If you do not know, then ghosting is: “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” As with freelancing, as with life: it’s all about relationships. People are happy when you respect agreements and deliver within deadlines.
With the rise of remote work, communication is more and more important. In this context, ghosting is the biggest sin a freelancer can commit. Not only will you look pretty dull, but it will damage your reputation and you will be doing yourself a disservice.
How ghosting hurts you as a freelancer
In short, people will perceive you as an unreliable person. Clients do not want to work with unreliable freelancers, because they introduce chaos into the business. They cannot be counted on.
I made an agreement with myself, that I want to only work with the greatest people I can find, no matter the price. I would rather not hire anyone than hire a person of weak character.
If you are in the habit of ghosting people, then you will probably not be able to maintain good working relationships with your clients. This means that your greatest clients, the ones who value stability and a great outcome rather than a cheap price, will drop you immediately. And I’m talking here about the scenario where you’ve actually been hired for the job.
Most probably, you’ll get a bitter cloud of bad communication around you and you won’t be even considered by the greatest clients.
Simple as that, if you suck at communication, you will be left with worse clients. The ones who value price alone, rather than the value they’ll get from your work. The ones who will refuse to pay for the job. The ones who argue with you about every little step, unable to give you responsibility and trust.
If you are ghosting people, then you cannot handle responsibility and trust. This all means you’ll earn far less than you could have done and your job will be much more painful. Funny thing, how the universe can reach back to you and settle the bills.
What ghosting says about you
Maybe you are good at your core skill, but you are not competent with managing your business, clients and their expectations.
If you never get back to your client with a proposition
Then your weak spot is being disorganized. You’ll be able to avoid this situation by simply tracking your tasks and clients. You are also missing a lot of value – every lead aiming for your services is kind of a small miracle. It is the result of your previous efforts in terms of great work, or at least a great sales process. And you are throwing this miracle away. Even if you figure out that you do not want to work on the project or with the particular client, then not getting back to them with an explanation is kind of rude.
On the other hand, if you explain to the client that you won’t or can’t engage with them, it’s all cool. They can move forward and will not lose unnecessary time with you.
When you start work and go on a silence streak
Then you’ll most probably have many weak spots and one of them will be missing the balls to take responsibility. A lot of things could go wrong and this is normal. You can get sick, you can go through a death in your family, hard break-up or a mental breakdown. You may even figure out in the middle, that you’ve screwed up and you won’t be able to finish the job, because you do not have the requisite know-how.
These things happen. It sucks, but the best solution is to contact your client and let them know the situation and that you won’t be able to continue the work. You can refund the money and move on to figuring out your situation.
How does ghosting damage your client?
Ghosting wastes your client’s time. The client probably won’t care about you that much. They may have chosen you, but would be equally ok working with someone else.
By prolonging the process and avoiding communication, it’s very hard for the client to identify the point in the time when they should cut you off.
Clients have already invested time into finding you and delegating the work.
There is also a small chance that something serious happened to you, and that you won’t be able to continue the work later. In this case, you are effectively delaying the client’s project. So you are not only causing trouble by not delivering the work, you are also completely blocking the delivery channel from anyone else and this is basically the worst business scenario for the client.
Learn to tell the bad news
As one wise man said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.” (ok, it was Rocky played by Sylvester Stallone). Learn to deliver bad news. Explain to the client what is wrong and try to figure out a solution to mitigate the damage. In the end, this will actually help you, because you will either be able to work towards a good outcome, or at least manage to avoid the reputation of a ghoster.