There’s a scenario I hope never happens to you, but you should be prepared for it just in case. It’s when your copywriting client goes silent while you’re working with them.
Let’s say you write a draft of a web page, an email campaign, or an article for their blog, and you do a great job, or at least you think you did. You send it in to the client. You wait for feedback from your client, and you hear nothing.
And then you send a couple of emails to follow up. ”Hey, I sent the copy to you on Tuesday. Do you have any requests for changes? What do you think of it? Is it on target?” And you hear nothing.
And then a couple of days later, you decide to call and you leave a voicemail, and no one returns your call.
Well, at this point, your imagination is probably running wild. You might be thinking, “Boy, does this client hate my copy so much that they’re giving me the silent treatment? They won’t even talk to me anymore.”
Or you might be thinking something’s happened to your client. Maybe they got sick, or got fired.
It’s a real mystery to you.
And this happens more often than you may think. In fact, it happened to me just last year with a new client.
So what do you do when you submit a first draft of your copy and then the client doesn’t follow up?
No edits, no final approval, no meaningful communication whatsoever. Silence.
Well, let me give you some strategies on how to deal with this odd, but not uncommon situation.
First of all, let’s go over some of the fears you may have…
They Didn’t Like Your Copy
You might be worried that they’re so disappointed in your copy they won’t even talk to you anymore, so they’re giving you the silent treatment, as rude as that may seem.
And you know what? Unfortunately, that could be the reason they’re not getting back to you. They received your copy, and they read it, but it’s not what they were looking for.
That’s the nature of the business we’re in. You could be a great copywriter or content writer. You could really know how to craft effective copy for all kinds of B2B communications, but even so, you may not be the best choice for every single company out there.
It could be the company is looking for something a little bit different, and you just can’t please them. That can happen to even the best writers, but you want to find out, don’t you?
The Project Got Cancelled
Another reason why this could be happening is that the client may have cancelled the project. Maybe something important and urgent has come up and they had to put it on the back burner.
And they’re either embarrassed to tell you the project’s been cancelled or delayed, or they’re just so busy doing other things that they can’t get back to you right away.
Overwhelm or Crisis on the Client’s Side
Marketing directors and business owners can really get busy. They get into almost crisis mode on some projects, and they get as many as 200 emails a day. So they can’t get back to you right away.
Your Client Took a New Job
Or maybe your client has changed positions. I remember many years ago, I was writing an ad for the creative director of an ad agency. He quit halfway through the project, and didn’t tell me.
And then as I was following up, I discovered that no one else in the agency knew about me or anything about this project, which made it a challenge to collect my copywriting fees!
So these things can happen. But don’t get discouraged or give up.
When you submit a project and the client goes silent, there are really three things you want to accomplish in this situation.
#1. Make Sure You Get Paid
You want to make sure you get paid for the work you’ve done to that point. You may have completely finished the project, or maybe you finished part of a project. Maybe you’ve done two or three key pages of a website and you’re waiting for feedback on that.
Whatever the case is, you need to make sure you’re going to get paid — and paid in a timely manner.
#2. Find Out If They’re Disappointed in Your Writing Services
Some clients — especially those that haven’t worked with a freelancer before — may have a misunderstanding that the copy you sent them is a final copy.
They may not realize that it’s okay for them to ask for changes and revisions, and in fact, that it’s part of the process. They may look at it as final copy and if they don’t like it, then they think that’s the end of the game.
They may need a reminder from you that revisions are okay.
Or they think it’s really off target and that it’s going to be a major revision to fix it. But in reality, you can probably fix it very quickly. I’ve run into this problem a lot.
For example, the client may not like the headline and the ending of an email. They simply look at the whole email and think it’s awful, when in reality, changing the headline and the ending is all it needs.
#3. Maintain a Good Relationship
Even if they are disappointed in your services, and even if you’re never going to do business with them again, you want to make sure you maintain a good relationship with them because you never know what the future holds.
They may actually like your services, but maybe that project wasn’t quite the best project to judge you on.
They may hire you later on. They may refer you to other people, so you don’t want them saying bad things about you. You want to be able to leave the relationship with your head held high.
How Do You Accomplish Those Three Things?
#1. Get a Deposit from All New Clients
Anytime you work with someone new, no matter how large they are, get a deposit.
For most projects, the standard is a 50% deposit. So if you’re writing a case study for a B2B company and you’re charging them, let’s say $1,200, it’s okay to ask for a $600 deposit.
The good news is that $600 is probably enough to cover your time on that project. So if it goes south and you do this case study, and the client just goes silent, whatever happens, at least you have that 50%.
That’s a more secure feeling than doing a lot of work on a project and worrying about being paid when you don’t have a deposit.
#2. Be Clear About When You Send Your Invoice
This one’s really important. I always tell my clients that I send my invoice 30 days after submitting the first draft or when the client approves the copy, whichever comes first. It’s in my agreement they sign.
They know when to expect an invoice. I don’t wait until they tell me the project is done. If they put it on hold, that could be weeks or months from now.
#3. Keep a Paper Trail
You want to get your client to sign an agreement or at least to agree to your terms via email. You want to make sure you’ve agreed on pricing, the scope of the project, and when you will invoice them.
That really helped me with that creative director who left the ad agency and didn’t tell anybody I was working for them. I had a signed agreement I was able to show them, so I got paid.
#4. Follow Up Promptly and Consistently
So after you submit your copy draft, make sure you follow up right away. If I send copy to a client today, I will send an email following up tomorrow. I want to work with the client to make sure the copy is just perfect for them, so I want feedback.
If I don’t receive a reply, I’ll wait two or three business days and I’ll send another email. If I don’t receive a reply after that, then I will make a phone call. I’ll usually get voicemail and I’ll leave a message in their voicemaiI.
And then if I don’t hear from them a couple of days later, l will send another email, but this time in the email, I will request that we set up a quick phone call to discuss the copy.
I’ll actually suggest a time and a date. So I’ll say something like, “Can we set up a quick phone call to discuss the copy and go over any changes you’d like done? How about Thursday at 1 p.m.?” and I’ll ask for a reply.
Often, the client will get back to me after this point and say, “Steve, thank you so much for staying on top of this. I got busy with other things, but I want this project done. Yes, let’s meet Thursday at 1 o’clock to discuss this.”
Believe it or not, for some clients, it’s easier to get feedback verbally than it is with an email.
Sometimes they appreciate scheduling a phone call. And that’s often worked for me.
Now, what if you keep following up and weeks go by, and you hear nothing?
#5. Send a Closing Email
Well, what you can do is send a final email, and in it you simply say this: You say that you’ve enjoyed working with them on the project and hope the project is a success for them.
Let them know you assume the copy written for them is fine, and if they ever need any more writing or copywriting help, to be sure to give you a call.
And that’s your last follow-up email. You always want to end on a positive note, if possible.
I call it a closing email. It closes it emotionally for you so you won’t think about it anymore.
And for the client, it lets them know that you’re being professional and following up. You’re making some assumptions and you’re inviting them to get in touch with you if they need any more copy done.
You may never know why the client has gone silent on you so don’t drive yourself crazy.
Follow up diligently right after the project for about two, maybe three weeks. Wait a little bit, and send that final closing email.
And then it’s best to move on to other things. There are a lot of clients that need your help.