Throughout my time as a freelancer (3+ years), I’ve had more than 110 enquiries send via my website. I have worked with a small fraction of those. Enquiries of all shapes and sizes tend to land in your inbox; primarily if you target your local area for business.
Over the years, I’ve become a little savvy as to which enquiries will most likely lead to work I want to do and a business id like to work with. This comes with experience and knowledge of the type of work you enjoy.
Below are some of the classic signs of a dud enquiry or the type of business I would not want to work with. Of course, this is from my own experience and perspective; you may be happy to ride the wave out and try and win the clients business. It genuinely depends on the type of business you want to run.
Red Flag Enquiries:
The no-name enquiry:
This is probably the classic sign of a copy and paste enquiry job. You know the type. Jumped on Google and typed in ‘cheap seo (your area)’, opened up the first four tabs and sent a copy and paste email to all.
My website is RyanGibson.uk. The very least I would expect from any enquiry is at least to get my name correct. For me, a no-name enquiry highlights a lack of respect from them to you and your service. Anyone who cannot use my name would automatically receive a red flag.
The ring me enquiry:
‘Hey, I have an opportunity for you to run one of my clients Adwords campaigns. Can you give me a call on xxxx’
I receive these emails regularly, and they tend to be from Digital Agencies looking to outsource Adwords. The ‘ring me’ enquiry without any context on the job at hand is a warning sign from the off. It feels ‘rushed’ and almost as if they are trying to fill a void as opposed to hiring the right consultant. From my experience, these never lead to work.
The come to our offices’ enquiry:
No context, no information on the specific job at hand.
‘Can you come to the office to chat about Digital Marketing?’
My concern with this type of enquiry is not that it’s necessarily a problem to go to a clients office (I think that’s healthy) but that there’s no setting the scene or explanation of the work. Digital Marketing covers a whole range of distinctions and services. This is far too vague and requires additional information.
I had an enquiry recently who wouldn’t provide any information unless I went to their office. Unfortunately, this was a complete non-starter for me, and the individual was then shocked when I turned down the opportunity for the work.
The no detail/context enquiry:
This type of enquiry is similar to the one above. It typically starts with something along the lines of.
‘I am interested in working with you for Digital Marketing’.
On my website enquiry form, I specifically ask for as much depth and information as possible on the project. In most cases, I am not even presented with the website they want me to work on. For these, I have a canned response email which asks for a little more context. This includes:
- Current Activity
- Current Spend
These qualifiers enable me to build a picture as to whether the work is right for me.
The stressful urgency enquiry:
These I struggle with. As a Digital marketer, I’m methodical in my approach. When the ‘I need assistance on Adwords asap’ enquiries arrive they feel like a red flag. Another play on this is when a potential client learns about your availability and still asks if you can ‘squeeze’ the work in.
Where I struggle is when another human is so insular that their needs become paramount above anything else. I understand that some work can be more urgent; however, this approach from the off presents all sorts of negative connotations from the freelancers perspective.
I have spent over three years now in self-employment. In this time, I have built a map of the type of clients id like to work with. When you first start, you are more likely a little more open to working with any enquiry you get; however, as you become busier, you can cherry-pick those which match your preferences.
I used several qualifying questions, which enabled me to build a picture of an ideal client. Here are some of the questions I asked myself when narrowing down the relationships I would like to create. Ask yourself these questions and build a clear picture.
Firstly, work out the answers to the following question:
- What does an ideal lead or enquiry look like?
- What type of enquiry do you dislike?
- Demographics? – Company size, remote/local, industry (is it hugely competitive?)
- Are you prepared to go to countless meetings to land a specific enquiry?
- Are proposals your thing, or are you looking for more personal 1/1 work?
- Does the client expect you to be present in their office for the work?
Responding to enquiries:
I respond to every single enquiry without fail. I believe in respect, and if someone has taken the time to email me, then I should at least afford them a response. Below are several ways I deal with enquiries which provides all parties closure:
For all vague enquiries, I have a canned response which asks for more context (as mentioned above). This is prewritten, so I just pop this in response. It’s a brilliant qualifier as some people cannot be bothered to answer the questions, so it removes those individuals instantly.
Others, however, will respond to all the questions and then you have a basis as to whether the work is right for you. Most clients fail to realise that the freelancer is assessing them too. It’s not a case of hungry, desperate freelancer waiting for a client to email.
Honest Shut Down:
For certain enquiries, I will be polite but will shut the conversation down immediately with ‘Thank you for your time. This is not something I am interested in right now but thank you so much for thinking of me.’
It’s easy to get lost in back and forth enquiries for work you may not even want to do.
Always leave the door open. I once had a client who asked me for training; however, they never responded to my response. A year later, they came back for retainer-based Digital marketing work. Never close the door and always retain professionalism.
Try and help:
If it’s an incredibly small start-up or a one-man band with next to no budget, I always try and help. I have several beginners guides I send them and suggest they start by doing it themselves and then come back later if they see growth/begin to get sales. It always helps to be human.
It’s easy to get lost in every single enquiry. As a freelancer, you are continuously keeping an eye on what’s next and making sure your business stays healthy. Build a process, identify your ideal client and stick to the brief.
How do you deal with enquiries? I would love to know how your approach differs and any tips you could give me to improve my process further.