Why isn’t my client calling me back?

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Dr. Freelance: I’ve been doing work for a client for more than a year, totaling a couple thousand dollars’ worth of work…and suddenly, not only is he not calling me back with new freelance projects, he doesn’t even return my calls or emails. I’m weirded out and wondering what I should do, if anything—and your opinion on why isn’t my client calling me back? Should I pursue it, or let it go? Any tactics would be appreciated!—It’s Not You, It’s Me

INYIM: This is an interesting one, because the length of time you worked with this person and the amount he spent on your services would indicate that you were doing a good job. But, as we all experience, doing a good job can be trumped by a variety of other issues:

  • Your client’s budget got cut.
  • He hired a new staff member to do what you were doing, or delegated those projects internally.
  • He wanted to try another freelancer–perhaps a friend or former colleague–in order to save costs, get a new “voice,” focus on some specialty that you don’t offer, etc.
  • His company hired a PR, advertising or marketing agency, leaving you obsolete.
  • He has a new boss who has a boot up his butt and/or changed the way his department operates.

People react differently to those circumstances, and there’s a good possibility that he’s afraid to give you the straight scoop and an official breakup notice. I suspect that this relationship can’t be resurrected–at least based on the information you’ve given me. Not responding to voicemails or emails is a bad, bad sign, no matter what the reason. If you’re asking yourself, “Why isn’t my client calling me back?” your intuition is telling you something.

That being said, there’s no harm in 1) dropping an occasional email to keep in front of him, just in case one of the aforementioned issues gets resolved in your favor, or 2) swallowing your pride and leaving a voicemail to the effect that, “I understand that you no longer need my services, but I’d really appreciate five minutes of your time as a professional so I can find out where I fell short and can improve my business.” If you don’t hear back after an appeal to his professionalism (and ego), your time is surely better spent elsewhere.

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