I've had this happen with two potential clients now and I'm really hoping there's a good way to handle it.

I don't do this as a full time job, but I run into people every now and then that want me to write an app or website for them. I'm always happy for the opportunity and email them back right away, but sometimes I have to wait weeks or even MONTHS for them to reply. When they do reply, they're very apologetic; I try to be professional and tell them that it's OK because I understand what it's like to be busy.

But it's not really OK. The longer they take to reply, the more time I have to put off helping other people. I don't want to chew them out, but I do want them to be respectful of my time and understand that I could be helping other people. Has anyone else experienced this problem? What did you do to resolve it?

2 Answers 2


I used to run into the same problem. It happened for two reasons.

  1. I worked with the wrong types of clients
  2. I allowed it to happen

If you're picking "bottom of the barrel" clients that pay very little money, they have very little to loose. They also tend to be the most demanding and/or difficult clients. They don't care if it takes a week or year because they're not committed to the project.

So, to avoid it:

  1. Avoid these types of clients, or...
  2. Write something in your contract that releases you of your committed time frame if the client doesn't respond within a pre-determined amount of time. If the client fails to perform and you've made every reasonable attempt at keeping the project on track, place the client on hold and inform them (in a nice way) that their project has now been put on the back burner and they'll have to wait their turn going forward.

Don't let a non-performing client hold you back from other work. It's not ethical on their end and you shouldn't feel bad about being a bit forceful.

  • Thanks! This makes a lot of sense to me. I'll definitely be on the lookout to avoid clients like this in the future. The back burner is how I'll handle the clients I have. Aug 3, 2014 at 5:47
  • No problem! Good luck. Aug 3, 2014 at 6:00

I deal with this with my clients and I am this type of client sometimes to others. (Sorry, did they say how sorry they were?...)

First - as the contractor when I propose work I always include something along the lines of: The terms and conditions of the proposal are effective through _. Acceptance after that date may necessitate increased fees or altered conditions.

Never-mind no one seems to actually read the proposal, this still covers you if they come back months later.

I have not done this but I have ready others say they get fast invoice payment by offering a discount if they pay within a certain amount of time. That might work in a proposal too - 3% discount if you sign and send a deposit by ____ date...

And then some people charge a premium for rush jobs. So if they ignore you then respond months later and suddenly need it now but you're busy with a different client, you can say "We can do that under our premium price if you need it now..."

As to why they do this from the other side of the fence. Some people really ARE busy. Some are just disorganized. Regardless, what is one big project that you're hoping to land from your perspective may be one of 20 projects this person is trying to coordinate/manage and it's not their sole focus the way it may be yours.

It doesn't hurt to politely remind them you exist. They may be putting out the closest fires and you can become that next fire.

I have noticed in my line of work that most of my clients are like this so I expect it and accept it and just try not to let their demands become my emergency. Multiple times I have literally worked all night for last minute requests someone HAD to have right away only to discover later that it sat in their in box for days before they dealt with it. It's hard but now I try to stay calm and give realistic time frames and not spoil my clients by indulging their last minute emergency mindsets.

Good luck and I am curious to hear what you do if you get good results.


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