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

This month I’ll share a problem every copywriter

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

“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

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