What’s worse than a potential client turning you down for another photographer? A potential client telling you that you’re too expensive? A potential client saying they’ll book “possibly in the future”?

A ghost. A ghost by definition is a person (in this case a potential or existing client) who inquires and initiates a conversation with you and then suddenly ceases all communication via any form. They don’t decline your offer. They don’t give any type of explanation. They just STOP RESPONDING.

We’ve allllllll been there; I’m reasonably certain of it.  And honestly, it is a terrible, hide your head under the pillow, nervously eat a tub of ice cream and scroll back through every message you’ve ever sent them moment. It is awful to feel rejected, disrespected, and abandoned. It makes us question ourselves as business owners, salespeople, and communicators. We suddenly become VERY insecure. What did I do wrong? Was I too pushy? What did I say that turned them off? Should I follow up again? Should I just leave them be?

IT’S A CONFUSING TIME Y’ALL!

So I bring you my five best tips on how to respond to ghosting. Keep them in your back pocket, and the next time you encounter an evaporating client, don’t let insecurity bite you in the butt. Follow the steps and know; it’s probably not you.

Cole's Classroom ghosted by a client

1. Stay professional.

I know how you’re feeling right at this moment. You’re shaking in your boots, or you’re mad as hell. Our natural instincts when we are rejected or abandoned are typically one of two responses (or a nice salty combo!) to become instantly apologetic and beg and grovel or to become immediately infuriated and call the person out. What did we do to cause this? Why are they treating us so poorly? WHAT THE HECK, MAN? Remember, don’t make things worse. Going off on a client is NEVER okay. Do not make accusations or tell them they’re “wasting your time.” Do not make things personal or about hurt feelings. Do not beg or plead for their attention and response or offer sudden discounts and incentives to respond to you. Keep things professional and courteous. Follow up with them in a nice, polite manner and avoid burning any bridges.

2. Let it breathe.

You’ve put up the follow-up message, and now you’re questioning that too. Clearly, they have to respond now, right?! Should you just check every 5 minutes or so? Seems healthy (NOT!) Now is the time to let it breathe. Give things some space and some time. You do not know why the client isn’t responding, and it may be a very legitimate reason. Things come up in people’s lives. Don’t smother the situation. After your professional and proactive follow up, give it a few days to be seen, pondered, responded to. Sometimes after this step, you’ll get a very reassuring…

Cole's Classroom ghosted

“Oh my goodness I am SO sorry! Our ( toddler got sick// family dog died// bathroom flooded) and I totally spaced on responding to your last message! I feel terrible. Let’s go ahead and book that family portrait session for the 1st of the month. Send me the contract and deposit invoice, and I’ll take care of both today. I appreciate your patience!”

Annnnnddddd… Sometimes you won’t. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a chance. Set your timer for 48-72 hours and relax.

3. Take it offline. 

This one is simple, switch up your approach. Give the client a call to follow up. Changing up your method of communication and making it a more personal, live one can sometimes make all the difference. Maybe your client found you on Facebook but doesn’t generally frequent social media. Maybe they prefer the personal touch of a phone call. Maybe they thought you’d call all along! Give ’em a ring; it could be just the thing!

BONUS POINTS: If you do get ahold of them on the phone, but they are still wishy-washy about whether or not they’ll be booking, offer to set up an in-person free consultation. Again, some people are genuinely nervous about committing to someone they’ve only spoken to online (catfish anyone?) even when it comes to a business relationship. Sometimes they need that cup of coffee down the road at Starbucks and to see that you’re not a serial killer to follow through with the booking and that’s okay!

Cole's Classroom ghosted by clients

4. Don’t take things so personally.

Okay, easier said than done, I know. But remember, most of the time, ghosting has very little to do with you. Chances are the person: 1. Forgot about it completely. 2. Got too busy to commit to what they had been initially interested in and… 3. Have decided to go another way and are avoiding an awkward conversation due to their guilt, fears, or insecurities. It comes down to ease and comfort most of the time. The client may just be ignoring you until you go away, which is not nice or mature or thoughtful but is still not a reflection on you.

5. Move on.

The maximum amount of follow up I’d advise would be one initial short follow up message, a phone call a couple of days later and a final send-off, “I’d love to work with you in the future” closure message.

Don’t stalk your client and send 57 Facebook messages. Don’t let your frustration and hurt come through. Try not to burn bridges you may want in the future; the ghost could end up reaching out months later and becoming a very solid repeat client you just don’t know. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t belittle. Tryyyyy not to call names. Don’t talk about your personal hurt. Don’t shame the client. And don’t assume you know their situation. Grudges don’t help build professional networks. Put the flame thrower away and keep your bridges intact. It’s a new day, and there are new clients to swoon. Let it go.