Recently Carson Brackney wrote this wonderful article about getting more work from existing clients. The advice he gives is excellent, and I have followed most of it unconsciously for some time, but it got me thinking about what happens on the opposite end of the spectrum when we must deal with an unresponsive client.
This has been on my mind recently because I have been worrying about a client who suddenly dropped off the face of the earth. Fortunately, he went incommunicado shortly after he paid the balance he owed me on our latest project, so I’m not concerned about chasing down my money. But now I can’t reach him through email or the phone, and he hasn’t returned my messages. Of course, I haven’t been pestering him; I’ve kept my correspondence polite and professional, and it has been just enough to let him know that I’m thinking of him and his business.
But still, I’ve been frustrated with the potential loss of more work and income. When the client and I first discussed working together, he described three other projects that he wanted me to help him accomplish, one of which sounded like a steady weekly gig, and so I had looked forward to the future income. I’m still hopeful, but every day that my messages go unanswered my hope weakens.
So, at what point do you tie up the loose end and amicably severe the relationship? At what point does the worrying about the client become more than a simple worry? Naturally, several factors will influence your decision. You must evaluate your other projects, their current income, and their earning potential, and weigh it against this current problem project. If you have other clients from whom you feel you can expect future work, then perhaps your efforts should focus on them and you can take a loss here. Also, you should consider the professional relationship you had with the silent client. Was he or she a joy to work with on past assignments? Did you collaborate well on projects or were you mostly on your own, struggling to understand your client’s needs? If the client was someone with whom you worked well, it might be worth it to stick it out a little longer. After all, everyone goes through weird slumps once in a while. And finally, how could severing the relationship harm your ‘brand,’ especially if you work in a specific niche? Could you get away with not severing the relationship, but merely leaving the ball in the client’s court?
In my case, I have decided to write the client one last email and let him decide what to do. I’ll be sure to thank him for his business. I’ll tell him that I’m currently ready to begin work on the other three projects, and that he can contact me when and if he wishes to pursue those projects. I’m happy with the current state of my freelance business, so I’ve decided to no longer worry about this one project. I like to think that I’m not cutting the link; I’m simply unhooking it for now.
Photo Credits: Photo by RW Photobug.