It’s heartbreaking: You find a potential client, put together the perfect proposal, they say “Yes!” and then…the project just dies. No project…and no paycheck. Let’s talk about why that happens and what you can do about it.
First, let me just say that this premature project death happens to the best of us, even the very best. Clients that were extra jazzed about moving forward suddenly change their minds. And, if they’re at all classy, they’ll at least call or email you to tell you about it (instead of avoiding your attempts at communication).
So, why does it happen? Well, a client will give you any number of reasons; things like “we don’t have the money right now,” “our focus has changed,” or even something vague like “we just thought about it again and though now wasn’t the right time.”
Here’s the thing, though: None of these are the real reasons. I mean, yes, a company could be short on funds, but unless they’re on the verge of bankruptcy, a couple hundred dollar project with you will likely not close their doors.
Why Clients Change Their Minds
The real reason clients “change their minds” is that they’ve forgotten (or weren’t even initially clear on) the benefit to them of working with you. More specifically, they weren’t clear on the benefit of having you create these marketing pieces.
You Have to Remind Clients of the Benefit
The benefit of working with you is, fundamentally, that your pieces will help increase their revenue and get them new customers. And this benefit, by the way, is the absolute number one thing all small businesses want. So, if what you’d create for them would yield this result, and this is the result they most desire, what’s the problem? They don’t understand/remember that working with you yields this result.
It’s up to you to keep reminding them of this benefit throughout the pitching stage and even while you’re working on the project. A small business owner has a lot on his or her mind and it’s very easy to short-sightedly think that it’s a good idea to save money by cutting a project. It’s up to you to help remind them that the purpose of the project is to make money.
Reminder: You Can’t Guarantee Results (No Copywriters Can!)
Now, I’m not saying that you should make promises about how many customers you’ll bring in or how much money they’ll make—you’re not a psychic. And it’s not up to you to predict that. But what you can do is help them remember the results of the projects by just simply telling them what will happen.
For example, instead of just saying, “We’ll create a welcome email for you,” you can say something like, “We’ll start by working on your welcome email. This is the email that all new subscribers will get and it will help to build loyalty to your store, as well as help them understand what makes you different and why they should shop with you instead of your competitors.”
Can you see how that’s different? It’s easy to assume that clients fully understand and remember all of the benefits, but don’t make that assumption. Explaining the benefits of each project will also reinforce the benefits of doing the project and of working with you.
What If the Project *Still* Falls Through?
Now, that said, you can do all of the benefit-explaining you want, be the best darn service-provider the world as seen, and some projects will still just fall through. Clients get cold feet and sometimes there’s no way to change their minds.
When that happens, the best thing to do is spend a little time being disappointed (there’s no point in denying your feelings, after all) and then start prospecting for more clients. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t worry that there’s something wrong with you. It’s not a sign that you’re not meant to be a copywriter. (All of that is imposter syndrome and resistance!)
All that a project falling through means is that you’re not going to be working on that project—and that’s it.
Even if you sent the client a contract, and they signed it, it may get a little tricky. Your client may hold up their end of their bargain. For example, let’s say you charged 50% up front and made it clear that’s to hold space for their project. (After all, you’re turning down other work!). You do have every right to hang on to their money. If you can fill that space with other client work and you want to refund them, that’s an option, too. It’s really up to you and what decision you want to make.
But if they don’t pay? There’s little recourse unless you want to take them to small claims court. Is it crummy? Absolutely. But when the client comes back and wants to work with you again, you may opt to say, “no thank you!”
If you can learn anything else from the experience, that’s great. But the best thing to do is move on to the next project.
Have you ever had a project suddenly fall through? What happened? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on December 14, 2023