Ask Ellen: Just Hire Me Already

Advice from career and business coach Ellen Fondiler.

(Editor's Note: This advice column was originally published here on Ellen Fondiler's blog, Unlocked.)

Dear Ellen,

I’m self-employed and I’m dealing with something pretty frustrating. Here’s what’s been happening:

A potential client emails me. They seem interested in hiring me. They ask for more info about my services. I email back right away, attaching a personalized, detailed proposal. But then the client disappears! Either they don’t respond at all, or they say something like, “Thank you, but I’ve decided to postpone things for now.”

It’s really irritating when these kinds of clients waste my time and effort. I am not sure why this keeps happening. Any thoughts?

Just Hire Me Already

Dear JHMA,

Yes, this is a very frustrating dilemma! Every entrepreneur experiences this kind of situation, at least occasionally. You’re definitely not alone.

So, why does this keep happening over and over? Honestly, JHMA, it may have nothing to do with you.

Maybe this client contacted you eagerly, ready to begin work immediately, but then they received some terrible news about an illness or death in the family and now they’re completed overwhelmed.

Maybe they’re dealing with a complicated divorce and they’re falling behind on emails.

Maybe they dropped their iPhone into the ocean on a disastrous boating trip.

Maybe they got cold feet at the last moment because they’re struggling with financial difficulties, or because they’re doubting their own ability to succeed.

Maybe they’re battling depression.

Who knows what’s going on in their personal life? There are many reasons why someone might disappear or change their mind. Many times, it doesn’t have much to do with you.

That being said, it never hurts to examine your business practices to see if there’s anything you could improve. If clients repeatedly see your proposal and then vanish, it could be because…

• Your proposal is too long and confusing.

• Your proposal doesn’t feel enticing enough.

• Your proposal doesn’t match the way you present yourself on your website.

• Your proposal doesn’t have a sense of urgency and there’s no clear reason why they ought to hire you right now.

• Your communication style feels stiff and robotic, rather than warm and welcoming.

• You accidentally attached a photo of your dog instead of your proposal.

… or, some other issue.

It never hurts to ask yourself, “Is there anything that could be improved?”

If you’re not sure, sit down with a friend, walk them through your website, your emails, your proposals, all the pieces of your client intake process, and ask for their feedback. Ask them, “When you read this, how do you feel?” See what they say. It can be so valuable to get a fresh pair of eyes on your work.

To sum it up, JHMA, when a potential client mysteriously vanishes, it might have nothing to do with you. Or it might have everything to do with you. Or it might have just a little to do with you. In any event, there’s no point grumbling about it, right? The best thing to do is assess your business, make any improvements that you can, stride forward with optimism, and keep trying.

I’m rooting for you, and I hope your next client gives you a resounding “YES!”

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