How do you nudge a dormant client?

A reader asks: “How do you nudge a dormant client? How can I get back in touch with a client who’s gone totally silent?

Why nudge dormant clients?

In my experience and opinion, nudging dormant clients–rekindling the flame with a client you worked with in the past–is one of the most successful and most overlooked marketing strategies that freelance translators can implement. Why? Because:

  • It’s much less onerous than starting from scratch with a completely new potential client. Think, “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed working on X project last year; haven’t heard from you in a while and would love to work together again,” rather than, “I’m a freelance English to German translator specializing in your industry and wondering if you might need my services.”
  • You already know that this client needs (or at least needed) your services and enjoyed working with you, assuming that you worked with them multiple times.
  • In your mind (or at least in mine!), the client has probably gone dormant for some deep, dark reason: like an egregious error in a translation that they were never willing to tell you about and that you never found. In reality, 99% of clients go dormant for completely benign reasons. They’ve simply forgotten about you, or the person you worked with left and didn’t give your contact information to the new person, or they honestly haven’t had any work that fits with what you do. But don’t use fear as an excuse for not nudging a dormant client: at least give them one nudge and see where it goes.

How do you nudge a dormant client?

Answer: as simply and directly as possible. This is not the time to air your paranoid fantasies about why the client hasn’t contacted you. If they really don’t want to work with you again, they’ll either tell you that or they won’t respond at all. Don’t borrow trouble here. Just send a quick, friendly e-mail that refreshes the client’s memory, something like:

“Dear Melissa, I hope that all is well with you. I’m just checking in with you, as I really enjoyed working on the German to English translation of your annual report last year. If you have additional translation needs, I’d love to work together again. Thank you and have a great day.”


“Dear Robert, I hope you’re doing well. In looking over my project records, I noticed that we haven’t worked together in a few months. I always look forward to projects from your agency, and I wondered if you might have anything in the pipeline that would be a good fit for my skills (Japanese to English financial translation). Thank you and have a good day.”


“Dear Melissa, I hope you’re doing well. I noticed that it’s been about eight months since I did the German to English translation of your annual report. I really enjoyed working on that project, and just wanted to check in and see whether you’ll be needing me for this year’s report? If so, I’m available and I’d be happy to speak with you further about it.”

When you nudge a dormant client, do not…

  • Don’t overdo it. The client will be turned off by a long message that dissects all the possible reasons they haven’t contacted you. “I’m not sure if you were dissatisfied with my work last time…” “I’m not sure if one of the other translators on the project talked negatively about me to you…” “I’m not sure if you’ve found someone cheaper and no longer want to work with me…” Of course we all wonder those things from time to time, but keep it to yourself (or vent to a trusted colleague). When you contact the client, keep it short and positive.
  • Don’t go into too much detail: the client doesn’t need to know your exact availability, or what adjustments you’d like to make if you work on another project with them. First, just remind them that you exist.

Now readers, over to you! I’d love to hear your experiences with nudging dormant clients. Better yet, use this post as a motivator to nudge a dormant client right now!

14 Responses to “How do you nudge a dormant client?”
  1. Chiara Vecchi February 27, 2020
    • Corinne McKay February 27, 2020
  2. Sabrina February 27, 2020
    • Corinne McKay February 27, 2020
  3. Julia Maitland February 27, 2020
    • Corinne McKay February 27, 2020
  4. Nathalie Reis February 27, 2020
    • Corinne McKay February 27, 2020
  5. Jennifer Weidenholzer February 27, 2020
    • Corinne McKay February 27, 2020
  6. Eman Riesh March 2, 2020
    • Corinne McKay March 2, 2020
  7. Steven Bammel May 21, 2020
    • Corinne McKay May 22, 2020

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