How do you keep from crossing the line between squeaky wheel and stalker?
September 14, 2009 9:12 PM   Subscribe

Fellow freelancers and/or marketing gurus: where is the fine line between staying on a potential employer’s radar and being a pest--and how do I get as close to it as possible?

We all know that networking and Building Relationships are the keys to getting freelance gigs, as much as or more than sheer talent.

Some of my clients tell me to bug them every now and then to check in about potential projects. But I feel the need to keep those communications fresh and interesting, and not have it look like just copied and pasted a “just checking in” email one more time.

How do you keep from crossing the line between squeaky wheel and stalker?

Of course there are communication hooks, like projects one of us recently completed (“Congrats!”), industry scuttlebutt or even recent life events (for the friendly types). What about when there really is no other reason to get in touch besides, “Hey, got any work for me”? (And the time after that? And the next?)

What are your secrets for staying in touch in an engaging way, indefinitely? Is it even possible (or necessary)?

FWIW, I'm talking about writing for print and TV.
posted by gottabefunky to Work & Money (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you're a writer then why not simply use Twitter to stay on their radar? This is passive enough so as not to annoy. Be witty and insightful and they'll keep you in their rotation.

Since I'm currently sitting on the other side of the table I would recommend (anecdotally of course) some guidelines based on my own preferences:
- send a postcard (once every 4 months)
- drop them an email (once every 4 months)
- give them a call (once every 6 months)

If you don't hear something from them during the course of a year then give it a 6 month break. This will leave the impression that you are busy and not constantly desperate for work. Which leads me to one last recommendation . . .

Don't pester them with "hey, do you have any work for me?". Hit them with "hey, look at all the cool shit I'm doing and oh by the way let me know if you'd like to collaborate on anything." It makes you sound way more confident and competent.
posted by quadog at 9:31 PM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having been on sides of the fence--freelancer and hiring project manager--I don't see anything wrong with a quick check-in. But, I really only want to hear from folks that I've asked to check back in with me. If that is the case--a quick, "Hello, I'm available, got anything?" Is fine by me. But I think my tolerance is high because a) I've been on the other side and b) I'm juggling a lot of projects at the same time but the stuff I do is usually not a huge job and not time-constrained and if a favorite writer/designer/printer/whatever contacts me and says that they are between big projects or have some time freed up, I might move some stuff around so I can use them now but if they hadn't called, I might have waited and missed the window.

I don't really mind hearing from anyone I've worked with before even if they weren't my top choice as long as they keep it short and sweet and limit it to 1x month or so unless I've said something different.

That said, if you did a crummy job or screwed up a deadline you can send me a bunch of tap dancing tulips and you'll never get a call back from me.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2009

I agree with quadog, though I've never really used snail mail to keep in touch with my freelance contacts.

My personal (hyper-organized, semi-stalker) strategy is to keep a spreadsheet of all my past and potential employers, the key contact personell, location, list of mutual friends, date of the last project I did for them, date of the last time I communicated with them, notes about upcoming and recurring projects they might have, and a note about positive and negative stuff I've heard through or about them.

Emailing on a 4-month rotation is my primary strategy, and like you said, I try to rotate through "Hey, look what you did- cool!" and "Hey, look what I did- cool, right?" and the standard "What's up? How's it going over there?" I use my spreadsheet to remember which tactic I've used recently on which person. I also try to make sure each person gets a link to my online portfolio at least twice a year. I'm a painter, but I think the strategies are pretty much the same in this case.

I try to keep friendly with as many of my employers as possible because it takes some of the forced quality out these exchanges. Almost hate to admit it, but Facebook has really helped out there. Status updates about current projects leading to future employment, etc.

All of this takes some of the stalker uncertainty out of it- which for me often comes because I lose track of who's gotten pestered and who's gotten ignored. Follow your instincts on the responses you get, and don't doubt that it's an entirely necessary evil.
posted by alight at 10:01 PM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

The art of the handwritten note on high quality professionally printed stationery is still the secret weapon of the truly successful.
posted by Muirwylde at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2009

What ever you do don't try only one. You probably know this but I'll throw it out there anyway.

Pick three strategies, launch them at the same time and follow each's results over a three month period. Track your results, use the best and come up with another two to throw against it. Start with frequency.

Project A- Reach out once a month to check on work provided (bill it as a service bundled into the original service you provided the client, thus giving it some value and reason for sending it.)

Project B- Same guidelines as A but reach out twice a month

Project C- Reach out once a week following the same guidelines as A and B.

Do this for three months and see where it takes you. Be sure to record the day of the week you are sending the message. You can discuss their response rates, variations to the message, target market expansion- anything alongs those lines might take you to establishing an on going dialogue.

Sure, this may seem over simplified but it is going to provide you some insight in how often to reach out there. After you have some data then you can try manipulating the message to see where that takes you. Explore email, snail mail and the handwritten note as a place to start.

Good luck!
posted by bkeene12 at 8:10 PM on September 15, 2009

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