Being ghosted by someone is both frustrating and deeply annoying. But, we have all been there. Whether it was by a delivery service you were expecting, a date that you clicked with but who never showed up again, or a gardener whose promised delivery date uneventfully passed on by. When someone you’re expecting something from goes incommunicado on you, it can be a frustrating experience. It can be even worse when it is a prospective client who reached out and promised to take the project ahead with you but then vanished into thin air. You sent a gentle email reminder, and then made a phone call, then emailed them again about how they probably missed your phone call because they were too busy, but all are met with radio silence. You were sure that you hit it off, but then, are left wondering where you went wrong. Before you beat yourself about it, here are a few guidelines from seasoned interior designers about how to avoid being ghosted, and also, how to deal with it.
For the purposes of this article, we shall use the term ‘client’ to refer to the prospective client even before a contract is signed.
Benefit of the Doubt
Before you get all emotional about being ghosted, a great practice would be to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are all living in uncertain times, and it is quite possible that their financial or living situation has changed. Possible scenarios might include:
- They suddenly had to move, and no longer need your interior design services anymore.
- Divorce or break up. Decisions made as a couple quickly unravel when the relationship falls apart.
- They might have thought that they were selecting your studio over another, but ultimately they reconsidered and they went with your competitor. (And, yes, designers have reported awkwardly running into their prospective clients shopping with their competitor at the local design center).
- They may have heard or read a poor review about you from a disgruntled ex-client.
- It could be a situation of illness or death, of themselves or of someone they love dearly.
- A loss of job, which could have led to a sudden financial or psychological crisis. Many designers say that if a prospective client goes into ghost mode then that usually means that they no longer have the budget, and they may be ashamed to reveal this.
Evaluate From Your Side
Once you have exhausted all possible scenarios, then the next step is to reevaluate your last discussion(s) to see if you could have done something differently to have prevented them from ghosting you.
- Did you come across as too intimidating?
- Did your pricing scare them off?
- Did you crack a political/inappropriate/racist joke that threw them off?
- Did it look like you hijacked their vision of the space and made it your vision instead?
- Did you give out too many solutions and ideas that overwhelmed the client?
- Did you do more talking than listening to their concerns?
- Did you get too personal and that made them uncomfortable?
- Did the way you explained your pricing give them sticker shock? Sometimes, it happens that you explained your design fee and additional costs together and it looked like a huge bill to foot.
Dealing With Ghosters
Once you have pondered over all these questions, here are a few recommended steps you can take to deal with ghosting clients:
1. Let It Go
This might seem like a lazy option, but in reality it is not Ask yourself whether this is your ideal client. Was this client just trying to get some free advice out of you? Assess whether this client is worth all the extra effort you are taking to get the deal. Sometimes, it is best to let them go, rather than hounding them. Calling and leaving a voice message every other day might look desperate and suspicious in cases where the client genuinely had a health or family emergency that caused them to lose contact with you. So, really think about whether you need this client in your life, or would you rather spend that effort on marketing your business and finding other clients.
2. Spread Out the Communication
If you decide that the first option is not for you, then plan your strategy to reach out to them so that you seem professional and not desperate. LuAnn Nigara suggests that you email them once a week, then once in two weeks, then once a month, and then quarterly.
Always keep your tone kind and concerned and never reveal the true frustration that you are actually experiencing because of the ghosting. Because when they do finally decide to hire you and make time to read your emails, they shouldn’t encounter a “DesignZilla” barking at them from their mailboxes. Let them know that they just crossed your mind and hope everything is alright with them.
3. Strategize the Money Matters Talk
Come up with a great strategy so that your clients are not scared off easily by sticker shock after your first discussion. Some designers never give out pricing in the first round of discussions. Instead, they ask for an approximate budget from the client, and then send a proposal that falls under a good, better, best category. Chances are most clients will choose the mid-range or better category, so that is where you should focus your proposal on. But mind you, there will still be clients who want the best for the price of the better. So make provisions to tackle such a scenario in your budget proposal.
4. Weed Out the Budget-less Clients
While some designers never give out their pricing at the initial meeting, some others feel that being upfront about your fees by posting them clearly on your website helps weed out clients who do not have the budget for your work. This way, there is less chance of a shock, and they are clients who already have the budget and know what to expect. This advice is mostly recommended by virtual designers.
5. Offer an Early Bird Discount
Some designers recommend that inserting an incentive of a small discount if they agree to proceed with the work within a stipulated time of proposal submission sometimes works well. For example, you could include, “get X% off on X service if you sign the contract and make the payment within 72 hours.” This creates the incentive to move forward with the project.
6. Send Out a Closure Email
As a last resort, one last way to deal with ghosts is to send out an email saying that you are closing all your files for the month and if you have their permission to go ahead and close theirs as well. Also, include a note that you thought that their project had great potential and it would be wonderful to work on it. This could jumpstart your client out of the slumber and get them to respond to you.
Ghosting sucks. No one likes to be on the receiving end of this unique form of radio silence that is born out of a promise. Sometimes getting ghosted is a result of the hardship of the client. For this reason, despite our disappointments, we need to maintain a sympathetic stance on the situation. Other times, getting ghosted is simply a sign that the client doesn’t have the courage to speak straight and let us down. In those cases, we can do nothing more than we do when someone communicates that message directly: see it, accept it, and move on. Getting ghosted is a great opportunity to practice non-attachment and unconditional acceptance. If looking at it from that angle, getting ghosted can actually help us become better people.
Have you ever been ghosted by a potential client? We would love to know how you handled such a situation. Please let us know in the comments below.