.
But this article isn’t about those things, it’s about fixing one big problem those things cause. The single phrase (and every variation of it) that time and time again repels clients away from us and hurts our credibility in more ways than one:
“Let me know how I can help.”
When I said this I honestly thought I was being helpful
I would close almost every email with some variation of “Just let me know…”. It felt like the right way to end an email. Heck, it seemed professional.
Inevitably conversations with new clients would reach a point where we needed to discuss solutions, and I thought by letting the client dictate what they wanted from me, I was allowing them to get exactly what they were looking for.
But the reality was this was a load of shit. By ending my emails like this, I was dropping a wheel-barrel full of work on my client’s desk, and saying “here, you deal with it.”
It reeked of incompetence.
After all, these were the very problems I was (not) being paid to solve.
So I began to do the complete opposite and prescribe solutions at the end of every email.
At first, I felt like I was encroaching onto the client’s domain, and barking orders.
Could I really boss the client around and tell them what they needed to do? It was definitely intimidating… at first.
Slowly, though, I noticed a change. Clients were increasingly respondent to my emails. Even prospects were beginning to chirp back to me more times than not.
Just by suggesting a next step at the end of my email, I was able to double the amount of people who responded to me.
This next step was different for every email, but it always followed the same 2-step structure. I would include: 1) My suggested next step 2) What we could do in the event they don’t want to do that.
Sometimes every line in my email would lead up to this two-step solution. Sometimes the solution was the entire email.
If someone wanted a meeting, I’d suggest a time and instead of saying, “Let me know if this works for you.” I’d switch that out for, “If not, than X time/day also works or I’m free at X time/day.”
Think about that. You’re not just saving yourself the extra time of writing two separate emails, you’re saving you (and your client) the time in between these emails.
That set the tone that my time was money.
Beyond just setting the tone though, it actually proved I was a professional capable of making the right decisions by exhibiting these qualities instead of just claiming them. In a way, it showed my hands wouldn’t have to be held throughout the entire project. At the very least, it signaled my clients would just have to muster a “sounds good” in order to reply to my emails (I made sure that was the case throughout the project too).
Most of all though, it meant I was shoveling work away from my client and taking the burden on myself. This is the entire point of freelancing, to take work away from our clients. That’s how I look at every interaction now.
You’re probably ending a lot of emails with “let me know.”
That’s okay. Most people end emails like that. In fact, when put at the end of an email, our brains automatically transform the phrase “let me know” to “I just got to the end of this email, and I don’t know what to write next so there.”
But don’t worry, you just have to be a tiny bit better to melt clients’ freakin’ faces off with your awesomeness. Here’s how you stop writing emails in this way:
- Before writing an email, start by knowing what next-step you’re going to propose, then write down that part first. Do this for every email.
- When you write your email, don’t begin by wandering aimlessly from topic to topic. Make every sentence re-enforce the next-step you’re suggesting.
- By the time you get to the bottom of your email and it’s time to propose the next step, you’re done. You’ve already written that.
- A good rule of thumb is: if a client can just reply “sounds good” to your email, you’re right on.