A huge part of hustling or even living, is failing.
People don't respond to your carefully crafted emails, and fail to honour you despite million follow-ups. They set up meetings and forget about you. They speak to you over multiple calls and then ghost you. It is hurtful. In many Indian business contexts, being recalcitrant has been normalised. But it shouldn't be.
I've been freelancing seriously for over a year now. I've made more money than I thought I ever would when I started out. Freelancing is more networking and hustling, building contacts and ensuring you keep them up so you can get referred. I don't like the word hustle. But it's all I've got for now.
As a freelancer, I network — a lot. But I also need to respond to enquiries, cold emails and pitch notes. In a week I receive at least three enquiries for writing services. I always respond. I know that the person on the other end waits to hear from me, so I never ignore emails or messages. I've refused projects simply because I've been busy. But I've always communicated that.
That being said, no one owes you a response. But what they do owe, and I think is very important, is kindness and clarity. A simple yes or no, so you can heave a sigh of relief and move on. Freelancing, or simply living, you deserve relief, kindness and clear communication.
If this happens to you, here's what you can do.
Write them an email with the following information, questions and requests.
- Detail the context of the project and the number of times you've interacted with them, and the duration for which you've waited for a response.
- Find out if they have any updates for you — pushed deadlines, reworked project ideas and timelines, scrapped projects, organisational changes, etc.
- Openly ask them if they plan on working with you, or if they're looking to work with someone else.
- Tell them that you'd like to know for sure so that you can remove their business off your list of potential clients.
- Request for a response and mention that this will save their as well as your time.
- Add that there are no hard feelings, and that you're only expecting communication.
It's super tempting to be rude or sarcastic in the email. But avoid that. Use neutral language. Be genuinely curious in your email. Remember, you owe them kindness and clarity too.
Each time I've been ghosted, I've done this and I've received responses. I even went on to work with a few of these 'ghosted' clients. This has worked for me, and I hope it does for you too.
If the ghoster still doesn't respond, give yourself a two-week waiting period after which you can remove them from your potential client list. It's better to work with someone who communicates clearly than with someone that doesn't even want to engage.
When your colleagues do this to you, ask for it. When friends do it to you, ask them why. Don't normalise ghosting. You matter, and you add value no matter where you go. If you're conflicted, don't put things off for too long. The longer you let it brew, the worse it gets. Make your mind up and communicate. It only takes a few minutes.
If this was helpful, consider supporting me in my 100-day writing project where I break down complex problems like the one above with practical solutions.
Cover image by Swathi