Is there anything more frustrating than having communication just totally fall apart? If you ask me, the answer to that question is a big fat, “NO.”
Unfortunately, I’ve been stuck in this situation even more times than I care to admit. I’m talking with a potential client I’m excited about working with, when all of a sudden the emails just stop without any sort of warning. I work hard on a project that they’re happy with, they pay me, and then it’s radio silence.
I’ve come to accept that, often, this halting of communication has almost nothing to do with me. I hate to point fingers, but it’s usually the people on the other end that are responsible for the total communication breakdown.
But, even if I can rest assured that it was nothing I did to cause this, it’s still an incredibly frustrating situation. So, over my time as a freelancer, I’ve learned a few tips for dealing with clients (or people in general) who have—for one reason or another—become completely unresponsive. Let’s get down with our bad selves and get to the good stuff!
You don’t want to be a pest—I totally get it. But, it’s important to remember that the people on the receiving end of your messages are busy, and you typically aren’t their first priority. So, sometimes it takes a little pleasant persistence in order to get your point across and your questions answered.
So, never hesitate to send a follow up message if you haven’t heard anything in a reasonable amount of time. Now, that’s not to say you should send incessant emails when you haven’t gotten a response in 12 hours. But, there’s nothing wrong with circling back to check in after a couple of days.
I have some clients that always get right back to me. But, then there’s a batch of others that constantly need a second email before they respond. It’s not that I don’t matter or they’re intentionally trying to ignore me. Rather, my question slips off their radar, and they need that second email to bump my request to the top of their inbox again.
What exactly should you say when following up with someone who hasn’t yet responded to you? While certain responses are definitely easier to put together, I’d recommend avoiding those generic and vague, “Hey, Jason! Just checking in on this.” types of messages.
Instead, I like to provide some justification for why I felt the need to follow up and exactly why getting a response is important to me.
So, let’s say I’m touching base with a prospective client who just totally fell off the radar. Instead of replying to a previous message with one of those terse lines, I’d say something like:
I hope you’re doing well!
I’m just checking in to see if you’ve made any decisions on your content needs moving forward. Let me know either way—just trying to get a handle on what my workload looks like in the coming months.
It’s short and to the point, while still being friendly. Even better? It illustrates why his response is important to me—I need it in order to effectively run my own business.
We all reach those points when we’re so tired of following up, we’re ready to give up and chalk it all up as a waste. But, don’t just keep that frustration to yourself—make sure you loop the recipient in as well!
No, this doesn’t mean I’m giving you permission to draft a scathing email lecturing that person on how irresponsible and inconsiderate they are. Instead, I think you’re totally entitled to let them know this is your last ditch effort.
How do you do that? I’d just add a line like this to the end of the email I just shared in tip #2:
If I don’t hear anything from you by the end of the week, I’ll assume you’ve gone a different direction.
I know, this seems a little too direct and aggressive—particularly if you’re used to being the friendly and accommodating freelancer they can always count on (guilty as charged). But, including this line makes it clear that you’re not going to be waiting on a response and twiddling your thumbs for ages—which instills a greater sense of urgency in that recipient.
Getting ghosted by someone is infuriating. And, it can be tempting to try every single avenue you can get your hands on in order to get in touch with them—email, phone calls, tweets, LinkedIn messages, carrier pigeons. You name it, you want to try it and let that person know how irritating their basic lack of common courtesy is.
I get it. Like I said, I’ve been there. But, at some point, you need to recognize that your obsessing over that lack of a response is really just wasting your precious time and energy—time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. So, after you’ve sent that last ditch email, it’s time to move on. Even if you don’t hear back in that strict timeline you outlined, you absolutely shouldn’t reach out again. That not only demonstrates that they don’t have to take your words seriously, but it also makes you look a little desperate.
So, take a deep breath and chalk the whole thing up as a learning experience. After all, if they couldn’t even bother to get back to you, is that really someone you want to work with?
What do you do when you have to handle a client who’s ceased communicating altogether? It still frustrates me, so I’m always looking for some effective strategies to help me deal (and not tear my hair out)!
Until next time!