Following up after contract job ends

Hi there,

This is a freelance etiquette question.

I’m new to professional freelance. After a friend referred me to a digital design studio, I was hired on a demanding team project with a tight deadline. We all pulled close to 70 hours in a week. As far as I can tell, I was a helpful and valuable team member. Of course, since this is all so new to me, I have that nagging ‘wait-did-I-suck?’ in the back of my head.

Now that the project has wrapped, I would like to email the studio (the head, the producer, and the executive assistant) to say thanks, it was a pleasure to work with them on that project, and I would like to work with them again if the need arises.

Am I overthinking this? Are there any do’s or don’ts? Is it normal to not get any feedback…is it weird to ask?

The only thing I can say is: Do whatever you think is right.

As long as you cashed the cheque … In itself it’s the only compliment.

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No. It’s a good business practice.

At minimum, I follow up to make sure they received the invoice and to remind them I keep everything on permanent file in case they need to update the project in the future. It’s better to do it by phone than email. I think it’s good to get them talking, then they’re more likely to ramble, and that’s where I learn a lot about them.

Definitely send a follow up to thank them. One, because it’s polite. Two, because it gets your name in front of them again. I don’t think it would hurt to attach a brief PDF portfolio to give the team a better idea of your capabilities (unless you had a portfolio review at the onset of the project). And, no, you didn’t suck. Get that out of your head.

It’s normal. If you hired a plumber, would you call him three weeks later to say the toilet still flushes great?

Every situation is different, but with clients, I’ll typically check back after two or three weeks to ask how whatever I did for them is working out. I do this for two reasons. First, I’m genuinely curious because I invested my time and effort into it, and I really want it to work for them. Second, it shows them that I care and it gives me a chance to say thanks again while reminding them that I’m always open for more work.

What I’ve always tried to do is be friendly and conversational with clients. By the time I’m done with a job, I figure I’ve made a new friend — I’ve gotten to know them and together we tackled something and made it work.

This friendliness makes calling them back a seemingly normal thing to do, so instead of an odd call out of the blue saying thanks for something I already thanked them for, they get a call from a friend checking in to make sure it all worked out as expected. Of course there are some clients where this approach just doesn’t seem right, but in that case, I make adjustments.

Yeh but you’re not expecting to need a plumber again for some time. Once it’s fixed you probably won’t need a plumber for about a year again.

There’s no follow up tasks for a plumber to want to get back in touch again - they move on to the next ‘emergency’ job - as that’s typically what they’re doing.

For graphic design, it’s ongoing, it’s building a relationship, building clients trust, and them using you as a partner in business. That’s why it’s important to continually follow up.

IN saying that - there’s some people who over do it - there’s one print partner I use and when I send an Request for Quote to them the phone instantly rings and asking me about the project. All the details are in the RFQ.

That puts me off doing it.

Where it’s a good idea to follow up - mine tends to be gentle and a quick phone call and I always ask if they have time to talk or will I email instead.

I thank the plumber profusely when I hand him the credit card, because I always expect to need them again tomorrow. And tomorrow might be a holiday. I wouldn’t call him 3 weeks later to say a toilet still flushes, though. Because I’ve learned to fix toilets all by my own self. Not gonna pay $300 for a $20 float valve fix.

I read it as B’s plumber analogy applied to the question as to whether it’s normal, as a contracted service provider, to not receive feedback; answered: it’s normal, a plumber doesn’t receive feedback. This, as opposed to whether follow-up by the service provider is appropriate. Of course, plumbers generally don’t follow up either, so the analogy drops away there.

After doing contract work for the last 8 years, I can attest that you’ll probably get accustomed to the absence of direct feedback. These days, even as an employee, feedback might only come as a result of Human Resources-driven performance reviews, and those initiatives never apply to contractors. Of course, a good manager always makes sure their reports know whether performance is satisfactory, but even with a good manager, contractors are at the bottom of every priority list. And, in many contract situations, it’s as though you just work for the whole company — everyone — and a manager assignment is really only implied, often only for time reporting purposes.

Maybe we’re just unlucky, but we’ve had plumbers over three times this year already — all for different reasons. Yesterday, I noticed the dang upstairs toilet leaking down through the ceiling which mean, yup, another visit by the plumber, with whom we’re now on a first-name basis. I have plumbers on the brain because of all this, so plumber analogies are working their way into my replies.

On that, I disagree. There’s every reason for a plumbing company wanting to establish itself as a customer’s go-to plumber the next time a plumber is needed, whether for an emergency or a project of some kind. The same holds true with auto mechanics, electricians, dentists, and basically any other service where repeat business is at stake.

Anyway, my answer was in response to the original poster’s question about whether or not it was “normal to not get any feedback.” My response was that it was normal, but that shouldn’t prevent one from breaking the norm and making the phone call.

That’s a great analogy. These days, a graphic designer probably has the same social standing of a plumber, except, of course, a plumber makes a hell lot more money, and he needs a license.

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Saying a graphic designer has the same social standing as a plumber is probably an insult to…the plumber.

But yeah, the other two observations do apply. Mightily.

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Yeah, we both deal with the consequences of other people’s shit.

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Bah, dum, Tish!

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Great name for a band.

I’ve never met a plumber that would do spec work or participate in a competition.

Not where I’m from. It’s impossible to get a plumber, electrician, dentist etc.

I kid you not, you emailed 3 dentits to get an appointment and didn’t get a single reply - that was only recently.

Getting a mechanic is truly difficult, any I drive up to are too busy. You try and book in and they don’t get back to you.

Maybe it’s different in different parts of the world. But here, I cannot get an electrician to come to the house, I want spot lights throughout the downstairs, nobody wants to do it.

I tried to get a new fireplace - they never turned up for the appointment.

It’s truly exhausting trying to get anyone - and when I do get someone I just pay whatever they charge me because I have no idea and no comparison.

I wanted to paint the downstairs of the house last year, and I put it up on a website for tradesmen with my budget of $2000. Not a single reply.

I ended finding a Russian guy, who didn’t speak any English and paid him the $2000. And not speaking English was really rough, I was pointing at swatches and pointing at walls, ceilings, etc. It was a nightmare.

But he did a good job.

Do I want to hear from my mechanic 3 days after fixing an oil leak to find out how it’s going… no - 100% do not want to hear from him, if there’s a problem, I call him.

Same with the dentist there’s never been a conversation like “Hey, how are your new teeth working out!” - “Actually, they are a bit loose”.

That level of service doesn’t happen round here. It’s simply do the job and move on.

I actually get some clients annoyed that ring them to ask if they were happy with graphic design work I did for them. They get really annoyed, their back right up! And I understand it. Because I’d be pissed off if the milk man rang me to ask if the milk he delivered was satisfactory.

Sometimes, customer service goes too far. And for tradesmen, it just does not exist in my parts.

Wow! That’s weird. Maybe we’re in the wrong business. I’ve only occasionally run into problems finding service people. The only exception being finding someone to fix a leak in our roof, which took at least three months to track someone down who was willing to do it. One person came over, climbed up on the roof, walked around, got back down, took his ladder and we never heard from him again. He got a bad Google review from me.

Our veterinarian typically checks back with us after a few days to see how our dog is doing. The auto repair shop we use often does much the same with my wife’s Jeep.

Well, for one thing, they’re not desperate; secondly, they’re smarter.

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Send a follow up to thank them because it gets your name in front of them again.

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