9 Ways to Deal with Unresponsive Clients

Freelancing has its ups and downs. One way or another, we are bound to encounter clients who are less than ideal, someone who will make communication difficult, whether on purpose or not.


Now if you encounter one, what will you do?

A. Panic!
B. Inhale… Exhale… Stay calm. Be positive.
C. How could he? I have bills to pay!
D. Rant to friends or on social media.


What would your option be? Hopefully, it’s letter B.



unresponsive clients

How many days is a “good enough space”?


What we’re going to show you here are ways to help you with your client dilemma. But before we jump into the suggestions, first let us study the possible reasons why they are not responding to you:

A. Client is on a business/vacation trip.
B. Client is forgetful.
C. Client is busy.
D. Client can’t respond or pay you due to personal problems.
E. Client prefers to delay in payments or in communication in general.


In an ideal world, we wouldn’t want options D or E to happen, but sometimes they do.


First thing you have to accomplish is to be okay to ask –for a request before proceeding with a major task, a clarification, a feedback, or even your pay.

[Click here to see some tips on how to boost productivity while at home.]

So let’s get started:

1. Give them a deadline to respond

Deadlines give people a sense of urgency. This may be an arbitrary step, but it will turn stillness into action. Give maybe a week and if they still won’t respond, send another.

After that and you still don’t hear anything, tell them you have to pause the job as you wait for their reply. If you’re running late for the project, it’s not your fault because the ball has been passed to their court.

2. Arrange every detail before you begin work

Decrease the chance of any inconsistencies or communication gap by asking the necessary details prior, not during work. This is of course a case-to-case basis scenario but nonetheless, it pays to be one step ahead of the game. Your client might even appreciate you for doing it.

3. Ask for full payment upfront

Some people would put your payment on hold so it’d be best to request for assurance. If the client complains, try to meet half way by negotiating to pay 50/50, 70/30 or offer a 10% discount if client agrees to pay in full. Everybody likes discounts, so that will surely seal the deal.

4. Shorter terms of payment

For long term clients, it is advisable to have shorter billing cycles — may it be weekly or every 15th and 30th. This makes it easier to remember for both ends rather than keeping it on a per project cycle such as every month or every two months or so.

5. Hold them accountable

Make your message clear by restating the conditions of the contract or your conversation. Use the sample template below:

“I’m confused, you mentioned before that . . .  (insert clarifications, former arrangements, etc.). Is everything okay?”

While doing this, remember to stay polite and calm as you wouldn’t want to burn bridges. Sometimes clients could just be having a difficult time at the moment, but still serious in dealing with you.

6. Charge late fees

This one should be included in the contract. Make your late fee higher than your hourly rate. This way, the thought of paying more will make them resist paying late.

7. Send e-mail reminders

Try sending a reminder regarding your concern and immediately the day after. This will somehow give the client a cue that it is an urgent request.

8. Pick up the phone

The hardest thing about dealing with late payments is picking up the phone and still be cool about it. But you have to do it if you have a project to work on and especially if you have bills to pay.

Remember that the key to a successful conversation with your client is not to argue, but rather to tell them that you understand them and then offer a way for them to easily pay you. Perhaps taking the payment over the phone can do the trick.

9. Use collections agency

This is specifically for late payments and potentially, your last resort. If you can’t pick up the phone and initiate a calm conversation with your client, that’s okay, there are collections agency or debt collecting freelancers who are willing to do the job for you. Paying someone to get someone to pay you is better than waiting endlessly, right?


When all else fails, it might be a good time to end your contract with that client. Take it as a learning curve and move on. You’ll do better next time. Just remember to always give compassion. It’s better to assume positive intent always; just know when it’s crossed the borderline.


Got some tips you want to add? Share them in the comments below!


Shayne Zalameda

Shayne Zalameda is a part time freelancer seeking to find the light in the world. She blogs about travel, movies, food, and events on her blog, Le Misstache. Want to say hello, send her a travel tip, hire her for freelance work or anything? Contact her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.


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