Professional ghosting. No. It's not just you.
Ghosting. It's a thing. As someone with no experience in the digital dating world, I was a little behind on what it was. However, since I started to work independently, I now have plenty of experience with it. Not in the dating world (no need to clutch your pearls), but from a professional perspective. Let me first tell you what ghosting is. Because the term might be new to you, you probably have experienced it or might have done it to someone. If the latter is the case, you can leave a comment below and go start explaining yourself, anonymously if you prefer. Anyway, it's when someone all of a sudden stops all communication with you. You're being iced without any apparent warning. I feel that there are two types of professional ghosting. For example, you apply to an open call, and you hear nothing back. Or worse, they ask you for a rate quote and don't get back to you, despite your follow-up messages to see if they want to negotiate. This is perhaps more being faded out than actual ghosting, as there's no real relationship yet between you and the prospective client. Nonetheless, it still leaves you with an uneasy feeling that you didn't handle it the right way.
Then there's the ghosting when you deliver work for a client, follow up again (and maybe twice), but hear nothing back. After a couple of days, you send an invoice anyway and hope for it to be paid, which it most often is, because it's a different department, but further than that, complete radio silence from your contact person. Was it something I said? Was I too quick with invoicing them? Or was it just a fleeting work relationship for the project and since this has finished, there's no need to linger and expect any further dialogue? I've had both versions of professional ghosting happen to me. My reaction to this was, after sending a follow-up message, that I did something wrong. Making me second-guess any email interaction, Slack conversation, Zoom call or WhatsApp message that I had with this client. Re-reading everything, double-checking for any red flags from them or perhaps rudeness from me.
Ghosting is a very unfair way of stepping out of someone's life, personally or professionally. You remove yourself from the relationship and leave without saying anything or giving any hint as to why. It's easy to do when you are the ghoster because there's no drama or difficult discussions to be held. But for the other person, it's just somewhat cruel. You leave them with unanswered messages and a lot of self-doubts. Because ghosting makes you so insecure. There's nothing wrong with rejection, people can handle it. However, by not letting the other person know why you are not continuing to work with them, you leave them wondering and second-guessing themselves. And this self-doubt can be detrimental for independent workers and freelancers. For us, there's no annual review, peer appraisal or other forms of feedback. The only way to know if you're doing a good job is paid work from happy clients and a nice working relationship.
Let's end this on a happy note. Normally, I like to give some advice, but I have none when it comes to ghosting. I'm just terrible at handling it myself. But before you say, "but Lindsay, you said finish on a positive note.." yes, yes, just know that you're not the only one who has experienced this. Know that we can always form a support group of ghosted freelancers if you want. Just email or DM me, I'll answer back. Pinky promise.