The Art of the Follow Up

I don’t think we’ve ever written about it, but the name Knock Twice originates from a sign that used to hang in the school Erika and I went to. On either side of the double doors leading in and out of the B&W darkrooms, there hung a sign that read “Knock twice before entering!” The idea was that if you knocked once, someone might not hear you or be opening the other door at the same time, and you could ruin someone’s prints. However, having knocked twice, you could confidently enter, knowing that there was no one coming from the other side. This idea of following up your initial approach translated well into freelance work and is one of most important habits to develop.

A lot of our work involves making contacts and asking them for various things – jobs, a feature, advice, etc. It’s easy to get discouraged when you reach out to someone and don’t receive a response. I would often take it personally thinking that the lack of response was itself a response. Over time, I learned that this wasn’t the case and after following up with contacts and hearing the real reasons why they hadn’t initially responded, I realized that what I imagined was often much more sensational than reality.

Why People Don’t Respond

First of all, it is almost never the case that someone is trying to actively ignore you. Keep in mind that most of the people you try to contact – photo editors, art directors, gallerists, journalists, publishers, etc., are quite busy. This was the case when I was trying to get an internship at the architectural photography studio I’m now with. They actually needed an intern and planned to get back to me, but as jobs came in and things became busy they simply forgot. Luckily I followed up (several times) and eventually got the internship.

Another big reason for not responding is that emails get lost. Busy people get a lot of email! On top of that, with smart phones and tablets, someone might see your email on one device and plan to reply to it on another, but when the time comes to do so, there are so many new emails needing attention that they simply forget or don’t have time to get to your’s. It’s also possible that they just didn’t see your email. Maybe they deleted it by accident, it went to their spam folder, or perhaps you sent it to the wrong address. No matter what happened, they won’t reply to an email they didn’t read.

Follow Up to Get On Their Radar

So how do you follow up to increase your chances of a reply but without annoying the person you’re trying to reach? The most important thing is to be polite! There are few things more annoying than receiving an email from a self-righteous person asking you for a favour while insulting you at the same time.

The next thing is to give the recipient some time to respond before following up. It’s good to wait at least a week after your initial email and perhaps even two weeks if it isn’t time sensitive. It’s best to follow up only once or twice (no more than three times), otherwise you will come off as desperate and nagging.

As for the actual content of the email, I like to write something short such as “I sent you an email about a week ago and just wanted to reach out again in case my email was lost in your inbox”. Then either paraphrase your initial email or simply copy it.

It’s great to follow up whenever you’re requesting something, reaching out to a person for the first time, or after you’ve first met someone in person. Not only does it jog the person’s memory but it also shows you’re seriously interested and persistent.

Please let us know what you’ve found works best when following up or any success stories you’ve had as a result.

Image by Kiwifraiz