How to deal with an unresponsive client. 

December 22, 2017

Communication is a big deal and it’s often considered a two-way street. One of the biggest fears of someone looking for a freelancer is that the freelancer could disappear.

Fun Fact: Considerable amount of my work came from other freelancers disappearing, that results in my client’s be very mindful of communication. It’s another perspective to consider, what about the disappearing client?


Ever clocked 30+ hours on a project, spent money in order to complete the project and planned for the payment from the client?

Sent an email to the client saying you’re finished. Followed by another email since the first didn’t get a response, 20 emails later and you are now in full-blown panic mode? Then you realize, the client is no longer responding.

It’s easy to talk about things you need to do to protect yourself from a client who disappears:

  • Get a deposit for the entire project
  • Deliver partials until payment is received
  • Partial payment per week or milestone
  • Etc…

That’s all great until you realized you haven’t done any of that! Let’s plan for the worse. What if you completed work for a client and you’ve been trying to reach them for payment for over a month, what do you do?

I want to give a few practical approaches to help address the unfortunate situation.


Communicate over all mediums

Sometimes a client may be taking a break from their email or their phone (maybe business phone) if you were communicating with your client through one medium, it’s time to spread out.

Make a phone call. Leave a voicemail. Send a text message. Send an email. Reach out through a social network. Send a letter to their house (yes, a real letter). Have another way? Try that too! Try to reach through once through each of the mediums at least once a week for a month.

When reaching out, try to keep a level head. This is clearly an unfortunate situation and you are being inconvenienced but, it happens to freelancers all the time. After a month, you may arrive at a conclusion that they are gone.

Attempt to reclaim your work

If reaching out didn’t work, it’s time to attempt to get their attention another way. Temporarily disable your work.

Change passwords to accounts you may have set up for them. If you made a website for them, put up a “down for maintenance” page. If they are expecting work to be delivered, stop it. If you have any way of preventing them from using the work you weren’t paid for.

If you feel bad about doing this, think about what happens when you don’t pay your cell phone or internet bill. Does the service stop?

Aren’t you providing a service? If so, you need to be paid for that service and if you are not paid, it should stop.

Involve a lawyer

This is where it starts to set in that the client isn’t trying to pay. Reaching out to a lawyer may be the next best step to get what you worked for. You now have to gauge how much you want to invest in getting your payment. If the amount of the lawyer fees are greater than the payment, or if they are slightly less than how much you are owed, it may be better to consider this an expensive learning lesson.

If you are already vested and it’s an amount you just can’t ignore, follow through with a lawyer. Just use your best judgment to make sure you’re aren’t wasting additional time.

Move on…

It may be time to move on from this burden. It’s easy to get attached to situations like this, but at some part, you need to consider the amount time you’re putting into solving this issue that may be better spent elsewhere. Have an awesome client you’re working with? Focus on them. Need better clients that won’t disappear!? Spend time on finding them. Regardless of how you do it, just move on. This is the nature of the business.


In summary: It may be time to go through the motions. Papertrail of contacting, see if it’s worth getting a lawyer and move on.

On the positive side, I plan to talk about how to use “unclaimed” client work in an upcoming post. It’s a good practice to find a positive in every negative situation. Be sure to subscribe and you’ll be the first to know.

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