Be Free, Lance | Chasing Clients | Via Breanna Rose

Chasing clients can be one of the trickiest + touchiest situations within the freelancing game. Just like with any typical contract, both parties are supposed to perform and communicate to the best of their abilities … but unfortunately, there are many instances where things get grey. For example, maybe your client goes silent for weeks on end without notice. Or maybe you’re having trouble collecting overdue payments. In situations like these ( and many more ), the common thread is simply a lack of communication. For whatever reason, one half of the party isn’t informing the other of what’s going on, which can be frustrating beyond belief. We’ve all been there! So what do you do?? Personally, I’ve found that the best plan of action is to be both patient + persistent. And above all, understanding + fair. Not only to yourself, but your client as well.

There’s two sides to every story here. You, the freelancer, are trying to run a successful business. You have schedules, deadlines, and things that need to happen in order to move forward. But both parties, however, also have a life. One that doesn’t stop for anything. And truthfully, there’s no telling what sort of road blocks, project related or not, will place themselves right within your timeline. That’s what makes things so difficult! Maybe your client had a sudden health scare in their family. Or maybe they had an unexpected expense come out of nowhere. You never know! As freelancers, our first reaction to silence is typically project related + negative. Things like “I haven’t heard from them for WEEKS! They must really hate what I’ve done and not want to move forward” cross our mind. But nine times out of ten, that’s just not the case. So instead of creating scenarios within your head, try getting to the bottom of it instead.

The first thing I like to do when I’ve been expecting to hear from a client is a simple check in if a week has passed. I’ll keep things short + friendly and remind them about whatever it is that I need from them to move forward. If I still don’t hear from them within the following week, I’ll do the same thing – but also remind them that our communication is imperative for completing deadlines on time. By spreading these reminders out, you’ll prevent yourself from getting TOO annoying, while still remaining fair to yourself. And usually, a few check ins does the trick. Once you hear back, you’ll be able to analyze the situation and respectfully discuss an updated timeline with your client.

If there’s ever a case where you don’t hear back from a client, after weeks and weeks of check ins, then it may be time to consider a more aggressive approach. Perhaps in the next check in, you explain how the lack of communication is affecting your business + schedule, and that if you don’t hear from them in “X” amount of days, the contract will need to be closed. Think of this as a last ditch effort to get their attention. Your client, after all, has invested time + money into this project and will most likely go out of their way to finally respond if you’ve clearly outlined what happens when a constant lack of communication occurs. But if they don’t — ask yourself if the chase is really worth it. Always keep your best interests at heart and realize that this end of the road type stuff rarely happens. I promise.

  1. apetite says:

    Breanna, it’s another really good topic for freelancer.

    I am in 50% freelancer architect, because in my country freelancing as an architect is so hard and not so pink as you write in USA :( unfortunately. In one post you wrote: 35 000 $ per first year it’s good :) In my country people say: “when, after one year freelancing, your end budget be on 0, without any credit, it’s a good sign! ;)

    Last week I read all your posts in „Be Free Lance”. Yes, it is true! I am not joking! Your topics helps me to understand, how to build my freelance job. Also it’s some kind: “You also can do it!” Thank you for this mini classes :) I am waiting for another lesson :)

  2. Thanks Breanna- this insight into thinking about client …the other side of the story and not always jumping to conclusions was a great. I too am a semi-freelance architect like Appetite (who commented above) and these posts are really helpful for us newbies who are all alone in this big scary business world!

  3. Sydney says:

    This was such a great post! I am currently in a situation right now where a client has had a bunch of major life situations come up while we were in the midst of design. It definitely took some patience and communication to understand that he didn’t hate everything I had done! Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in this. :)
    Love your blog, thanks for the constant inspiration!

  4. niki says:

    What a perfectly timed post! I am currently having this issue with one of my clients. Her business is completely booming right now, which means there are long periods of silence on her end because of her hectic schedule. This current silent stretch is going on its 3rd week. It’s quite frustrating, but I need to remind myself that she is not meaning to be disrespectful, she is just busy. It helps me be a bit more patient to know she’s in the business of helping others, and your post has some great advice as well.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. […] of the trickiest parts of freelancing is when your clients go quiet. Bre has some great advice on how to chase them down and not be scary about […]

  6. I’m experiencing this for the first time right now, so this post is very timely. Love the advice to not take it personally… it never is personal in the end, so save yourself the stress. :-)

  7. Erin Haslag says:

    My designers and I were JUST discussing this very topic this morning. The summer months are particularly more difficult as everyone’s focus is scattered between obligations, kids being home, vacations and just the seasonality of it all. I set the tone up front about the expectations for communication for clients with the onboarding process and follow a very similar strategy as you’ve outlined. But I’m a little more firm on the “non-response” because it impacts everything and everyone when a client is non-responsive. I give them up to 2 weeks (10 business days) and if I don’t hear from them I refer to the section in their signed contract that states a 2-week lapse in communication results in a termination of our contract.

    I’ve had to enforce it twice in 3 years, but in those instances I’m glad this is part of my onboarding process and in the contract. You want clients to be excited, engaged and on board throughout the collaboration. It isn’t fun being the one pulling them along as it deflates the energy around the project (very “California” of me, I know!). Of course, if there are extenuating circumstances I work with my clients – I get “it” and I’m human! But you have to be mindful of your time and the value of what you do up front and throughout the process – this is a big part of it.

    Thank you for writing on this subject – so timely and so well-written!

  8. Chasing clients has got to be one of the hardest parts about freelancing, hankyou for this post I needed the reminder that I’m not alone in this.

    / the clients who do respond quickly make everything so worthwhile !

  9. This is definitely one of the worst parts of freelancing! It just feels bad to have to chase some clients, but at the same time, you have to take care of your business and respect your time and effort, otherwise things will start going less smooth.

  10. Frances says:

    I absolutely love your Be Free, Lance series. It is seriously all so inspirational and helpful! I’m going to be entering the freelancing world hopefully at some point, and reading these definitely helps me feel more prepared. Thank you so much for all of the tips!

  11. Joy says:

    In my experience so far, most communication issues are usually life issues on one side or the other, an illness, family, etc…I can only think of one that wasn’t somehow related. I totally agree with you! I think there is an interesting line when you have repeat clients- between professionalism and understanding- I dunno. You want to be friendly and kind when issues come up, and yet at the same time, you want to indicate it isn’t ‘normal operating procedure’…I had one client say she didn’t worry about getting back to me in a timely manner(repeat client I should mention) because she ‘knew I was so understanding about things’… and it wasn’t a sort of family/emergency situation this time around. Have you experienced that? How have you handled it?

  12. Such a great article . This is definitely a kind of situation that happens a lot when you’re just starting out freelancing. Cause people just don’t necessarily take you seriously enough, and they just don’t have in mind that you have other projects, timelines to keep up. It’s almost as if you were doing it as a hobby. So yes, it’s a bit hard to have the right reaction, but I guess patience and kindness aaaalways do the trick. Hopefully … :)

  13. Niki says:

    This reminds me of a client who has a tendency to go M.I.A. I have been known to be relentless in my persistence. But I have also been on the other side of it where I worked for a designer and she stopped communicating with me for weeks. It never went well. I never got what I paid for but it’s helped me be more particular about who I work with.

  14. […] is 100 percent the inspiration behind my own Freelance Friday series. She recently wrote about chasing down clients, which is timely because I’m having my first experience of that as we speak! (She also posts […]

  15. Kat Curling says:

    More great advice! Is communication something you set out on paper in an initial contract or agreement? Or is there some sort of “get out of a project” guideline that you set beforehand?

  16. Sara says:

    I’ve found with summer especially, this keeps happening to me, and you’re right—90% of the time it’s just that they’re on vacation (and didn’t tell me) somewhere with bad internet, or they’re having a busy week and just haven’t had time to get to email (happens to me too!) or they’re just taking their time to formulate their thoughts and opinions on the last round of designs. It can be hard not to freak out, especially if you’re a person often glued to your email, but I just remind myself, especially if my clients are a bit older, that not everyone has a smart phone on them at all times, and not everyone feels the compulsive need to respond to emails right away.

  17. I am so happy to read your advice, as always Bre. But I am also a little sad to see fellow architects/designers like myself striking so much with their work.

    Regarding responses and timelines, I’d say all people fall into two categories, those who can’t stop thinking and stressing over their inbox until everything is answered/filed and those who don’t give a damn about emails/communication. Sorry to be so harsh but it’s how I see it. And clients will be one of these two categories.
    Being from a Balkans where everything takes extra time to be completed, working like that daily is nerve wracking to say the least.

    But the good news is you have quite a few followers from around the world struggling with such issues, so I hope you’ll do something with your future courses to help us out :)

    Also, why aren’t you on Bloglovin girl? I hate forgetting to come over here more often. Or some email notification for every post? That would be awesome!

  18. Denise says:

    Hi Breanna! I’ve just spent the past three days reading through the entire Be Free, Lance series and loved it! I was hoping to come across this topic at some point but I guess it’s something you haven’t covered before: how to cold-call clients. For example, I’m a budding web developer who would love to build websites for restaurants and I know quite a few in my area that don’t yet have websites! How would I go about approaching them so I don’t scare/turn them off?

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