A client reaches out to you saying they’re interested in working together.
You start a conversation, and everything’s going well. You discuss payment, the scope of work, and the delivery date.
You send over an email with the invoice with a request for a deposit so that you can start working. Two days pass, but you hear nothing. So you send a follow-up email.
Days turn into weeks. Still nothing. You send another follow-up and still no reply. Weeks become months.
And just when you’ve all but forgotten about the project, you wake up one morning, look at your phone and see there’s a deposit in your bank account.
The exact details of your story may differ, but chances are you’ve experienced something similar in your writing career—I know I have.
Regardless, scenarios like these make you wonder: Is this a bad client? If so, can I transform their behaviour for the better? Do I even want to? Should I instead run for the hills?
But most importantly:
Do I really want to work with someone like this?
That’s the critical question, but it’s a question only you can answer.
Your answer boils down to your situation and what you’re comfortable with.
While you ponder on that question and the possible answers, let me share a story to help you decide.
Why I Decided to Work With Clients Who Are Slow to Respond to My Emails
I currently work with two clients who take forever to respond to my emails and sometimes don’t even bother.
The first client works for a big organisation, and he’s seemingly juggling many balls. There have been weeks where I haven’t received a response from him and, the first time I dealt with him, it took forever to get a deposit—and even longer to get the balance.
The second is a marketing manager who works for a smaller company and has to do everything himself, though this will change as they’re hiring a content manager.
Are these clients perfect? No. They’re clearly not the best at communicating, take forever to respond, and often cause project delays.
But I choose to overlook these problems and still work with them because:
1. Both exhibit plenty of traits which actually make them a pleasure to work with:
- They happily pay for my services without haggling over price. Only recently, one paid me in full in December for work I’ve just started.
- They’re flexible with deadlines which means I’m not under pressure when we do eventually start working. The clients understand that their lack of input pushes out deadlines. I’ve explained this several times before in an email, and they’re cool with that.
- They provide feedback on initial outlines‚even though it often takes time
- They’re friendly and just genuinely pleasant to work with when we are interacting
2. I have a steady stream of work from other clients which means even though a project may take months, my cash flow doesn’t take a hit and I can still run a profitable writing business.
So, Should You Work With Clients Who Take Their Sweet Time to Respond to Your Emails?
Back to that question I asked you right at the beginning…
I suggest you follow a similar thought process to the one above when attempting to answer this question.
Review all their traits—positive and negative— to determine whether you want to work with them. If there are plenty of positive qualities like being friendly and willing to pay your rates, but the negative of being slow to respond is simply a deal-breaker for you then, by all means, don’t work with that client.
But, if you do decide that you can overlook that one red flag, just make sure that you have other clients who provide an income for you and ensure a steady cash flow when you invariably experience delays in projects.
Because these delays will happen. Guaranteed. Clients who exhibit these behaviours aren’t going to suddenly, and magically change their behaviour and the way they work half-way through your relationship. It just doesn’t happen.
The good news is that knowing this behaviour will happen again, makes it predictable. And something predictable is easy to plan for and allow for in your own business. All you do is treat it as another project that takes just a little longer to complete.
Planning for it and allowing for it also means having to let go of how you would usually work.
We often think the clients will hold us to unreasonable deadlines even when they’re slow to respond. Most won’t.
We often think that we need to start working on projects immediately and so push clients for a deposit. We don’t.
The truth is that clients often don’t have that same sense of urgency because content isn’t the only thing they’re focused on.
Acknowledging that; accepting that, and wholeheartedly embracing that can be incredibly liberating.
So my question to you now is this: Have you ever worked with a client who took forever to reply to your emails? What did you do?
I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below.