How To Prod Your Clients To Get Things Done

It’s likely that at some point in your career, you will have an indecisive client. Maybe they have a hard time making decisions, or maybe they’re just not getting around to it. In any case, it may mean that you’re waiting on feedback from them before you can finish (and bill) the job. Today I want to share the prompt system I use to get things done.

You can’t send a job to print until the client approves the layout. You can’t begin retouching until the client selects their images. You can’t do your job until they do x,y, or z. There are a number of situations where you may find yourself stalled because of your client. Depending on the urgency and size of the job, I use a three step system to try to keep things on track.

1) The Reminder: You never want to be an annoyance to your clients, but you also want to stay on their radar. I usually send an email to confirm that they received the file/web gallery/layout/whatever. Give them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to get back to you, because maybe there was a hiccup and they think they’re waiting on you. Mine is something like:

“I just wanted to confirm that you received the [file/web gallery/layout/whatever] I sent on Monday? Please let me know if it didn’t reach you and I’ll be happy to resend it.”
I usually get an email back from them saying they’re very busy, and will get back to me by a specific date. If that date comes and goes without hearing from them, I move on to…..


2) The Gentle Prod: I try to explain a bit about why I need them to get back to me (ie. because they’re holding up the job), but framed in a helpful way. Something like:

“I just wanted to touch base with you regarding [project], and see if you’ve made any choices? Once I get your final image selections I can begin working on the retouching. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Sometimes this prompts them to action, sometimes I get another promised date, and sometimes they need…..


3) The Consequence-Based Prod: Suggest a deadline that you need to hear from them by, and then explain what will happen after that. I usually reiterate the gentle prod, and then add something like:

“I’m about to get swamped with work and would love to get this to you as soon as possible.”

I have a few clients from last year who still don’t have their wedding albums because they haven’t gotten back to me. I emailed them with a standard timeline for turnaround on a project like this, and then explained that I’m about to head into my new wedding season, and will be up to my eyeballs in work. If I don’t have their feedback before the deadline provided, the turnaround time will be doubled because I need to provide quality service to all of my clients. (One couple got back to me within one day of receiving the email.)


The whole process can be frustrating, but never be rude. After all, they’re you’re clients, and you should treat them well. Sometimes people drop the ball, sometimes they delegate to the wrong person, and sometimes the have a family emergency. Be understanding, be helpful, and just do your best to get it done.