Oct 11 / Matt Saunders

What to Do when You've Been Ghosted

When a prospect ghosts you it's very easy to get angry and keep chasing. In this piece I offer a straightforward technique to encourage the person to come back to you quickly and decisively.
Ghosting is what happens when a relationship is put into indefinite limbo. This could be in a professional context, where an employer or client stops responding to emails and calls, or it could be in a personal situation when a friend or date goes off the radar for no reason.

The term was first coined in 2015 and is now so common that a quick Google of the phenomena reveals a tonne of opinion on the subject.

As an avid LinkedIn user (follow me here) I see the subject of freelancer ghosting discussed literally every week. I've already written about how to avoid ghosting, but in this piece, I am going to offer you one strategy to help you respond to you when it happens.
Above: what to do if you've been ghosted by a prospect

Why do people ghost you?

Woman stressed at laptop
Before I help you to deal with professional ghosting I want to take a moment to talk about preventative measures if it happens to you often.

In my experience, ghosting mostly happens when there is a lack of clarity about what working with you will look like, and the results you will deliver. When a prospect is not able to see an ROI, confusion creeps in and no amount of you asking "did you review my proposal" is going to compel them to respond.

So first things first: learn to communicate your value with crystal clarity as if you were giving instructions to a 3 year old. That's not to be critical of clients; it's to help you talk about your work in the simplest and most powerful way imaginable.

What to do if a prospect stops responding to you

Ghost standing on a hill
A client onboarding process often goes something like this:

1) A prospect reaches out to you
2) You book in a call to see if you're a good fit
3) If so, you prepare an offer - a proposal document or pitch

I typically find that if a prospect does not respond within a couple of days then my offer must not have resonated with them. And as more time passes, it becomes harder to reach the prospect, and more likely that you're not getting the work.

In that space, ghosting can happen. Most freelancers way of dealing with this is to send several emails along the lines of "hi again, just wondered if you'd had chance to read my proposal?"

As you will have realised if you're reading this piece: people don't tend to respond to this sort of inane nagging. Here's what to do instead.

Make it about THEM

Man and woman high-fiving at laptop
If you've done a good job during the first meeting with a prospect and if your proposal focuses deeply on their problems, my advice here will be much easier to understand and implement.

(If you don't really press on the problems you have a more work to do and this article isn't going to serve you very well - here are some questions to ask freelance clients to help you create more demand for your work).

So let's assume you've done the groundwork and you know for sure you can help this client hit their goals. A better ghosting email follow up is:

"Hi again, I haven't heard back from you since putting in a proposal. You told me that you wanted to achieve some goal so I wanted to check in with you to find out if you've done that?"

Replace "some goal" with whatever the thrust of your proposal was (e.g. generate more leads from your website, get more traffic etc).

This method focuses the email on their needs, not yours. Instead of pining after a reply to your proposal, you're simply asking them if they've reached their goals. This demonstrates that you've got their interests at heart, not yours. This subtle shift in focus can make all the difference in your getting a reply or not.

What else you can do if you've been ghosted

Now, the method I just shared with you isn't guaranteed to work. The person might still ignore you. But you've given them something to think about. You've created a little more value in the world by shifting focus onto their goals and away from yours. Here are two more ways to reach out to a client who's ghosting you.

Send them a voice note on LinkedIn

LinkedIn app on mobile device
If your emails aren't landing don't be afraid of getting right into their LinkedIn inbox and speaking directly to them. A lot of people are busy, and emails can be easily ignored.

A voice note makes a bigger impact because it's more personal, they can hear your voice and if you exercise your empathy and authority, you can increase your chance of a positive response. Don't worry about being ignored, because that's already happening!

[Related: optimise your LinkedIn profile]

Send them a resource

Open book next to pair of glasses and coffee
Let's imagine you pitched for a branding job and the client is ghosting you. Instead of sending the needy and desperate "just wondering..." email that so many freelancers do, consider sharing a resource on the subject instead.

Perhaps send a link to an online magazine article, or a piece on your own blog. This helps build trust and will at least elicit a "thank you" from the prospect, even if they don't go on to work with you.

Let it go.

Most of what I've said here has been about sending out good vibes. It's about trying to help people, even if you think they're being a dick. Because being the bigger person in business is not only a great way to land better clients, it's also simply a more enjoyable way to work.

If you're struggling to command respect from your clients, I can help you. My coaching is designed for creative professionals who want to build a thriving business, but things like low confidence and self-doubt get in their way. Take a look at my business coaching service to accelerate your growth, boost your mindset and scale your income.
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