During all these years of working as a freelancer, I encountered a lot of clients. Even though I like my long-term clients and I’d love to talk about some of their amazing projects, this article is not about them. Today is about those with whom I didn’t get a chance to actually start working.

Let’s get straight to the point: What do you do when a client ghosts you once you sent them a quote for the project?

TLDR: nothing, move on, you might’ve dodged a bullet;

There is a certain flow taking place until you get to send a quote to the client. The flow changes based on how large the project is, less time is required to send a quote for a presentation site vs a custom CRM. Also, less information is required for the first compared to the latter.

Nonetheless, for any type of quote, you need to interact with the client before sending it. You need to get all the details, ask the questions to fill in the blanks, wait to get the extra details, maybe have another call to clear things up with the client and management (if that is the case), and a round 2 of questions, get the answers, send a quote.

At this point, you spend some time with the client and you should know if they are interested in going with your proposal or not, if the budget allows it, etc.

I’m assuming here that you’re pricing your services correctly and you’re not trying to scam people by overcharging. I’m also assuming that this happens after you had your fair share of interaction with the client before sending the offer.

You’ve gathered all the details you need and submit your proposal/quote/offer and all that is left to do is wait.  Days quickly pass and it’s been a week and you haven’t heard back from the client and you’re wondering what you’ve done wrong.

Here’s what might’ve happened:

  • The client missed the email or something came up.
    Life is full of surprises. After 1 week you can do a follow-up and see if everything ok and if they got your offer. This is the only acceptable situation. If it’s any of the other options below, you dodged a bullet.
  • The quote you sent was over the budget.
    If the quote you sent was over the budget this should’ve been clear before the moment you sent the quote. Them not replying is a sign of someone that was either not aware of the costs even after you explained the details or someone that was hoping to lowball you.
    I had a potential client that knew my hourly rate and was aware of how complex the project he wanted was but still left me hanging after sending the offer, given the fact that we had 3 different calls where we went over all the steps required.
  • They wanted to get all the details and went with someone cheaper.
    This brings me to the idea that maybe he did all these to get the things right and move on to work with someone that was cheaper.
  • The project got canceled once they realized the complexity.
    When projects are put together there might be multiple people involved and they all throw in ideas until you end up with a project that requires a big team and months of development. You’ve dodged a bullet here because the client isn’t able to estimate or understand how complex/time-consuming some things might be.
  • You’re talking to the middle man and your quote will take too much of his profit.
    This happens more than you think. Outsourcing is a profitable business and the middle man cares more about getting a bigger cut and not the quality. There is a threshold for quality that he can leverage on and he will use that bare limit for the project to maximize his profits.

What I’ve learned from this

  • Bill the time you use for consultancy. All the time for calls, to put together the documentation for the offer, to do your research, all this is you providing a service.
  • Ask about the budget they have for the project. Get a hard figure or at least a range. By doing that you will be aware if they can afford to go with the project as they first wanted or if tweaks need to be made. You can explain the details to the client, making him understand why the costs will be higher and what can be done with the current budget.
  • Don’t be upset about the silent treatment. You should always try and provide an offer with the price that you feel is fair for your work. If your work is outstanding and you can deliver a product that meets the requirements, you should be paid accordingly.
  • Consider this a great filter. As you perfect your craft, the services you provide will have a higher quality and they will come with a higher price tag. By moving up in the field you also want to work with clients that have interesting projects, budgets to complete them, and a better understanding of what it takes for the project to be completed. So you can think of this event as a way to filter your clients and narrow it down to those that you really want to work with.

In the end, I like this quote a lot:

Work for free or for full price, but never for cheap.

I feel it sums it up pretty well.