5 Email scripts for following up when a client is unresponsive

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When sending an initial client intake questionnaire, proposal, contract, initial designs, or anything where you’ve asked a client to take action, you need to follow up if you don’t hear back from them.

Many freelancers don’t realize how important it is to follow up with prospects. We often only give prospects one chance to respond and if they don’t bite we throw up our hands, sigh and say, “Oh well.”

How to follow up

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of a business following up with you and didn’t notice it was an established sequence they were following as part of their operating procedures. A typical follow-up sequence for most businesses is 5-6 emails before moving on if you are unresponsive.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

You can actually test this. Try it. Sign up for a service or SAAS product demo and don’t respond to any of their follow up emails and see what happens.

This will give you an idea of how persistent you need to be and you’ll get a first-hand look at their follow-up sequence.

Now if a company that has no existing relationship with you is willing to follow up that many times, it’s a given that you should continue to be persistent with prospects you’ve had some form of actual correspondence with.

Why they don’t respond

The reason they don’t respond to you is that they have other stuff going on. It’s as simple as that.

As you’ll see below in an email exchange between myself and a prospect (who’s now my client), they have different reasons why they might not respond. Mostly it’s because they are running a business and have bills to pay, employees to manage, and meetings to attend.

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You’re not their #1 priority. You’d be lucky to be top 5 on their priority list. So naturally, getting back to you sometimes doesn’t happen.

Did I say sometimes?

In actuality, I almost always follow up with a prospect after the first interaction before they get back to me. I expect it to be that way and that’s when I use my 5 step follow up sequence.

What to do when they don’t respond

Let’s say a prospect has contacted you. They’ve answered your initial questions about their project, and you’ve put together a proposal and sent it to them.

You get silence. No response. What do you do?

It’s certainly not the time to do nothing. You need to follow up!

Below are the steps I use to send a proposal and follow up with unresponsive prospects.

Step 1. Send proposal

Subject: Project Proposal


I’ve attached a proposal for you to review. Please look it over and let me know your thoughts.

If one of the packages looks good, and you wish to move forward, the next step is to let me know which package you would like to proceed with. I’ll then get a contract together for you to review, and we’ll proceed from there.

Feel free to ask me any questions about the packages.

I look forward to hearing back from you.


Step 2. First follow-up

If I haven’t heard back, three business days after I’ve sent the proposal I send follow up email #1:

Subject: Project Proposal


I wanted to follow up on the proposal I sent over on [INSERT DATE SENT].

I’d like to set up a call to discuss any questions you might have.

I’m available to talk between [INSERT MULTIPLE TIME OPTIONS], or between [INSERT SECOND OPTION (date, time and time zone)]

If these times don’t work, let me know and I’ll work around your schedule.

Please let me know if you are still interested, and if so, which day works for you.

Thanks again for the opportunity,


Pro Tip: Always send an email with a call to action. This keeps the process moving along. In this email, I am assuming they have questions, and I’d like to address those questions by setting up a call with them.

Often, they’ll schedule the call. Other times, they’ll respond to the email with questions about the process. Either response is fine.

Step 3. The reminder

If I hear nothing, I’ll follow up three or four days later with follow up email #2:

Hi [NAME],

Just floating this to the top of your inbox in case you missed it.



This email gives them a friendly nudge to respond. It’s really short and non confrontational and is just a gentle reminder.

I’ve opened a loop by asking them to set up a call and this email reminds them of that loop. They haven’t responded yet so that loop is still open in their mind and they may be keen to close it.

I’ll often get some sort of response from them at this point, but if I don’t hear from them, now is when I start to assume the project is not going to happen.

By now the expiration date on my proposal has passed, and they haven’t been responsive. However, I still go all the way to the end of the follow up sequence.

Step 4. Final attempt

I wait a full week and then I send follow up email #3 in the same email thread:

Hi [NAME],

Is this project still a priority for you? I’ve been keeping space open in my schedule for this project, but if you’ve decided to go in another direction that’s no problem. Just let me know.


This email has a very direct tone and may get a quick response out of them that gives some reason for not responding earlier. Something like, “I was traveling,” or “Sorry, I was very busy.”

Step 5. Close the loop

If I don’t hear back after another week, I close the loop and get it out of my mind by sending follow up email #4 letting them know I’ve moved on and will no longer be emailing them about this project:

Hi [NAME],

Since I have not heard back from you, I have to assume your priorities have changed.

Let me know if I can be of any help in the future.


Sending this email allows me to move on from any ideas or plans I might have had for this potential project. It’s tough when a project comes along that looks promising because inevitably, as a designer, you start to create a vision for the project.

Closing the loop on the project allows me to put that vision to rest so I can move on and stop wasting my time thinking about it.

A real life example

Below is real email exchange that shows how this can play out. You’ll see the prospect didn’t respond until I followed up with them using one of the scripts above.

It is so common for them to not respond right away that I always assume I will need to follow up. I expect it.


Notice the dates. I sent an email with the proposal, and the prospect’s first response was to confirm receipt of the proposal. That was late on a Friday evening, so I didn’t send my email (Jan 11) until Monday morning.

After 3 business days (Jan 14), I sent him the follow-up email asking to set up a call.

Here’s the rest of the email chain after I answered some questions he had about the process:


You can see how this process can take a while. It could have been sped up if he decided to take the phone call appointment with me, but he’s a busy guy and always answered my emails late in the evening after work.

Not surprisingly, his #1 priority is his business, not me.

You can see here that you have to be patient, but also keep the process moving along. Had I not followed up, it’s possible I would have never heard from him again.

What you can do today

So what’s the one thing you can do today?

The one thing you can do is get your follow-up sequence in place. Go with the expectation that you won’t hear back from a prospect on the first pass and the next time you send a client a proposal and don’t hear back, you’ll be ready for it and know what to do next.

What are some ways you deal with unresponsive clients? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

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About Ian Vadas

Ian Vadas is a designer and the author of Work With Clients You Love. Get the eBook to learn how to select clients that pay well, treat you with respect and allow you to do your best work.

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Leave a Comment



  1. Great advice, Ian!
    Prospects who disappear after receiving our proposal is very common among freelancers and often discussed.

    I think a 2nd or 3rd follow up email would be enough for me.
    I don’t want to be pushy, because in my case, 90% of the prospects who don’t respond, they just don’t have the budget.
    And many of them feel uncomfortable to admit it.
    (I am an architect and my fee is only a small part of the whole amount one has to invest.)

    • Thanks Maria! Yes, working with the right clients is even more important than following up.

      It’s one of those things where you do it right in the beginning or all the other tactical stuff down the road becomes irrelevant.

      If you are working with the wrong people, following up with them is not going to help your cause.

      So what I do is first send a client questionnaire with a minimum budget amount on it. That way, if I’ve gotten to the point of writing a proposal for them, I know they at least meet the budget requirement.

      The reason I go all the way to the end of the sequence is really just to get it out of my head. At the point of sending them the Closing The Loop email, I am just looking for closure for myself so I can move on.

  2. This is a great reminder to follow up. So many forget this important step. I have my own “3 strikes and out” unofficial rule. I contact my potential clients 3 times after the initial proposal is sent. Usually once a couple days after, another about week after, and then a 3rd about a week after that. Usually after this point, they are “a gonner”, but you never know. I do keep “the loop” somewhat open so that I can reach out again…even if it’s months or a year later. I’ve actually had responses that far after. And if they haven’t officially told you no then they shouldn’t be annoyed if you keep reaching out 🙂

    • Thanks Mindy!

      I do something slightly different by reaching out later on down the road.

      About 6 months down the road I reach out and open a new loop by asking if there is something they need help with.

      If the timing is right, they may decide to respond and resurrect the old proposal or start a new proposal.

  3. Question for ya, though. I have a long-standing client that has been wonderful. One of those that you don’t want to lose. We have done several projects for him over the years. Recently we proposed ongoing marketing services/social media management. I sent him an email outlining the basics of what we would do and a starting price range to see if it was in the ballpark of what he was thinking. He never addressed that email, but we have interacted several times since then about other projects or questions he had. I specifically asked about it multiple times, but he still never responded. I do not want to chance being pushy since he is such a good client, but at the same time I really want to know if he is still interested. Any advice on how to gingerly approach it would be great!

    • Good question. Well, does he still have a need for ongoing marketing services/social media management? If he does, I don’t think it is pushy to ask about it. If you ask about it showing you are genuinely curious and interested in helping him and his business.

      So I would ask from his perspective.

      Instead of asking about the proposal, ask if he still has the problem that was the genesis for the proposal in the first place.

      Ask as though you want to know if he still has that problem that you were trying to solve for him. Get him talking about that first. You could ask him a two-part question: “Is that still a problem for you and is it a priority for you to fix it?”

      It could be the timing is not right. It could be that he has other more pressing issues. I would simply try to have a conversation about his business with him to get a feel for what situation he is in.

      From there, you can figure out if it is still a priority or not.

      The budget matter is probably less important if you have worked with him in the past and those projects were in the same or similar range as what you proposed.

      If so, then you know the money if there.

      The goal then becomes more about showing him that social media management and ongoing marketing management is important because it will help grow him brand, free up time for him to focus on things that he does best, etc.

  4. The article is good and indeed very very helpful especially as a reminder to follow up and offer that tiny bit extra in conversation.

    I did feel the 4th and 5th email is a bit cold in its words. Do you have a suggestion to deliver the same message in a better tone?


  5. Great article and great advice, especially for newbies. I find it can be tricky getting the right tone over email and being confident, but not sounding bossy.
    I found your “I’ve attached a proposal for you to review. Please look it over and let me know your thoughts” a little pushy/bossy.
    If you’ve had success with that perhaps I should try it! I’m just very sensitive to being told what to do!
    I do tend to assume if I don’t hear back by 2nd or 3rd email that the client (or potential client) isn’t interested, but perhaps a bit more persistance is needed.
    Thanks for this!

  6. Hey Ian,

    Thanks so much for this! I don’t always remember to follow-up, which is why I got Boomerang to keep track of all the emails I send.

    But when I do, it’s amazing how often I get responses back saying something along the lines of “sorry I took a while to respond I was…sick, dealing with a family emergency, on vacation, etc.”

  7. Thanks for your great help regarding following up old clients, but how to get new good paying clients? What’s your strategy for this part of getting new business?

  8. This is what my client replied after step 4 of my email.

    “I don’t think it’s any of your business to question my priorities, I am a client to you, you have given your proposal i will respond at my convenience.
    We are busy with other things, you are at your liberty to engage yourself.