The Art of the Follow-Up: How to Get a “Yes” Without Being Pushy

The art of the follow up: how to turn a "no" into a "yes" without being pushy. Plus, a free email template to use when following up!

This post comes from writer Melanie, who recently quit her day job to start her own freelance business. She shares more of her journey on her blog, Dear Debt.

Following up is an inevitable part of life and creating a successful career. People may fall off your radar, or you may need to remind someone of something very important — like getting paid. As a freelancer, following up is crucial for growing your biz, keeping your clients, and making sure you get compensated for your time.

“Following up, instead of giving up, can turn something you thought was a lost cause into an awesome opportunity.”

In my own life, I’ve come to cherish the follow-up strategy. To me, following up shows that you want something badly enough to put in the time and effort.

This scenario can be tricky though, because many people associate following up with bugging or annoying people. Obviously, this is the last thing you want to do as someone trying to grow their business. So as with anything, moderation and timing are essential.

Remember that your attitude is the key to achieving goals.

Step 1: Silence the self-sabotage

For example, let’s say you email a new editor and pitch your fabulous idea. Then… crickets. Radio silence. You hear nothing except the voices in your head saying that it must be you.

Quit it! All that self-sabotage talk is garbage. I’ve been guilty of letting my imagination run wild when I don’t hear back from someone. I think; “I must be a terrible writer! They don’t like me!”

Even if those things were true, it’s OK — there’s no reason to stop trying and get better. But, more than likely, you’re just making up elaborate stories within your own mind.

Step 2: Send a short reminder

If I don’t hear back from someone that I don’t know very well, I will give them a week to respond before I send a polite follow-up.

My message usually is something like:

Hi X,

A week ago, I sent you [this really awesome idea] and I wanted to follow-up and see if you are interested in pursuing it further. I’d be happy to chat about it more in detail.

Let me know if you have any questions.



I keep it very short and to the point. People are busy, especially editors of larger blogs or publications, and more often than not, they don’t respond to me because my ideas were bad, but because they are busy. Let’s admit it — we’re all busy. Sometimes we all need a little nudge — a reminder to respond to that email that was somehow buried among all the rest.

By sending a simple follow-up, I have a 97% success rate of getting a response, which I think is pretty good when it’s someone I don’t know personally. As I mentioned, sometimes sending a simple reminder shows that you want something bad enough, and that you’re really committed to that request.

In my own experience with following up, I have been able to:

  • secure more gigs
  • forge relationships with people
  • make it clear I’m interested
  • ensure I am on top of payment (this is so important — no one will come and find you to pay you — you need to follow-up about payment as a freelancer)

Carrie’s note: I actually use the follow-up technique to weed out emails, interviews, and requests. If someone doesn’t take the time to send me a follow-up email, they must not be serious about their inquiry.

Step 3: Stay on top of what you want

I know many people that usually give up if there’s no response. Think of the money that could be left on the table if you don’t try to reach out again. You’re not bothering people if you show them you’re interested in working with them and offer value. In fact, as we’ve discussed, this is likely the opposite.

As a business owner, you are in charge — which sometimes feels like herding cats. You’re tracking down payments, following up about pitches, maintaining existing relationships with clients, and more. It’s a lot to handle! Staying on top of what you want and following up with people can make a world of difference in your income and your relationship building.

For example, I followed up with someone on an opportunity in the past that didn’t end up working out. I said thank you and moved on. Later that year, this same person had a different opportunity for me, and thought of me first. Why?

Because I’m persistent.

following up

Step 4: Know the best time to follow-up

So how do you know when it’s time to follow-up? As I mentioned, being patient is key, but you also don’t want too much time to lapse between your requests (in the event they forget about you, or the project has expired).

Here are some quick tips to know exactly when to follow-up:

Create a spreadsheet

I have a spreadsheet that lists all my clients, pay rates, due dates, and invoice procedures. This helps me keep track of payment, timing and administrative duties. You can use the Careful Cents client list template to create your own spreadsheet.

Craft a custom follow-up

I don’t know about you, but I have an irrational fear that my important emails are getting lost in the vast abyss of the internet. To assuage my fears, I use a tool called Sidekick, which lets me know if people have opened my email.

Knowing this information helps me realize that the intended party has received the item in question. This information can help you craft your follow-up.

For example, if your client has not opened an email, you can wait a few days and send a short email saying, “I just want to confirm you got this? Let me know if you need anything else!” — or if they have opened the email you can say, “I wanted to follow-up about X — [insert specific action or request].”

Understand communication styles and roles

Some people aren’t living on the internet like I am, and aren’t as responsive with emails as I am. That’s totally fine! Some people are very fast, while others take longer, and even more so, some of us need a nudge.

Start understanding your clients’ communication style. I have a client that sometimes falls off the face of the planet and requires several follow-ups — they have even admitted this! Because I know this is their style, I don’t follow-up incessantly unless I really need something.

However, if it becomes too much of a habit and you can’t get your work done, or you’re having trouble getting paid, it might be time to cut your losses. Consider the amount of time between contact. This should be calculated on how important the project is, and how well you know that person.

Send unique and specific reminders

Editors and clients get a lot of email — sending a one sentence vague email, or conversely, a verbose ten paragraph follow-up, won’t work. Keep it short and sweet, but also be specific. Mention specific dates and topics related to what you are following up about.

By doing this, you increase the likelihood of getting a quick response. You can also end your email with a question to help garner a response.

Do work on the front end

If you know you need a response, or your email is very important, then mark it as such. You can put “Important” or “Urgent” in the subject line of the email, but please use your discretion with this. You can also say explicitly, “please confirm you have received this,” which can help with the back and forth and limit incessant email tag.

By using these steps and applying these tips to my freelance business, I’ve stayed on top of assignments, gained new clients, and ensured I get paid in a timely fashion.

Following up is a process that involves creating your own luck, so when you need an opportunity or a contact to pay off, you’ll have already invested the time and energy, and can now reap the rewards.

The art of the follow-up isn’t annoying if you do it the right way. Remember, you could be leaving money on the table by assuming silence means “no.”

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  1. Kirsten says:

    I am learning so much from you these days, Melanie! I got contacted last week (out of the blue) by someone looking for a writer. We agreed upon my rate and then I sent over a little agreement form to help flesh out details. Silence. The blog is not well established and I was surprised they agreed to my rate, so I have debated just letting it go… But I knew it’s not a good strategy for growing my little business, so this was timely encouragement for me!

    • Melanie says:

      Definitely follow-up! If they are willing to pay your requested rate, then give it a little more time. If this becomes consistent, then that could be their communication style, or it could be time to cut your losses because they aren’t serious.

  2. Elna says:

    Thanks for writing this! I often feel that I might come off as nagging and pushy if I send a follow up inquiry a week later.

    I pitch endlessly, guest post and have specific people request me, and I sit and wait for a response. When I send a follow-up I still only get a 75% response back.

    Thanks for your little template on sending a follow-up email. I will consider revising mine.

    Thanks again and I just want to let everyone know that I’m adopting Adrienne Smith’s reciprocity promise- If you comment on my blog post, I will comment on your blog post!

    • Melanie says:

      It’s a delicate balance. You can test and tweak to find what works for you. I recently read an article that stated that your email should be 5 sentences for optimum chance of a response. I’ve been testing this out for some of my longer follow-ups and it has worked! So, shorter is better!

  3. Kayla says:

    Love this Melanie! I’ve been struggling with the follow up sometimes too. I want to follow up and get the job but I don’t want to seem pushy…just pleasantly persistent 🙂

  4. Andrea Cupid says:

    Hi Melanie,

    Following up with people through instant messaging is great to.

    What I usually do when I establish relationship with my clients after a few emails I always try to call them via Skype and then continue talking to them either on Skype, Gtalk, Wechat or whatever they are responding on. I like calling them and putting on the video so people see my face (even though sometimes its not my best day), it helps them in trusting you because they know you a little better than just emails.

    So the day I have something important to ask them I usually ask them directly via instant messaging because I know usually answer in minutes..

    Note that I keep email for official use, like sending out contract or else..

    Hope it helps,


    • Melanie says:

      Interesting! I haven’t done that. It’s rare I have video chats with clients, but not something I am opposed to. It’s nice to deepen the relationship with face-to-face chats.

  5. Donny says:

    Melanie, it is definitely a thin between being over aggressive or too pushy when it comes to following up with people. I like to send a friendly casual reminder via email because I know sometimes people forget because of their busy schedules. If I don’t hear anything after this, then I typically don’t do anything further in regards to following up.

  6. I just accepted a new job offer, and I am almost 100% positive that it was extended to me because of the follow-up emails I sent. I let them know I wanted the job in very plain terms, went above-and-beyond by sending them my references before they asked, and I really think it did the trick! The art of the follow up is one everyone needs to learn! Thanks for putting this info our there, Melanie!

  7. Mary says:

    Great post. I am impressed that you have a follow up response rate of 97%. Clearly I am going to need to pay attention to your postings as my percentage is not nearly as good 🙂

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Adistia says:

    Thank you for sharing this.
    It’s exactly what i need for my new job.
    Looking forward for next tips

  9. Sara Jones says:

    Excellent advice. Very clear and concise, and your style is friendly- which is important these days. Thank you for this!

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