I emailed this local company asking if I could help them build an app for free. I was excited to hear that they wanted to meet, but after responding three times (waiting about a week in between each), it seems they are not replying anymore, contrary to their first email.

My question is, should I continue to persue this? Is this amount of time indicative that the company just didn't have enough time to read and respond to the email? Or are they no longer interested, but are just holding off on telling me? What does this mean in the business world?

  1. Hello I am local app developer, for free, look at my previous work, if you respond we can work things out

7 days later

  1. [local company's response] Hi, I would be interested in sitting down and hearing a little more info, what would be a good time for you?

3 days later

  1. Great! How about we meet 6 days later?

6 days later

  1. Sorry you didn't see my previous email in time. I am flexible. Next weekend?

10 days later

  1. Maybe you can decide the date that we meet? I can make anything work. [reiterate why you should get me to build an app]

5 days later

I'm thinking about replying a week later leaving my phone number.


This is a local business that runs a trampoline warehouse, with mostly kids and young adults. I probably did bug them too much, and I regret being so eager. They were the first guys I ever emailed and I was so so so surprised that they responded.

In terms of pitching, I'm trying my best to avoid the argument "because everyone has an app" and I'm going for the practicality angle. I want to implement Android Pay, online waivers, push notifications. In the end, a lot of it is for image. Maybe that's not the best plan, heck they already have a responsive web design.

The reason I wanted to work for free is that they probably cannot trust me yet, I've shown them my past work and it is not overly professional (I'll keep working at it). On top of that, they don't seem to be hurting without it. In fact, me building an app benefits ME more than THEM, because I want the reputation as well as something for applications. If I charged a fee, I'm not sure I would get an offer at all. Plus, it might seem presumptuous for me to make the demand first. I'm not hurting in terms of money, though, this is more like a side thing.

Are they a dream client? In terms of reputation it would look good. I thought maybe I could help build free apps for local churches, because I'm not in the powerful position of asking for pay. At least, not for my first project.

I appreciate all of your answers! This is a big first step for me and I'm trying to be careful!


Also should clarify: when I say local, I mean I live in a small city. Technically, however, I believe it is part of a larger chain that opens stores by different names. They charge like $15 tickets and I'm under the impression that their party package sales are slowing down; it's probably functioning on unicorn hype. I do not believe that a small side app will increase ROI (even if the I is very small. Admittedly, it's probably not a priority for them. Their business (I would guess) would do well with community advertising.

My current motives: if any company takes up my offer and uses my app, I've already won. I know you think I am setting the bar low, but I would just like the experience, the "freelancing" reputation, and a little civic pride.

  • This may be a good question to move to the Freelancing Stack Exchange instead of The Workplace. @Script Kitty, is this about a freelance project or work for your employer? – David Apr 2 '16 at 19:31
  • @David Huh I guess this is more suited for Freelancing Stack Exchange. Thanks for letting me know. When I finally get contacted back I'll update. My plan right now is to wait for a while, try calling, and at worst then start attempting to work somewhere else (for free). – Script Kitty Apr 2 '16 at 19:51


  • They're not your client yet, just a prospect.
  • Don't work for free; it's not worth it.
  • Your follow-up attempts are probably not getting read. But if they are a dream client for you, consider following up one last time or in a few months.

Prospects vs. clients

I starred your question because it is a good question, and it reminds me of some of my earlier prospecting efforts.

My first question for you is this: Are they actually your client or just a potential client? They're not your client until they have actually signed something like a contract or a proposal that formalizes your working relationship with them. At this point, since all they have done is respond to your initial email, they are not your client yet - just a semi-interested prospect who did give you a positive initial response.

My experience with this

I'm a full-time freelance consultant, and I get frequent emails from offshore developers who saw my website and want to make an app for me.

To me, getting an app made is just not priority. I'm working on too many other things and don't see any business need or ROI for it.

So if those emails are the same copy-and-paste letter that nearly all of them send, they typically go straight to the trash. If the emails are actually to me and understand something about my business, I typically will reply with a polite no.

Project priority

You're following up very persistently (and probably annoying the client, if your emails are not just reaching the spam folder). It's not a surprise to me that you've been ignored.

Based on how frequently you are emailing, you are treating this as an urgent project even though it is not giving you any income. But even though small businesses are sometimes more agile and faster-paced than larger organizations, they are unlikely to decide something about an app this quickly unless they also see it as a priority.

And you won't get them to see it as a priority with a lot of arguments I typically see for having an app (like "Everybody has an app!" or "It's another channel for you to get sales"). You probably need a much stronger business case for getting the client's attention and getting them to raise the priority of this project.

If you're able to develop that business case and convince them of the ROI, you definitely should be paid a fair amount for the project. Commodity freelancers typically do not know how to do that. They just offer the client their design and/or development skills as a commodity, and that's it.

Free work - and changing their minds

You mentioned that you suggested this project to them as a free project rather than a paid one. Free clients tend to not put a lot of value or priority on the work you are delivering. After all, the work was not worth enough for them to pay you any money for it.

However, even though the project is free to you, it's not free to them. They're still paying their employees for the time they spend in a meeting with you. Furthermore, in working with other businesses, it costs them time, effort, and (yes) money to manage the project. You're not likely to just make one revision of an app for another business and have the client accept it and use it with open arms, without any pushback.

If I were you, I'd just move on and seek paid work - even if you have nothing in your portfolio. Even if you did deliver the project on spec like this, there's a strong chance the client wouldn't use it. Designing and developing the app would just be a waste of your time.

Most of the freelance job postings I see for app designers and developers ask for examples of apps that you have in the major app stores. Getting an app to that point is a lot of work and requires complying with comprehensive guidelines. These guidelines can change in the future and create even more free maintenance work for you.

Another prospecting strategy

Ed Gandia, a freelance writer who also does business coaching for other freelancers, recommends a prospecting sequence with a nurturing list (look for the section called "Dealing with the non-respondent"). That is what I would recommend for you.

If the prospect is not responding now, you can go a couple of routes:

  1. You can send them one last email that says that it is your last email to them. I'd recommend doing this because this is a no-budget project.
  2. You can try contacting this lead again in a few months.

It's only worth it to keep persistently following up if a) they will pay you and b) they are a dream client for you. But in any case, what you're currently doing is probably not getting heard.

Edit: Since they are local, you can also try what Rolazaro suggested and stop by. You aren't likely to get a meeting immediately and might not even see the person you are trying to contact, but it may get them closer to making a decision one way or the other.

  • 1
    Thank you for this answer. I'll add more details in my question in a few minutes to address some of these, but really this info made me rethink my plan. I guess I should mention that the local company is relatively small, and I realize that no they are not my client at all (just hopefully). – Script Kitty Apr 2 '16 at 19:37

@ed-heal may be right, maybe they are not interested, but...

You say it is "local", so... Can you go there and ask? Go there and ask!

Email is fine, but we can still walk and talk to people.

Sure, maybe they are not interested, your worst option is not having a client, so you can not get much worse than that (you lost the trip, but hey, my point is that it is local)

Maybe your mail got erroneously caught as spam by their email client. Maybe the guy that was contacting you went on holiday, or got ill. Maybe you mistyped the address. Maybe...

Maybe if you go there and ask you'll know, instead of guessing. And that is a plus.

  • 1
    At the very least, try phone if E-mail isn't producing a timely response. – keshlam Apr 2 '16 at 11:24
  • @keshlam That is a good point. I'll phone in after waiting. In honesty, I might walk in as a last resort, because I would really rather see the manager if he is expecting me. I'm a little scared he won't be happy, but both of you are right, it's better than guessing. – Script Kitty Apr 2 '16 at 20:13

My question is, should I continue to persue this?

No - They have moved on - so should you. Perhaps they have had a change of heart or thought about a new approach to the market.

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