How to deal with unresponsive clients in 1-to-1 Projects

Most clients on 99designs are responsive and eager to get their design projects completed. After all, they’ve paid for the work upfront, so why wouldn’t they want to get what they paid for? 

At 99designs we are constantly optimizing ways to keep the client involved and encouraging them to complete their project if they start to become less active. However, we know that even though designers and 99designs do our best to keep the client engaged, clients can suddenly become slow to respond or, in some cases, just disappear! This article contains advice on how to deal with unresponsive clients in a 1-to-1 Project.

Consider setting up payment releases at the beginning

If you’re concerned about keeping a client engaged and on schedule, we recommend setting up a quote that includes multiple payment releases. This way, you can also charge a deposit or even a cancellation fee if you wish to make that part of your workflow. 

As you complete milestones and request payments, the client will get a notification to approve the work and release payment so you can move on to the next milestone. Multiple payment releases give you both a reference point, so you can easily reference the agreed-upon timeline when issues arise.

Don't take it personally!

Don't assume that the client's delay in getting back to you has anything to do with you or your work. It's more likely that they have something going on in their life that is taking attention away from the project. People get distracted, stressed out, fired from their jobs, sick, or maybe they are bored with their own project!

When you follow up with your client, avoid making any assumptions or accusations. Instead, show genuine concern and empathy in order to reestablish the relationship. This approach could read something along the lines of:

Hi Client, 

I wanted to follow up in case my last message was buried in your inbox. The last time we spoke, you needed X done by X date, but since I have not heard back from you, I want to make sure you are okay. Please let me know when you get this message just so I know you are well. We can then discuss an updated timeline for your project. 

Thank you!

We know it can be difficult to empathize with someone who is not considerate of your time and needs, but often when you show genuine concern, they will reciprocate.

Know when to move on

If you've sent multiple follow up messages without success, you have no choice but to move on. Client behavior is completely out of your control and it's something all freelancers have to accept. If you have not completed all the deliverables agreed to, you should send a final message letting them know you expect payment for the work that you have completed. Again, although it can be tough, showing empathy can go a long way in maintaining the relationship with the client. This final message could read something along the lines of:

Hi Client, 

I am following up one last time before I contact 99designs to request payment for the work I've completed on your project. I have other projects I need to move on to, but I would really like to finish what we've started here. If you are still interested in working with me, please let me know within the next 48 hours. I hope that everything is okay! Please let me know. 

Thank you!

If you've completed and uploaded all required deliverables, you can let the client know you are going to mark the project as complete unless you hear back in 48 hours. Once you mark a project as complete, it will trigger a message to the client asking them to accept the final files and release payment to you. If they still do not respond, the payment will be automatically released in 5 business days. This method should only be used as a last resort as it could potentially upset a client, especially if they had circumstances beyond their control causing their unresponsiveness (death or illness in the family, natural disaster, etc.).

If you have tried repeatedly to contact your client and have not been able to reach a resolution on your own, you can contact our support team for help. They can attempt to contact the client on your behalf and help get the project moving forward again.

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