The key to freelance freedom lies in the ability to book clients in advance.
By having a waiting list of clients who are chomping at the bit to work with you, you’re able to knock over a bunch of hurdles that are standing between you and your biggest goals.
- Want to make more money so you can quit your day job and pursue your passion full-time? Book clients in advance.
- Want to bring in a stable income and have better job security as a service-based business? Book clients in advance.
- Want to pursue your business on your own terms instead of working 12+ hour days? Book clients in advance.
But how do you get to the point where you can start a client waiting list? And how do you manage it after you started it?
I’m sharing what I’ve learned from creating and managing a waiting list of over 250+ prospective design clients in this post.
My strategy for booking clients out on a waiting list
Step 1 | Create a project calendar
Before you can book a steady stream of clients in advance, you have to assess how many clients you can take on between now and the remainder of your booking period.
Depending on your type of business, you might choose a quarterly booking period (3 months), a semi-annual booking period (6 months), or an annual booking period (12 months).
I started with a 6-month booking period when life was a little more stable, and now I implement a quarterly booking period (after moving this summer and not having a good idea of what this fall would look like).
Your booking periods might change depending on what season of life you’re in, but go ahead and establish a booking period for your current project calendar.
Then, take a look at each of your service packages and calculate how much time each one will take you from start to finish.
After you have an idea of how long each project will take you, map out time blocks in your calendar for each project between now and the end of your current booking period.
I also suggest adding a little buffer time between each project, just in case.
This will give you a good idea of how many clients you need to book.
And if you multiply the number of clients by your package prices, you’ll also have a great idea of how much money you’ll bring in between now and the end of your booking period.
Step 2 | Fill up your project calendar
Now that you’ve created your project calendar and you know exactly how many clients you need to book, it’s time to fill up your project calendar!
Anytime a new client inquires, you can provide the exact dates you have available and secure their spot after they sign your contract and pay the first invoice.
You can book each spot until they’re all gone. And at that point, you can begin your client waiting list.
Sometimes the hardest part of this whole process isn’t creating a project calendar or figuring out how many clients you need to book. The hardest part is getting clients in the first place!
If you’re struggling to get client inquiries, be sure to check out this Ellechat where I share exactly how I brought in new clients and grew my waiting list to 250+ prospective clients.
Creating a client waiting list
Once your project calendar is all booked up for your current booking period, it’s time to start your waiting list to retain the potential clients who are interested in working with you.
First, write a form email for new inquiries
To save time and make sure all of your bases are covered, write an email that can be copied and sent out each time a potential client inquires about your services.
You can customize it each time to make it a little more personal, but mine looks something like this:
Thank you so much for reaching out to me about my brand and website design package!
I’m currently booked through [end of booking period], but I would love to add you to my waiting list so you’ll be the first to know when I’m booking new clients again.
If you’re interested, please let me know and I’ll be sure to add you to the list.
Again, thanks so much for your inquiry and I look forward to potentially working together in the future!
If you know when your next booking period will be, feel free to add the dates to this form email to set an expectation to potential clients.
Then, create a Google spreadsheet or create a tag in your email marketing platform
Now you need a way to keep up with all the names and email addresses of those on your waiting list!
You can either do this through a simple spreadsheet in Google, or you can start a new segment or tag in your mailing list called “Client Waiting List” and keep up with them there.
Managing a client waiting list
So you have a good number of clients on your waiting list.
Now how do you keep them interested until your next booking period?
While you could send them monthly updates, chances are that they’re already following along with you on social media, your blog, etc. That’s probably where they found you in the first place!
The way I’ve gone about it in the past is to email my waiting list about 2-4 weeks out from my next booking period.
I share the date that the next booking period will open, along with the dates I have available in my upcoming project calendar so they know what to plan for.
I also provide the pricing (because I increase my rates before every booking period). I like to completely transparent and give people clear expectations.
I also explain how my first come, first serve booking policy will work. Dates in my project calendar can be reserved by a signed contract and paid invoice, and I do that on a first come, first serve basis.
You can read all about my reasoning for never turning down a paying customer here.
And lastly, I allow those who are no longer interested in my services to unsubscribe by clicking a link at the bottom of my email. (I set up a rule in ConvertKit that whoever clicks that linked will be untagged from the Client Waiting List).
I like to keep a clean and updated list of potential clients who are actually interested in my services.
So as you prepare to keep up with your client waiting list, consider these things:
- How often are you going to send updates to your list?
- When will your next booking period be?
- What are the new dates in your project calendar?
- What will your new rates be?
- And how will your booking policy work?
Frequently asked questions
What if people aren’t willing to wait?
That’s okay! Not everyone will be willing or able to wait until your next booking period, and that’s to be expected.
Those who truly want to work with you will be willing to wait and chances are, you’ll have more than one person on your waiting list between now and your next booking period. It’s okay if you lose a couple in the mix.
How do you handle multiple inquiries at the same time?
I try to be as transparent with potential clients as possible. If someone has already inquired about a certain date on my project calendar and I’ve sent them a contract to look over, I’ll tell the next inquirer that someone is already looking at that date.
If for some reason the first person doesn’t follow through with a signed contract and paid invoice to secure their spot, I’ll open it up to the next person who inquires.
Have you found sharing prices up-front builds a more valuable + ideal wait list of clients?
Yes! I’ve found that transparency about my process, pricing, etc. allows people to quickly know whether my services are right for them.
It also cuts back on the number of inquiries I would receive from people who wouldn’t be interested in my price point and saves us both time!
Do you have set times of the year when you open the available spots to your waitlist?
Yes! I set up those booking periods (right now they’re quarterly) and set a date for when I’ll begin booking new clients for the upcoming period.
Any tips on blocking schedule when there has to be a variety of deliverables and each project takes varying amounts of time?
For custom projects that vary based on time and price, I would suggest leaving your project calendar open instead of blocking out designated spots.
Each time a new client inquires, list out every step of their project from start to finish to determine how long you expect the project to take. Then block out that time in your project calendar.
Follow that same process (leaving a little bit of buffer time between each project) until your project calendar for that booking calendar is full. Then you can start adding new inquirers to your waiting list!
Now that you’ve taken the time to read this post, it’s time to take action.
Map out your project calendar for the next quarter and figure out how many clients you can take on between now and then.
Then, share your calendar (and your client goal) in the Elle & Company Community!
I’m excited to see what you come up with.