As a freelancer I'd gone through dry spells before, but this one was bad. Each day the stress mounted. The importance of every new client meeting seemed greater than ever before. I went in thinking, "I need this job," but each client would slip out of my grasp.
How can I help?
Some would say it was a change in plans while others balked at my rate, but most just stopped replying altogether. I knew it was something I was doing wrong. What I didn't know at the time was that it was a single phrase I was writing in nearly every email that was causing this hole to open up in my pipeline: "Let me know how I can help."
I would spew it out constantly, like when I didn't know what else to say, or when I wanted to be helpful. All my emails ended with some variation of "let me know". It seemed like a professional way to end an email. By letting a client dictate the next move, I thought I was giving them exactly what they wanted.
In reality, I was dumping my work on to them, and saying: "Here, you deal with it." It reeked of incompetence and undermined my business. After all, these were problems I was asking to be paid to solve.
A prescribed solution
So I tested the complete opposite for a few weeks. Instead of open-ended emails, I prescribed a solution in each one. At first, this felt wrong. I felt like I was barking orders and bossing clients around. It was scary (at least until I became drunk with power), but I slowly started to notice a change. Clients were responding to my emails. Even prospects were chirping back.
My response rate doubled just by suggesting a next step in my emails. If someone wanted a meeting, I'd suggest a time. If I was presenting an idea, I would also explain how to implement it quickly.
This set the tone that my time was valuable, and proved that I was a professional capable of making the right decisions. It showed my hands wouldn't have to be held throughout a project. It meant I was taking work away from my clients.
In the coming weeks, you might notice yourself ending emails with "let me know" too. It's inevitable. The truth is most people do it. It's become an invisible phrase that our brains transform into: "This is the end of an email. So there."
Instead, finish your email with a suggested next step. You'll know you're on the right track if a client can just reply "sounds good" to your email. Do that and your emails will win you more clients in less time. How do I know? I've tested it. I've helped hundreds of freelancers and agencies who use my lead generation service, Workshop. Together we write emails to hundreds of potential clients and see what works.
I've found that the most successful emails are the ones that always make it easy for the client to simply say yes. By removing client-repelling phrases from your emails, you can tackle the feast or famine cycle affecting your design business.