January 2018

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Best Practices For Following Up With Prospects

Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk

Dear Mentors,

I’m a freelancer, with two dilemmas. In one case, I’ve pitched an online mag for the first time. My pitch is a GREAT fit—but I’ve heard nothing after 3 weeks. In the other case, I met an editor at a networking event, pitched her on the spot. She gave me her card—so I emailed her. Now… I hear crickets. Do I email her again? Text her? Call her? When does being diligent with my follow-up become annoying? I’ve heard from other friends who are solopreneurs that they struggle with the same issue. Help, please!

Yours, Waiting in Vain

Dear Waiting in Vain,

When working a pitch, I would definitely follow up a second time within the week (depending on the publication time needed) without hesitation. Beyond that, if there’s still time, I might do a third follow up. 

I also will follow up with an email and combine that with a phone call – or vice-versa. This enables someone to receive the message in their preferred way. It also cuts through the “noise” of the inbox by following up with the phone call. 


Jan Gunter

Dear Waiting in Vain,

As you say, there’s a fine line between being proactive and being a pest. Rather than be held hostage by the person you’ve pitched to, I’d include a deadline to get back to me if they are interested.

For example, in the initial pitch email or phone call, I’d say, “Please let me know within two weeks (better yet, give a specific date), whether you are interested. I’m pitching this to you first, but I’d like to try other publications (or whatever) if you’d rather not pursue this.”

After the deadline passes, I’d ping the person again and say, “Thank you for considering my pitch. Unless I hear otherwise from you by noon tomorrow, I’m going to shop this elsewhere this week. I’ll be in touch in the future if I have other ideas I think you’d be interested in….”

One last thing: When to contact a person depends on the situation and the person’s last response. For example, when people say they’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks and you hear nothing after two weeks, send a brief email saying you’re checking in.

If still nothing, a final email a few days later is fine, but that is sufficient. I wouldn’t keep bugging them or they will duck you in the future. Move on. They know how to find you if they’re interested.


Mary Ann Rosner


Dear Waiting in Vain,

I recommend waiting at least two months to follow up. Research or request the publication’s editorial calendar first to align your pitch with their plan. Also inquire with your peers about response trends for the publication.

Be informed before following up.


Christine Moline

Dear Waiting in Vain,

All of the “sales” classes I’ve taken have taught me a few things…

First, you should never let 3 weeks go by without checking in. It’s best to get a commitment when you deliver a pitch, by asking, “When do you expect to make a decision?” And check in at that time if you haven’t heard.

In most sales classes I’ve heard, “It’s never dead until the client explicitly tells you it’s dead.”

I recommend following up weekly, alternating with phone and email, and after a while it’s ok to add something like, “I would appreciate if you could let me know either way.”

If you get uncomfortable with continued check-ins specifically about the pitch you made, you can eventually just change your approach, and put the lead on a follow-up list, where you send your newsletter or otherwise get your name in front on them, such as with a holiday card, an article you thought they would find useful (especially something you’ve written for another outlet), or some other form of innocuous contact. 


Maura Thomas