Why I don’t use an email tracker

It’s come to my attention that some freelance writers use email trackers so they can see the exact moment a prospective client opens their introduction email. 

I can’t imagine why someone would torture themselves in this way. 

In hearing from these folks, I find that this information only adds to the anxiety about response times. “The marketing director opened my email last Thursday at 4:37pm and it’s already Monday morning and I haven’t heard back! Should I send a follow-up email?” 

For starters, no. Calm down. Back away from the caffeine. Slow your roll.

When writers send out a Letter of Introduction (LOI) to potential clients, that’s a way of saying, “Hi, how are you? I exist and here are some skills that may benefit your company.” The call-to-action is simple: if you need my services or would like to learn more about me to prepare for a future need, reply and let’s chat. 

If there is no immediate need, or no immediate desire to plan ahead, you may not hear back. You may never hear back, if that need doesn’t arise. The vast abyss of what you don’t know, though, is where many writers fall into a dangerous trap and run the risk of overreacting. 

So, what really happens when your LOI doesn’t get a reply? Many writers immediately assume this means the client thinks you’re a no talent hack and wouldn’t hire you in a million years. Jennifer Goforth Gregory wrote about the real reasons clients don’t respond to an LOI, which is a worthwhile read if you’re someone who takes the silence personally.

Email tracking tools can tell you when an email was opened/read, by whom, for how long, and through what IP address. Some tools even offer the ability to see whether your email was forwarded to another person. While these tools are pretty cool and people seem to enjoy having the option to gather more data, I’d argue that the information to be gained from an email tracker has no bearing on what a freelance writer should do next, and is therefore a waste of time and energy. If you’re the anxious type, using a tool like this could actively hinder your productivity.

If you rely too heavily on your data, or prioritize this data over the things you don’t know, you can get into trouble. I see too many freelancers agonizing over the passage of time as it relates to your burning desire to get more work. And that kind of selfish attitude is likely to turn you into a pest. A potential client is not going to hire you if they think you’re a pest.

Following up is super important, no doubt. But following up too soon (like, in the example above, after effectively one business day) can alienate clients faster than a bag full of bees. Don’t be that person.

What should you do instead?

  1. Develop a consistent follow-up schedule that you apply to all LOIs and other types of leads. Write this down.
  2. Decide on follow-up intervals that make sense for the types of companies you’re targeting. Perhaps it’s after two weeks and then every 30 days for the first six months. Perhaps it’s simply once a month for three months, and then once a quarter. Write this down.
  3. Create a universal system for tracking follow-ups. Some writers use a spreadsheet for this. Others like using a Trello board. Some use a unique subject line they can later search for. I prefer an inbox-based task management tool like Sortd. Whatever you choose, stick to it. And write this down.
  4. Do not agonize over individual leads. Generally speaking, if you’re worried about why you haven’t heard back from ABC Company, it means you don’t have enough irons in the fire. Look for ways to ramp up your marketing efforts, send more LOIs, and increase your chances at getting responses. Write this down as well.
  5. Now that you’ve created a marketing and follow-up strategy, set a reminder to revisit your plan in six months or a year, and revise as needed.

And ditch that email tracker, which is only causing you anxiety. You don’t need it. Being a small business owner is hard enough.