Whether you’re a videographer, photographer or anyone that works with clients, odds are you’ve been ghosted by a potential client before. It happens to us all at some point but to make things more interesting, have you ever had a client pay your non-refundable retainer and sign your contract to then never hear from them again? I have. Three times, actually. Let me just get into it, especially since we had to add specific verbiage to our contract because of these situations.
What Does Being ‘Ghosted’ By A Client Mean?
We’ve all heard of “being ghosted” in dating terms when a person never hears back from someone, especially when they thought things went well, but nowadays, it happens even in the business world.
Often times it goes like this:
- A potential client reaches out
- You have a phone or in-person meeting to discuss details on the project or service they’re planning on hiring you for
- It goes well and then you send over a contract
- You never hear from them again
Sound familiar? Yep. It happens to all of us. Don’t take it personal, stay professional and simply move on (though, I always send a follow-up message to them regardless).
Now things get interesting if they’ve paid a non-refundable retainer and then you never hear back…
Being Ghosted By Clients After They Pay Non-Refundable Retainer And Signed Your Contract
Believe it or not, this has happened to us on three different occasions. Each time that this has happened has been slightly different but this is how the process generally goes:
- A potential client reaches out
- We have a phone or in-person meeting to discuss details on the project or service they’re planning on hiring us for
- It goes well and then we send over a contract as well as invoice for a non-refundable retainer
- They pay our non-refundable retainer and sign the contract
- We try to schedule a date that works for both of us for the film shoot
- They get busy, are going out of town, (or some other excuse goes here) and will schedule when they’re available
- We follow up once, twice, thrice, within a month or two timeframe, which they read the messages/emails and we never hear from them again
We’re just as perplexed as you probably are while reading this.
What Should We Do In This Situation?
We know what you’re probably thinking: “They paid you a non-refundable retainer, FREE money for doing nothing! Keep it and move on!”
Although, that is essentially what happens, we actually want to do the work they hired us for. But if we never hear back, then we can’t.
So, what do we do?
Well, each time we implemented something new from these learning experiences.
Side note and fun fact: we actually had a client pay us the non-refundable retainer, remaining balance, we filmed and edited but needed, not only their approval to finalize the video, but their logo and other materials to include, and then never heard back after numerous failed email attempts, calls with voicemail messages and texts.
Luckily, it was an organization which we could look up other contacts and we resolved it that way.
But back to implementing new processes from these learning experiences.
New Steps We’ve Implemented Because Of These Situations
Although these situations don’t happen often, you want to be able to protect yourself from things such as:
- If they claim you never contacted them or they never received your messages
- If they come back a year or two later (after your rates or entire company’s procedure has changed) wanting to pick up where they left off
- If they claim you weren’t trying to actually do the work, for some reason
- You potentially losing out on other work if they’re constantly rescheduling (if you turn down another client on the same day, for instance)
These are the steps we’ve implemented over the years and I’m sure we’ll adjust accordingly in the future as well and suggest you always do the same to fit your business:
Reach out multiple times in different ways (emails, phone, social media): We understand people get busy so courtesy follow-up usually works. But after a couple of months of no response, we’ll eventually send an email stating if we don’t hear back by a certain date, we’ll assume they no longer need our services and any payments up to that point will be forfeited.
Adding specific items to our contract for the future so they know in advance: We actually did this after the latest ghosted payment because anything more than once, may happen again so we want to be transparent and covered within our contract.
Below is the wording we included in our contract (we are NOT lawyers so please always have a professional look over your contracts), which we’re constantly changing our contract to reflect circumstances that will help protect the clients as well as ourselves:
Expiration and Cancellation
Current contract agreement is valid 2 weeks post origination date to secure services. If Client fails to return signed contract agreement and/or non-refundable retainer within specified time frame, contract voids and a new agreement will need to be created and issued.
If Client fails to arrange film dates or anything that will prevent the Company from performing the scope of work after contract is signed and non-refundable retainer is paid, the Company will make reasonable attempts to contact Client. If Client fails to respond, arrange film dates or supply Company with material needed to finish scope of work, contract will expire one year from original date of signed contract.
If the event is cancelled or Client cancels, the Client must notify Company immediately in writing. Company will work with Client in an attempt to reschedule an agreed upon date within one year of the original filming date. If the event is rescheduled more than twice then this contract becomes void and no refunds will be granted. In the event that the Company is not available for the new date, Company will refund Client any payments except for the non-refundable retainer.
Unfortunately, we will probably never know what happened since we were unable to get in touch with these previous clients. We can only do what we can as well as prepare for these situations if they ever happen in the future. Hopefully our experience helps you prepare by adding things to your contract to protect you and your company for the future.
Let’s just hope this doesn’t happen to you, let alone, happen three times!
If this has happened, we would love to hear what happened and what you did!
Please let us know and let’s hope we don’t get ghosted anymore!
… I’m being optimistic, of course.