Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 7: Neglecting to follow up

This post is part 7 of a series. Read the rest of the series here:
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 1: Not signing a contract
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 2: Allowing a discount
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 3: Burning bridges

Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 4: Working for family

Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 5: Missing deadlines
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 6: Not asking for referrals

I’ve had a lot of great feedback lately about this series and I wanted to make sure that I was covering the sorts of topics that you, the Millo community, really care about. So I posted the question on the Millo facebook page and got a couple responses (I would love more opinions if there’s something you’d like to see this series cover before it comes to an end).

One response was from Lisa who asked:

“After you present a proposal what followup steps do you make? How often, etc? Is there standard steps you can go through?”

So today, I’d like to talk about a common mistake designers make with clients: neglecting to follow up as often as they should.

Why is neglecting to follow up such a critical mistake?

Neglecting to follow up could potentially ruin your design business if you’re not careful. Why? Because neglecting to follow up allows potential clients to slip through the cracks. And every time a potential client gets away from you, a few more slip away in the referrals that you miss out on.

So following up (especially on proposals) is one of the most important things you can do.

When to follow up (and how)

So the big question is “When and how should I follow up with my potential clients?”

Here’s what I do. I’d love to hear what you do too (leave a comment).

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  • First, I send the proposal. (duh)
  • FOLLOW UP #1 – Right after emailing or faxing the proposal, I call the client to “make sure they got it”. The truth is, although this seems like a harmless phone call, it’s actually my first (and sometimes best) follow-up opportunity. It allows me to elaborate a little on the proposal and sell my services a little more.
  • FOLLOW UP #2 – After I know they’ve received the proposal, I usually give them 1.5 business days – meaning, I send the proposal and then let a full day pass and call them the following morning. That way, I’m not calling the very next day, but I’m also not letting too much time pass before I do call.
  • FOLLOW UP #3 If I still haven’t gotten the project after the second call, I call again in 4-7 days depending on the client. Usually, if I haven’t heard back from them, it means they aren’t hiring me, but it’s always good to follow up one more time.

Some designers recommend following up each month or each year, but I prefer to spend my time on tasks that bring in money. I used to follow up each month, but just got depressed with the growing list of people who rejected me each month.

It’s not worth my time to continuously call people who aren’t interested in working with me.

A word of warning

Every client is different. While these are the steps I usually take during a follow up, I also treat each case differently. Clients are people, they are all different, and they deserve different attention. So don’t fall into a routine just for routine’s sake. Evaluate each case individually.

How do you follow up?

I’d love to hear your successful follow-up stories. How often do you follow up with your potential clients? What do you say? How do you win over the project? Share a comment on this post and let me know!

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.


  1. Thanks for the tips! I follow up once. It’s nice to know it’s OK to contact a potential client 3 times.

  2. This part n step is really very important! As a Graphic designer i mostly follow all this tips! Thanks, it would be useful too!

  3. Wow, thanks Preston for using my question! I really appreciate it. I love your blog.

    I just don’t like the run around, so this was helpful to know that I have a specific plan now.

    Thanks so much! Lisa

  4. How do you keep track of who needs follow ups and when?

  5. HI Peston – good comments – Another good question would be how to approach potentional clients on the follow up after cold call mailers (I always ask a company’s permission before I send them or if I meet someone ask if I can send info to them) – these I find a more softly softly approach works but would love to learn a few more tips.

  6. Its strange but sometimes I get the feeling that clients themselves sometimes use this ‘follow up’ exercise as means of gauging professionalism and level of interest as some sort of shortlisting procedure with so many designers at hand. Maybe it allows them to give them more time to decide, I don’t know or maybe it’s somehow like an interview or something.

    But follow ups are very important opportunities that should never go wasted.


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