I recently had someone post in my forums with this issue, and I had a bit of advice I would like to share.
A more common issue than one would initially think amongst online service providers is clients going MIA (Missing In Action), where you might be sending email after email without any sort of response. This is often understandable, some clients have very busy schedules, families, appointments and more... In amongst their prioritising it could be that the service provider is left to their own devices, so what should you do....
Unless I Hear Otherwise...
"Unless I hear otherwise" can be your key to progressing forward, but only if the client doesn't suffer from MMM (Manic Micro Management). If your client loves to micro-manage what you're doing, then it could take them a while to come to terms with you getting on with the work saying things like "Unless I hear otherwise, I'm going to start ABC" or "Unless I hear otherwise I'll use XYZ to complete this project".Most people will be fine with it, and simply respond back with "Sure, thanks!" or "No, wait on that for a bit". Others will hate the fact that you're taking charge, really it's down to the individual, but it's worth trying this approach or mentioning that you take this approach on consultations, so for example...
"I know sometimes clients get very busy, so if I'm 80% sure I know what you want, I'll send you an email saying "unless I hear otherwise I'm going to do XYZ" - then if you don't get to respond, I'll know I can press forward, how does this sound, fair enough?"
This will give you the chance to get permission, to use "unless I hear otherwise" and hopefully progress without waiting around for the client.
If the client hasn't agreed to allow you to proceed using the method outlined above, or you simply aren't 80% sure of what you need to do, then you have to chase them down. In some cases you can agree with the client to be paid for the time you go about trying to pin them down for a response, but 9 times out of 10 service providers end up doing this without charging back, because they don't consider it billable time. If your client hasn't agreed to be charged for you chasing them for a response they're going to have to accept the fact that things aren't going to progress as they should.With my premier clients I will often chase them up and keep things moving as part of their premier service, they get special treatment because they pay for the privilege, but if they're not on premier support, you have to draw the line somewhere and allow the client to take responsibility for their own responses.
In this case you can use the "3 Stage Chase."
How It Works
There are (3) easy to copy and paste pre-defined emails that you customise and send in less than a minute, and they clearly indicate to the client the ball is in their court.
Email 1A pre-defined email you copy and paste:
I hope you're well, this is just a gentle reminder to say I haven't heard back from you regarding my message sent [DD/MM] - looking forward to hearing from you so I can proceed forward. Thanks!"
Email 2A pre-defined email you copy and paste:
I hope you're well, just a gentle reminder I haven't heard back from you regarding my message sent [DD/MM] - I am unable to proceed without a response.
I'd love to get this going, please can you respond so I know you are receiving my messages? Thanks!"
Email 3A pre-defined email you copy and paste and send from (2) different email addresses:
Just a reminder, I've been awaiting a response to my original message dated [DD/MM], unfortunately I haven't received a reply to my initial email and last 2 follow ups. This is a final reminder (which I'm sending from 2 email addresses just in case it's ending up in your spam folder for whatever reason!) - so please be aware that the project is on hold until I hear back from you at your earliest convenience. Thanks so much for your understanding and I do look forward to hearing from you!"
After the 3rd email, it's time to down tools and accept that you will need to wait, and fill your time doing other, more productive things.
Yes, the client hires us to do a job, to relieve the burden, but if they're not willing to allow you the freedom of "Unless I hear otherwise" and they're not willing to pay you for chasing them indefinitely until you eventually get a reply - using the 3 stage chase, you can take comfort knowing you've done what you can, and your client is now responsible for the progress of their own business.