Has this ever happened to you?
You sweat and you slave and you stress over a writing job. Triumphantly, you turn in your content and wait to see the “I love it” feedback flood your email.
And you wait…
And you wait…
And you hear…crickets.
You send a “Hey, checking in” email and hear…nothing.
You send your client a text that you know they read…but you still don’t hear a peep.
You’re being ghosted.
It’s hard to not search for subtext when you get no response. If you’re like me, your brain takes you into 100 different directions, none of them happy ones.
You wonder if your client hates your copy and just doesn’t want to tell you.
You wonder if ghosting is your client’s way of saying, “You’re fired.”
You wonder if you should send your client a, “Did I make you mad?” email.
You wonder if you’re going to get paid.
Should you be concerned if a client ghosts you? Yes. Should you panic? Not yet. Are there ways to protect yourself? You bet.
Here are some things to consider…
Most of the time, it’s not you — it’s them. Your client may be putting out fires, juggling 100 things, and reprioritizing as they go. Your content may have been a top priority last week, but now it’s #11 on the list.
This is normal — especially if your client is a small business owner or works in an agency.
If a week (or two) goes by without a response, it’s still probably nothing to worry about. You can certainly check in and see what’s up — but know that you may not hear back until your client’s life slows down.
Although a client’s ghosting behavior may be nothing to worry about, it may have a huge impact on your business.
You may not be able to send an invoice before your client officially approves the copy — so you’re sitting around, not getting paid.
You may have lined up other jobs, so not getting approval means your entire schedule gets thrown out of wack. After all, you don’t know when your client will come back and say, “I’m back — and I need all these edits by tomorrow.”
I know of one coaching client who was afraid to take on other jobs because his client’s response time was so wacky. The client would drop out of sight, pop back weeks later, then want all their changes RIGHT NOW, no matter what.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Here’s what you can do instead…
There are things you can do from a contract and client management perspective to protect yourself — and to set clear boundaries for your client.
Here’s what I do:
- My contract states that clients have five business days to approve the content. If I don’t hear back from them within five days, the copy is considered “approved” and edits will cost additional money. It’s amazing how quickly clients will turn around content if they feel they’ll have to pay more if they don’t.
- My payment schedule is based on dates — not deliverables. That way, I’m not waiting for final approval before I’m paid — or hear, “Bob hasn’t checked this out yet. Can you wait just a little bit longer before you invoice?”
- I also warn my clients that they’re welcome to push their deliverable schedule — but, I may not be able to immediately fit them back into my work schedule when they’re ready. In most cases, this is just a 1-2 week wait — so it’s not a big deal. But, it saves me from having to scramble and switch gears after a client finally resurfaces.
- I’ve learned how to let go of my preferred timeline and be more flexible. This one is hard — especially when I’m feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Just because my awesome copy is a big priority in my world doesn’t mean my client feels the same.
- Finally, my contract states that the initial retainer is non-refundable. Why? Have you ever had a client pay you, ghost you, and then say, “Hey, we don’t have time for this after all. I want my money back”? I have. It wasn’t fun — especially after I turned down other gigs so I could take on the work.
(And, of COURSE you get a retainer before you start writing…right?)
Here’s what not to do…
- Email the client and ask, “Are you mad at me?” You’ll sound needy — and, chances are, the client is just busy.
- Complain how their ghosting you is holding you back from other gigs or costing you money.
- Email the client every. single. day. asking for a status report. It won’t help, and it will make you look way too high-maintenance, needy and annoying.
What if you never hear back?
Oddly, it happens. Maybe your client was fired. Maybe there was a big internal crisis and everything that wasn’t mission-critical got put on hold. Maybe your client is just a flake, and this is the normal way she operates.
If your time is paid up, you’re good. You can send one, last, “Hey, checking in — I’m here when you need me” note. But know you may continue to hear crickets.
If you are still owed money, send an invoice for the work you’ve done along with a “I’m here when you’re ready to finish the project” note. In most cases I’ve seen, the writer eventually got paid even if the project was cancelled. She may have had to make a couple calls — or send a couple emails — but she was compensated for her time.
What do you think?
How do you handle it when a client ghosts you? Have you ever lost money because of it? Leave a comment and let me know!