4 Things Freelancers Do That Make Clients Disappear

4 Things Freelancers Do That Make Clients Disappear
Written by Elvira Strinosa

So you finally got a client and delivered work for them. Now you’re ready to do more, but the client ghosted. You haven’t heard from them in weeks and now you wonder what happened. Why did your client disappear?

Some of the most common reasons clients disappear include:

  1. They didn’t like your work.
  2. You were too aggressive in your follow-up.
  3. You didn’t ask for more work.
  4. You didn’t deliver on-time.

If you’ve had a client disappear and you don’t know why, there’s a good chance it’s one of these things. There are a few other reasons clients disappear and we’ll talk about those in a minute. First let’s explore the things you might be doing that scare clients away after you’ve started working together.

1. The Client Didn’t Like Your Work

Some clients are so nice they find it nearly impossible to give feedback. For these clients, it feels like a crushing pressure to criticize someone else’s work, especially when they worked so hard on it.

Instead of telling you what needs fixed, they just sort of fade into the background.

You deliver the work and they have time to review it, and they might even respond once or twice to say they’re still reviewing it.

In fact, you might even get paid.

But after that you won’t hear much from them.

Weeks go by and you realize they haven’t added feedback, closed the contract, or offered more work. What happened?

Usually, it’s that they didn’t like your work and don’t have the heart to tell you.

 Solution? Reach out with one last message to ask them for feedback on your work to help you improve. Be clear that you’re open to all criticism because you want to improve. 

2. You Were Too Aggressive In Your Follow-Up

Some freelancers (in fact, a lot of freelancers) need money really bad. As soon as you finish a project, you’re ready for another one because you’ve got to eat, right?

Life is good when money’s flowing in, but not so much when it stops.

So as soon as you finish one project, you send a message to the client and let them know you’re ready for the next.

The challenge is that the client may not be ready for that next project yet.

In the freelance world, clients come in different shapes and sizes. Some are huge corporations while others are trying to get a tiny startup off the ground.

Depending on the client you’re working with, they might not have the budget to send you more work. So it can make them feel really bad when you’re asking for more when they simply can’t afford it.

When this happens, the client isn’t sure how to respond, so they disappear for a while with the intent to follow-up later on.

If you want to avoid clients disappearing because you’re too aggressive with your follow-up, then give them time. Relax on asking for more work. If a client likes your work and has more, they’ll come back to you when they’re ready.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t ask at all.

Sometimes asking for work is the best way to get more. But after you ask once, you probably shouldn’t keep following up every day to let the client know you’re available because there’s a chance you’ll scare them away.

 Solution? Let the client know you’re available for more work when they’re ready for it. Avoid asking when you can start the next project. 

3. You Didn’t Ask for More Work

This one is kind of the reverse of the previous one. Some freelancers are really timid when it comes to asking for more. Instead of letting clients know they’re available, they wait quietly for the client to send new projects.

While you don’t want to be too aggressive in your follow-up, you DO want to follow-up after a gig.

Thank the client for working with you and for giving you a chance. Then let them know you’re available if they need you again and happy to work with them on future projects if they need your services.

In the past I’ve found that many clients are eager to throw more work your way when they loved what you delivered in the first place.

This is especially true when the client is a large company.

With big companies, you almost have to follow-up because the hiring manager can get super busy working with multiple freelancers and keeping track of them all. If you don’t follow up, you may go unseen.

 Solution? Send at least one follow-up message after each gig to thank the client for working with you and to remind them of your availability. Avoid asking them when they’ll send the next project so you don’t scare them away. 

4. You Didn’t Deliver On Time

One of the big perks of freelancing is that you aren’t tied to a 9-5 job. You can come and go as you please and you can work when you want from where you want.

But when you tell a client you’ll have their project by midnight on Thursday, and then you don’t deliver until noon on Friday, or worse, noon on Sunday, that client won’t want to work with you anymore.

This happens so often it blows my mind.

While you may have a relaxed schedule, the client is often eagerly awaiting your delivery.

Until you send them your work, they can’t move forward in their business.

This isn’t true for every client, but it is true for some, and if you prove you can’t be relied upon to deliver work on time, they’ll disappear and find someone else who can.

 Solution? Discuss deadlines with your client up front and stick to them. If for any reason you can’t deliver the work by the time you agreed upon, you need to let the client know this BEFORE the deadline arrives. If you wait for the deadline and then let them know, they’ll be upset and probably won’t work with you anymore. 

Other Reasons Clients Disappear

It’s not always the freelancer’s fault when clients ghost. Everyone has a lot going on in their lives, and that includes clients.

Here are some of the more common reasons I’ve seen clients disappear:

  • They forgot they had a freelance project going on.
  • They got super busy and haven’t had time to follow up.
  • Their freelance platform logged them out and they didn’t get notified.
  • An emergency happened that they have to deal with.
  • They’re just plain slow to respond in general.

It’s easy to assume the worst when clients don’t respond. But usually things aren’t as bad as they seem.

Sometimes it’s the freelancers fault. Other times it isn’t.

Be mindful of the reasons listed above for why clients ghost in response to your actions, but also be aware of the fact that they just might be busy, distracted, or didn’t get notified that you delivered work.

In most cases you can follow-up with a client after your project is done. If you don’t hear back, wait a week or two and then send a new follow-up. If they still don’t respond, move on.

About the author

Elvira Strinosa

Elvira is an Assistant Editor and News Writer for Notorious [F]. She has served in various freelance positions over the past four years including copyeditor, copywriter, and content writer. When she isn't writing, or editing, she spends her time reading sappy romance novels and taking long walks outdoors.