Get scripts, with and without dormancy fees, for responding to a client who asks to pause their project and come back to it at a later date.
What’s the comeback for when a client asks to put their project on hold and come back to it later.
If you stopped paying your accountant, they wouldn’t log into your Quickbooks account to make sure you were still keeping good records. If you stopped paying your email marketing provider or hosting provider, they wouldn’t keep maintaining your email list or keep hosting your website for free. Yet, when it comes to digital services, most people have no qualms asking to pause projects and expecting there to be no consequences.
Because few digital agencies, web designers, and web developers hold their clients accountable to the terms and conditions included in the contracts they sign. The fear of losing a client or making a client mad is so high that poor business practices are tolerated. This then leads to lost revenue and little to no profits.
As a business owner and professional service provider, you must establish standard operating procedures (SOP) for how requests to pause projects are handled. You also need to define how you’ll handle project dormancy and eventual cancellation.
If you’re okay with pausing the project with no extra fee…
There will be times that an unplanned obstacle or challenge shows up for a client that impacts their ability to move forward. While some clients may cancel a project, others will ask to pause the project and pick it back up later. And if the only issue that pausing a project creates is an unexpected opening in your workflow, accommodating the client may be easy.
Thanks for letting me know what’s going on.
I totally understand that sometimes life/work gets in the way of even the best-laid plans and that unexpected circumstances can derail the best intentions. It’s never ideal, but at times, it’s reality.
I am happy to pause your project and revisit it later — but to do so, I’ll need to get a signed contract amendment in place to outline the new terms and timeline so we both move forward with clear expectations and we don’t leave things open-ended.
Please give me a day to get that over to you. Then look it over, and if everything looks good, simply sign it and return it.
If you require a dormancy fee to pause the project…
If the project the client wants to pause is a website project and staging sites, local development environments, and theme development have already been started, the implications of pausing the project are more serious. In this case, even though the project is paused, there is still a website environment that must be managed, software that must be updated, and space on servers or in limited licenses that must be accounted for.
For paused projects that require active management, your operating procedure may require a dormancy fee to cover the cost of maintaining the in-progress site while the project is paused.
Thanks for letting me know what’s going on.
I understand that sometimes life/work gets in the way of even the best-laid plans and that unexpected circumstances can derail the best intentions. It’s never ideal, but at times, it’s reality. I am so sorry you’re in this situation.
I am happy to pause your project and revisit it at a later date, but to do so will require a dormancy contract amendment and an additional fee.
Even though our work is paused, the in-progress site will still require ongoing attention. I’ll need to keep it in my project management system, maintain the development site, update WordPress and the plugins installed, and back up the files — all of which are outside the scope of our current agreement.
Please give me a day to get the amendment that outlines the new terms, timeline, expiration, and fee over to you so we can move forward with clear expectations. If everything looks good, all you need to do is sign the amendment and pay the dormancy fee to officially pause the project until [DATE].
I look forward to hearing from you.
These scripts are just two you’ll find in Confident Comebacks, a collection of professional client service scripts that will help you quickly and confidently craft firm, fair, friendly responses to sticky client situations.
A Note About Project Dormancy
In this blog post, we’re talking about the intentional pausing of a project — purposely moving it into a state of dormancy until the client is ready to re-engage. It’s fairly easy to manage when a client proactively asks to pause work.
But this isn’t the only time project dormancy comes into play.
Dormancy also becomes an issue when a client disappears in the middle of a project, stops responding to your communication, and/or misses important deadlines and milestones with no advance notice or warning. A project can become dormant due to inaction by the client and a persistent lack of progress.
Many freelancers include dormancy clauses in their contract terms and conditions along with cancellation clauses that kick into effect once a project has been dormant for a specific amount of time. These clauses address what happens when a client ghosts you mid-project and give you the parameters for when a project becomes dormant, what the consequences of dormancy are, and how long a project can remain dormant before it is canceled.
If you don’t have these clauses in your contract, now is a great time to define those operating procedures and add them!