What to Do When Constant Client Emails Keep You from Working

I love my clients. They keep me in business and they allow me to have the kind of career and lifestyle I’ve always wanted. However that’s not to say they aren’t without their vices. The busier we get as freelancers, the less time we have to answer emails, yet the more emails we seem to get.

What’s worse is that we often get several clients who seemed to need babysitting on the web. While I don’t mind teaching my clients how to use their new sites, I’ve come across several clients that would literally email me at least 10-15 times a day on every subject from their website, to SEO, to using email, to turning on their computer.

The End of Productive Work…

The truth is, we don’t have the time to waste on these clients, and these clients waste a TON of time. Another problem is that these “quick” questions can really add up, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent two hours on their questions and didn’t get paid a dime for it. So how do we politely tell them to stop emailing us so much or inform them that we need to charge for these emails while still keeping them as clients?

While it’s tempting to just put up with it and hope they’ll eventually stop, the truth is, that if you keep giving them free advice, they’ll keep coming back (and not coming back in a good way).

That’s not to say however, that we should charge for every question. There’s nothing wrong with answering questions. But, what if client is still sending you several emails a day, months after the projects finished? What if you get two clients like that, or three? You can easily spend your entire day dealing with these clients and their “quick” emails.

So, How Do We Deal with Constant Client Emails?

There are several ways I’ve dealt with these clients and none of them were easy. It’s uncomfortable to approach the client on this kind of subject, but it’s something almost all of us will have to do at least once or twice in our freelance careers.

  • Charge them for emails–I finally got fed up with one of my favorite clients after the launch of their site. They were literally sending me several emails a day, six months after the project ended. So, I spent a good amount of time carefully drafting an email to let them know that I would love to help them, but couldn’t devote all of my time to answering their questions thoroughly, as spending so much time would be unfair to my paying clients. I would happily answer all of their questions for an hourly fee if they wished. Needless to say, they stopped asking questions.
  • Charge them for changes–I finally heard back from the same client several months later (I thought I had upset them with the previous email) asking me how to change X and X. I was furious. Hadn’t I just told them I could no longer accept their requests for free? But then I realized something–what if they just didn’t understand how to ask for changes the right way? So, I responded: “I would love to do X and X for you for $xxx. I can fit that in tomorrow for you if you’d like.” To my surprise, they were ecstatic and paid me right away. Clients who ask for stuff may seem like they are asking it for free, but may just not know how to ask for a quote.
  • Tell them to stop–Another client I had blatantly refused to pay any more money for the extra support, but would literally fly off the handle, screaming and crying in her emails (yes, I could tell she was crying from an email) if I didn’t help her right away. After refusing multiple quotes I sent her, I finally told her that we had to end our relationship. I felt like I was back in high school with her drama antics!
  • Ignore them–Ignoring a client is never a good thing, but sometimes it’s your last resort. A third client I had (I seem to get a lot of bad ones, but I really have tons of great clients!) came from the referral of another client. I normally don’t take on non-agency/freelancer clients, but since I had coded her site underneath one of my clients and she wanted me to take care of maintenance, I went ahead and accepted. Big mistake. She refused to pay for any maintenance on the site and wanted me to walk her through how to do it herself (for free, of course). When I did and she blew up the site, she expected me to fix it (for free, of course). If I didn’t answer her emails five minutes after she sent them, she’d have her manager send another email to me. Five minutes after that, she’d send a third. I got so tired of this, I told her I could no longer work with her due to my schedule. She continued to blow up my inbox until I finally stopped answering her emails, and finally she went somewhere else. I don’t like doing this, but sometimes it’s the only way to break up with a client!

All of these choices are difficult, but thinking about your options before you face the situation can help.

Your Thoughts

How have you dealt with these kinds of clients before? Was it easy?

Share how you dealt with them in the comments.

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