The office phone rings. You pick it up and on the other end is someone interested in hiring you for their services. You grab a nearby notebook and pen and start jotting down notes as he/sh discuss what their company needs. As the conversation continues, you start to realize that this will be a very exciting and very profitable project. It’s a great moment for a small business owner or freelancer, but sometimes even quality leads can fizzle. It’s the nature of the business. Projects get put on hold for various reasons – no money, new CEO, a new board rotates on, the committee can’t agree on details, your contact gets distracted, etc. Once I was very close to signing a contract with a potential client, but the project was shelved when the company started dealing with some major internal issues. Some leads are extremely courteous and will let you know what’s going on. Others simply drop off the face of the earth. What can you do as a small business owner or freelancer when projects get put on hold?
- It’s Out of Your Control – The first and most important thing to remember is that you can’t force your contact to sign the contract and send in a deposit. It can be horribly disappointing when you are on the verge of landing a big job, but sometimes you simply have to shrug your shoulders and move on. It’s out of your hands.
- Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket – Just because that golden carrot is dangling out there in front of you, don’t neglect your other marketing efforts. Do all that you can to develop new business. Don’t count on that one project to sustain you, because it might not be there when you need it the most.
- Fix a Limit on Your Bids – When submitting a budget to a potential client, I always insert a note that says something to the effect of, “Bid valid for up to ninety days beyond the submission date.” Over time, both the market and your rates will change. The budget you submit should reflect current conditions so that you can earn what is fair. This clause protects you if a project is shelved for many months or even years.
- Keep Your Name at the Forefront – If you’re contact is MIA, don’t be afraid to keep your name in front of them, but this must be done in a very subtle manner. You never want to appear desperate for the job. The best way to do this is to sign your contact up for your free monthly newsletter. It lets your contact know that you’re still out there by keeping your name in front of them.
- Check In Via Email – Don’t do this often, because (as stated in #3 above) it makes you look desperate. Usually if the contact needs your services, he/she will let you know. However, it’s okay to check in via email every few months, just to check on the status of the project. If there’s no news after three follow-ups, I wouldn’t contact the company any more regarding that particular job. I would, however, write to them if you have a new demo reel or portfolio available, or if you have some announcement related to your business.
Projects are often shelved because marketing and advertising is the first thing on the choppping block for many businesses. Try not to let it discourage you. You never know when that job might re-surface.