Here’s some food for thought from the Northside Freelance forum: while you might not get any immediate business from companies you’re pitching, it’s important to stay in touch, because half of them will end up buying the services you’re pitching within two years.
According to “The Wealthy Freelancer” by Ed Gandia (who’s also leading today’s International Freelance Day conference, though this article is unrelated to the conference agenda, as far as we know), a huge percentage of potential clients will end up hiring someone to do whatever it is you do (marketing, PR, journalism) within 18 to 24 months, so the key is to stay top of mind with even the ones who expressed barely lukewarm interest.
Example (paraphrased from Gandia by Adam Smit: “Let’s say you sent a piece of marketing (an email blast, postcard, even a cold call) to 150 prospects. You’ve heard back from seven of them, and of those seven, one expressed immediate interest in your services, two said they’d like to use you but don’t have anything right now, and four didn’t return your follow-up calls. Many folks would focus their energy solely on the one good prospect, perhaps throw one or two more calls at the two without immediate need, and completely let the other four go. Don’t do it!”
The advice for cultivating these leads should sound familiar: send useful information by mail or email (or even phone) every other month or so, so that when that prospect finally does need a freelance marketer/PR rep/journalist/editor/whatever they’ll think of you.
What was less familiar to us was how methodological this process should be: first, develop a “library” of things you might be able to send to these leads (obviously, you’ll need to keep adding to it as time goes by to keep things fresh); make a conscious effort to try various things/modes of delivery, at least until you learn what each person likes best; and keep track of everything in a spreadsheet or contact management system.
This advice could apply to people searching for fulltime jobs as well, but remember: this stuff takes time! Moreso when you’re talking about a company making a commitment to hire someone fulltime rather than spend a few thou on a one-off project. This “cultivating your network” process should start early and often.