What to Do When a New Client Leaves You Standing at The Altar

This month I'll share a problem every copywriter experiences...

And that's what to do when you're left "standing at the altar" on a copywriting job.

One of my past students emailed me with this distressing situation. In her own words:

"What do you do when you talk to a potential client several times and you both agree on the details of a project? (The project is worth $4,800.) They seem pleased and excited about continuing.

"I send them my Fee Agreement with details on where to fax it and where to send the deposit. I emphasize the point that I cannot begin work on the project until I have both the signed Agreement and deposit. I wait... and wait...

"Four days later I send them a short and friendly email asking if they have received the information and again remind them that I can't begin work until I have the Agreement and deposit. No response. The due date that we set for the initial stage of the project is approaching...

"What do I do? Have they dropped the project? Do I give them another nudge or is this too pushing?"


In my experience there are four common possibilities for why a potential new client suddenly shuts down at the beginning of an agreement:

1. Way more often than you'd think, it's not YOU, it's that there's something awry internally in the potential client's business.

And if it's a budget issue (like not being able to cut a 50% check on demand), it's less embarrassing for the contact to remain silent while he or she tries to remedy the situation.

In other words, the silence may simply be a stalling tactic. It's far less painful to come back to a copywriter and say "Sorry, the boss was out of town and we needed her signature," than to say "We're so stretched we can't pay you $2,400 right now."

2. Another hold-up is the possibility that the contact has hired you, but now needs to sell the boss. In this case, patience is a virtue. (If your contact shares this dilemma with you, which is unlikely, you can always write a letter for her, designed to influence the boss. I myself have done this, to extreme success!)

3. You may have a lemon on your hands... a company that is actually backing away because your price is higher than what they were hoping for.

If you priced fairly, and were smart enough to structure the Fee Agreement in such a way that some things can be whittled away in order to bring the price down without hurting the client's objectives - or your projected hourly fee -then you should be able to save this situation.

For instance, I have a situation now that's in limbo. Are they sticker shocked? Doesn't matter. I can always say, "Ok, let's eliminate this part, and that drops the fee by X. We can still meet our objectives, right?"

4. Another reason for the cold shoulder may be a sudden a turn of events on their end. World affairs, a business emergency, a fired executive, new legislation, or a change in business strategy are just a few common derailers.

I've even seen delays because a merger was imminent. And with mergers there are usually power struggles... in which case your contact may be unsure of what business decisions to make.

(Incidentally, times of upheaval are a good time for copywriters to get their foot in the door. A messy event is called a "trigger event" because it triggers opportunity for you!)

So these are tips on what to expect as you rise higher in the copywriting world... and how to handle each situation with grace and aplomb.


I would send a maximum of three emails (one every three days), and on the third email (about the 9th day) I'd say that it appears the project is stalled. I would leave the door open by letting the client know that "I'm setting the file aside, but I'm here when and if you move forward."

When you show your client that you respect your own time, they will respect it too.

Chris Marlow is the original copywriters coach since 2003, bringing copywriters into the world of high quality clients and maximum career satisfaction. Chris also helps copywriters achieve thought-leader status in their niche markets and create new revenue streams with information products. For more information, follow these links: http://www.thecopywriterscoach.com http://www.chrismarlow.com

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