“Where are they?”
This is a common question for freelancers and solopreneurs when working with clients. It’s not uncommon for even the best client to go missing in action occasionally. You’re left wondering what to do next. Do you call? Do you email? When a client ignores you, it’s difficult to maintain a smooth workflow.
And it’s not just your schedule that’s impacted. Your cash flow can also take a hit. A new client who takes too long to reply or to make a deposit payment can cause you to wonder whether they’re going ahead with the project at all.
AWOL clients are a hassle. Sometimes they are silent for 24 hours, before apologizing profusely. Other times, they can go missing for days and even weeks. It’s hard not to get defensive and annoyed, but as a professional, it’s best to tame your emotional reactions and focus on the logical next steps.
How to deal with being ignored by your client
In every client-freelancer relationship, there are different stages to the communication and project process. At each of these stages, there’s the potential for quite considerable hiccups if a client goes silent.
Let’s take a look at each stage and how to deal with a client who ignores you at these different milestones.
- Inquiry stage
A new potential client has sent you an enquiring email. They want to know more about how you can help them and perhaps about your rates. You reply back with some answers and then wait for a reply.
Except, in many cases, you’re met with silence. After 24 hours you feel like the prospect has disappeared for good, and they probably have.
This is a common problem for freelancers. It can be rectified in many cases by taking more proactive measures. Instead of simply providing answers, you can suggest a time to have an exploratory phone chat and ask them for a suitable number to call.
In so doing, you take the burden of deciding the next step off their shoulders.
- Proposal stage
You’ve written a great proposal based on a good discussion with your new prospective client. It includes an overview of their project, what you can do and why, the intended results, and your prices. You send it.
A few days later and nothing. Are they ignoring you? Has your proposal been rejected?
Maybe but it’s actually much more likely they are still trying to make a decision. Ultimately, they’re just not crystal clear about the benefits of moving ahead with the project, with you.
A way to remedy this is to improve your proposal writing skills. When you present the proposal in such a way that the client can immediately see the benefit of getting started right away, then they’ll reply very quickly indeed.
Master the art of the proposal.
- Information gathering stage
The information-gathering stage of any client project is vital. If you don’t have the info you need, it’s incredibly difficult to do a good job. A lack of information can stall a project or lead to misunderstandings later down the line.
But what happens if the client is seemingly reticent to get you the materials you need?
A common cause for a delay in information sharing is a lack of knowledge or awareness in what to give you and how to deliver it. You need to be specific about what they need to share with you. Arranging another quick phone call to discuss information sharing requirements might be the best way to deal with a silent delay.
You can also point your new client towards a cloud-based information sharing system such as DropBox or Google Drive.
Also, project management tools such as Kanban Boards.
- Feedback stage
The feedback stage is perhaps the scariest part of any freelancing project. Even the most experienced freelance professionals, in any industry, take a deep breath before reading project feedback. Usually, everything is just fine and apart from a few edits and modifications, your client will be happy.
But what if your feedback request is met with silence? … Uh oh!
No need to worry just yet. The most probable cause is simply a lack of time to study the work. They’re busy and if it’s a big project they might need more time than you may imagine. Or, they might be waiting for feedback from other team members or managers.
It’s always best to agree beforehand how long the feedback stage will last and potential delays. This will allow you to relax if you don’t hear back straight away.
If you still don’t hear back within an agreed timeframe, then they might be wondering how to tell you about a myriad of problems. In this case, it’s sensible to remind them that a first draft is a first draft and things can be amended with proper feedback. This will make it easier for them to share their concerns.
- Invoice payment stage
Late payments are the bane of every freelancer and solopreneur. Your invoice payment due date arrives and passes, without any money showing up in your account. It’s frustrating and distracting. You end up needing to send payment reminders, which can make you feel like you’re begging for money.
There’s always a worry in the back of your mind that the client won’t pay at all.
So what can be done?
First off, it’s wise to ensure you create a contract with your new client, with all the relevant payment details and schedules, including dates and deadlines.
Secondly, in order to save time, create a series of automatic late payment email reminders, which can be sent to the client at different intervals.
Thirdly, if even repeated phone calls don’t reach them, it might be time to take legal action.
(See also: 10 Invoicing Mistakes to Avoid as a Freelancer)
- Testimonials stage
The project was a success. Your client is happy. You have been paid. Now you have requested a testimonial to put on your website and in your other freelance marketing content.
Yet you’re still waiting a few weeks later. What has gone wrong? Why are you being ignored after such a great result?
It’s usually nothing personal. The client has a thousand more pressing things to think about. For some people, writing doesn’t come easy, and so they delay and delay.
A good way to speed up the testimonial process is to write it yourself. You then provide your client with the draft testimonial, which they can simply check and agree to, after making any minor edits or additions.
How to reduce the chances of being ignored
Feeling ignored can be a common occurrence in your freelancing career. If you attract plenty of bad clients, you’ll be ignored a lot. Without due care and attention, a minority will go AWOL for good.
However, in most cases, good clients are simply busy and forgetful. It’s all too easy for any professional to get consumed with work. If you’re serious about building a viable and lucrative freelancing business, it’s important to understand why prospects and clients fall silent, and how to deal with each situation.
Above all, don’t take their silence personally and certainly don’t react with emotion.
Cultivate self-confidence, communicate with clarity, and always remain calm. And whatever you do, focus your marketing and branding on attracting the right types of clients. You’ll be ignored a lot less.