Sep 4 / Matt Saunders

How to Avoid Getting Ghosted as a Freelancer

Ghosts getting you down? Prevent professional ghosting by following these 5 pieces of time-honoured advice.
When I started my web design business I struggled to generate leads. It felt like every prospective client came with a TONNE of pressure so you can probably imagine my frustration and worry when many of them ghosted me after our first conversation.

Some never even thanked me for my proposal. And because I had email tracking in place, I could see that they had received it. How rude!

But here's the thing: those prospects weren't bad people. The truth is that I had simply not done enough to inspire them.

In the advice below I'm going to show you how to prevent being ghosted by a client. I offer 5 actionable tips to help you avoid ghosting - and show you what do to if you get ghosted - by empowering you and your clients to come to a clear decision about working together and ensuring that the decision gets communicated properly. Ready?

What's the secret to avoid getting ghosted?

Man and woman high-fiving over a laptop
We'll get to the tips shortly but first allow me to provide context for you. What links these tips together is one simple idea: mutual empowerment.

As a freelancer coach I've had hundreds of conversations with creatives who have been totally ignored by prospects. The common theme in all their stories is that they have allowed a gap to open up between themselves and the person they're talking to.

Sales conversations with prospects must be powerful in order for the potential customer to take action. You should ask interesting questions, not come across as desperate, whilst also being relaxed and at ease. This gives the prospect permission to chill out, too.

When you do this, you bring the prospect closer to you. It builds the trust-factor massively.

And guess what? This trust is what reduces your chances of being ghosted.

What is the psychological impact of being ghosted?

Woman being ghosted by a client
I know you feel this. It's why you're here. 

To say that professional ghosting is demoralising is an understatement. It can shake the foundations of your self-belief and put unnecessary pressure on you to "impress" prospects when you get the chance to pitch your services.

But the harder we try the more we actually push the client away. This makes getting ghosted more likely, because the psychological impact on the client is also not a positive one.

It helps everyone concerned if we can learn to chill out a bit.

In my experience and from every story I've heard, ghosting happens when people feel psychologically vulnerable. 

Therefore, in order to stop getting ghosted you owe it to yourself and your clients to implement the practices I share next. 

How to avoid getting ghosted

To avoid ghosting there is unfortunately no "quick fix". That being said, the following tips are proven, and when applied, will significantly reduce your rate of ghosting.

Tip #1 - Pre-qualify your prospect

Reducing the chance of ghosting happens before you even speak to a prospective client.

When working as a freelancer the power dynamic is often weighted in favour of the client. But if you decide to pre-qualify a client before you speak with them, it helps to balance that dynamic.

Research the prospect before getting on a call with them. Ask yourself:

  • Does this seem like the sort of person I would get along with?
  • Are they the sort of person who would invest in my services?
  • What do other people say about them?

Try to understand the person before you speak with them so you can determine if the prospect is a good fit. If it seems like they will be, the chance of ghosting is much lower.

Tip #2 - Find out how serious they are on a call

Once you get on a call with a prospect do not simply allow them to interview you. It is your job to lead the conversation by asking questions:

  • How would working with me support your goals?
  • What results do you think we could get by working together?
  • How much time/money would you like to invest?

Ghosting often happens because a client is not fully committed to their own goals. When this is the case, they are indecisive and will likely take the cheapest/easiest route.

Use this opportunity to assess how serious they are about getting results. The more serious and invested they are, the less likely it is that they will ghost you.
Related video: how to ask a client their budget. Having an open conversation about money can bring up the core motivations (and fears) of the project which will help reduce your chances of getting ghosted.

Tip #3 - Ask when you will hear back from them

Whether you pitch in-person, on a call or by sending an email, include this call to action: "when can I expect to hear back from you?"

Do not be afraid to ask this. It shows the client that you are serious and it prompts them to make a mental note to reply.

In the spirit of leadership, it also subconsciously creates a deadline for when they need to make a decision. Clients appreciate this level of leadership because it makes them feel secure that you are the right person to be turning to for the project.

Tip #4 - Empower them to a decisive yes/no

Fist raised in the air
Earlier I said that prospects often ghost because they’re indecisive or unsure of the project.

If you want to stop getting ghosted, empower them to see what could be possible when they work with you. Talk about the results and outcomes that you could help them achieve when you work on their project. This will excite them and make them feel positive. When you do this, they are much more likely to get back to you with a yes or no answer based on clarity, rather than ghosting which often comes from confusion or from not having enough information.

Tip #5 - Write a compelling follow-up

Heart envelope
If a prospect is ghosting you, the worst kind of follow up is one that makes it all about you, like “just wondered if you'd made a decision yet?”

This question is asked from your perspective, not theirs. It doesn't address their problem and it won't get a reply. A more effective follow up is to refer to their goals and the project itself.

Here are a few examples:

  • Did you find someone to build your new, SEO optimised website?
  • Have you started to generate more traffic through your blog yet?
  • Did you decide against optimising your product descriptions to boost conversions?

Always refer back to the original conversation and the prospect's goals. If they appear to have stalled or gone with another provider, these provocative questions will likely prompt a response.

But, they must be used with care. Asked clumsily or without a good level of rapport, these questions might sound a little snarky. Only use this tactic if you've established a good relationship with the prospect first.
Related video: what to do when a client ghosts you.

Ghosting is a symptom of problems in your business. Want to fix them?

Two freelancers might speak to the same client, but the client may only ghost one of them. I hope it's now clear that ghosting is not an unavoidable part of business, and it doesn't always mean that clients are being rude. We can play our part in reducing ghosting.

If you'd like to build a business with strong foundations, where you know your ideal client intimately and have an offer they'd absolutely love, be sure to download my ebook The Dream Client Playbook. In it you will find an end-to-end system for creating a joyful and profitable freelance business. Get it here for just £5.
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