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How to Cancel a Meeting Without Upsetting Your Client (With Email Samples)

Aug 11, 2022
(updated: Jan 22, 2024)
Max 5 min read

Attending your scheduled meetings is professional etiquette. However, things can go wrong due to a personal emergency or work conflict, forcing you to cancel the meeting. Whatever the reason may be, canceling a meeting without upsetting your client can be tricky. If handled wrong, it can reflect poorly on you, lead to further misunderstandings, and make a client less eager to work together again in the future

So, if you need to call a meeting off, it's helpful to know how to do it in a way that won't upset anyone. In this article, we'll talk about the best practices for meeting cancellation, as well as how to write meeting cancellation emails without upsetting your client. We've also included some email examples that you can use as a reference. Let's get started!

Why is last-minute meeting cancellation a bad practice?

We've all been there. You're scheduled for a meeting, and something comes up. Maybe you have to stay at work late; maybe your child is sick; maybe you're just not feeling it. 

It's okay to postpone, but doing that at the last minute can have far-reaching consequences.

It’s disrespectful

When you call off at the very last moment, you're disrespecting everyone involved in the meeting. Time is precious in the professional community. By sending a last-minute message, you create the impression that you have no regard for others' time. 

It's inconsiderate

As we said, canceling a meeting wastes the time of everyone planning to attend. If you don't have a good reason for canceling, it's just rude.

It's unprofessional

It sends the message that you're not reliable, and people may start to wonder if you're committed to your work. This can damage your reputation and make clients apprehensive of doing business with you in the future.

It’s inconvenient

If you cancel at the last minute, it can be disruptive and interfere with other people's schedules. It's a significant inconvenience if everyone has to rearrange their schedules and find a new time to meet. 

It's a missed opportunity

Every meeting is an opportunity to build relationships, solve problems, and make progress. A cancellation means you miss out on all those things.

Meeting cancellation etiquettes to follow when notifying clients

It happens to the best of us. You have a client meeting scheduled, and something comes up that you can't get out of. Whatever the reason, a client may not take the cancellation positively. 

What can you do?

Follow these simple tips when notifying the client to smooth over the situation as much as possible.

Give early notice

As soon as you know that the meeting has to be called off, inform the client immediately. The earlier you let them know, the better it is for them to make alternative arrangements.

Meeting cancellation notice

It's courteous to send an email one week before the meeting. If that's not possible, inform them at least 24 hours before the scheduled time. Anything less than that may come across as rude and unprofessional.

What about a personal or family emergency?

In the case of a last-minute cancellation due to an unexpected family emergency, it is essential to propose an alternative date for the meeting to demonstrate your commitment and respect for the client's time.

Explain the reason

Be clear about why the meeting is called off. The client will want to know what happened and be honest with them. It will help them understand your situation. Your explanation should also be as concise and straightforward as possible.

Meeting cancellations - possible reasons

  1. Family Emergency: An urgent matter has come up in the family requiring immediate attention.
  2. Unforeseen Circumstances: Unexpected occurrences like sudden health issues or accidents have made it impossible to attend the meeting.
  3. Personal Reasons: Due to some personal considerations, the meeting can't be attended.
  4. Conflicting Schedules: Other commitments or meetings have been scheduled for the same time, leading to a clash.
  5. Double Booked: Due to a scheduling error, two meetings have been accidentally set for the same time.

Be professional

Regardless of the reason for the cancellation, always maintain a professional tone while notifying the client. It will help to build and maintain a good working relationship with them.

Offer an apology

Always apologize to the client for the inconvenience caused due to the cancellation. Even if it's not your fault, the client may not know that and could be angry or upset. A simple sorry can go a long way in diffusing the situation.

Thank the client for their understanding

Even if they're unhappy about the situation, they'll appreciate your professionalism and understanding. A simple "thank you" can help maintain a good relationship with the client.

Be honest about rescheduling

Be honest about whether you can reschedule the meeting or not – your client should be given an equal opportunity to be heard. If you can't reschedule, then be upfront about that as well. 

Suggest an alternative date if possible

In most cases, the client will understand and be open to rescheduling the meeting. If possible, offer a few dates and times that work for you. 

Be flexible with the date and time of the rescheduled meeting. It shows that you're still interested in meeting with the client and willing to work around their schedule.

Follow up

Once the meeting is rescheduled, follow up with the client and confirm the new date and time. It will avoid any further confusion or inconvenience.

Canceling a meeting is never ideal, but if you handle it the right way, it doesn't have to be a disaster. Following these tips can minimize the inconvenience for you and the client.

Indy makes it easy to put this advice into action. With just one software, you can reschedule meetings with Indy's Calendar, send automated follow-up messages to clients, and keep client relations running smoothly. You can also save time on all of your administrative work with tools that can help you manage every aspect of your freelancing business, from creating contracts to invoicing and everything in between.

Tips for writing a meeting cancelation email

When you need to cancel a meeting, the way you do it can be just as important as the reason why. Your communication can set the tone for your future relationship with the client. So it's essential to communicate clearly, concisely, and respectfully. 

Here are eight tips on how to write a meeting cancellation email:

Write the email subject in clear language 

Your email might get lost in the sea of unopened messages. Mentioning the topic in the subject line will help the recipient immediately know what the email is about. 

Meeting cancellation email -  What are some sample subject lines?

Here are a few suggestions for subject lines when canceling a meeting:

  1. "Meeting Cancellation Request for [insert date]"
  2. "Regrettably Cancelling Our Meeting on [insert date]"
  3. "Sincerely Apologizing for Cancelling Our Scheduled Meeting"
  4. "Urgent: Meeting Cancellation Message for [insert date]"
  5. "Important: Scheduling Conflicts Necessitate Meeting Cancellation"
  6. "Canceling Our Meeting for Project (X)"
  7. "Change of Plans for (X) Meeting"

Remember, the key is to be clear and specific, and always maintain a professional tone even in the subject line.

Write it yourself

Don't delegate the task of calling a meeting off to someone else. A third person who does not have any clue about the situation will probably just forward a generic message. 

Take the time to craft an email explaining the situation. It's crucial to sound sincere, and that's only possible when you add a personal touch. 

In maintaining professional relationships, it’s absolutely critical to politely cancel meetings by sending a clear and respectful cancellation message, ensuring an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding is preserved.

Explain the reason clearly

Be clear about the reason for the cancellation. Let your client know what happened and why it was necessary. This way, they won't feel like you're abandoning them or being difficult. 

Use straightforward language

Don't make your client feel silly or uninformed. Simply state the facts and leave it at that.

Be concise

When writing a meeting cancellation email, you don't need to write a novel. Get to the point quickly and be concise in your explanation. It will prevent miscommunication and make it easier for the recipient to understand.

Show your respect

Use a courteous tone and avoid any negative language. Doing this is likely to maintain a positive relationship with the client. 

Show appreciation

Thank the client for their time and understanding. Also, tell them you appreciate their time and effort in preparing for the meeting.

Sign off with sincerity

Let your client know that you genuinely regret having to cancel the meeting and hope that it won't jeopardize your working relationship.

Email template ideas for canceling a meeting

While it's never fun to deal with a canceled meeting, there are ways to handle the situation gracefully. 

We'll provide you with some meeting cancellation email templates so you can craft a message that is both polite and professional.

Template for canceling a meeting weeks before the due date

Email Subject: Canceling X Meeting on Y Date

Hi [Client Name]

I hope you're doing well. I'm sorry to say that I need to cancel our meeting scheduled for [date].

Something came up (explain the reason), and I won't be able to make it. I'm really sorry for the inconvenience. I'll make sure to reschedule the meeting as soon as possible.


[Your Name]

Template for canceling a meeting due to a last-minute emergency

Email Subject: Last Minute Cancellation of Our Meeting on [Insert Date]

Dear [Client's Name],

I sincerely apologize for the short notice, but due to a family emergency, I am compelled to cancel our meeting scheduled for [date] at [time]. This unforeseen situation requires my immediate attention and presence.

I understand the inconvenience this may cause you and I deeply regret the circumstances. Please accept my sincere apologies for the abrupt cancellation.

Once the situation is resolved, I would appreciate the opportunity to reschedule our meeting at a time that suits your schedule. I'll reach out to propose new timings as soon as possible. Thank you very much for your understanding in this matter.


[Your Name]

Template for canceling a meeting scheduled for the next day

Email Subject: X Project Meeting Cancellation - Urgent

Hi [Client Name],

I hope you're doing well. 

Unfortunately, I have to cancel our meeting for tomorrow. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but I won’t be able to make it (explain your reason).

Please let me know if there's anything I can do to make things right.

Thank you, 

[Your Name]

Template for postponing a meeting

Email Subject: Request for Postponing X Meeting on [Date]

Hi [Client Name],

I hope you're well.

I wanted to ask if it would be possible to postpone our meeting until [date]. I understand that this may not be possible, but I would appreciate it if we could try and reschedule for a later time. 

Thank you for being so understanding.

[Your Name]

Template for meeting cancellation because of illness

Email Subject: Canceling Our X Meeting Due to Illness

Hello [Client Name],

I hope this email finds you well. Unfortunately, I am not feeling well and need to cancel our meeting. I am so sorry for the inconvenience.

I will be in touch as soon as I feel better.


[Your Name]

Template for meeting cancellation due to scheduling conflict

Email Subject: Request to Reschedule the X Meeting

Hi [Client Name],

I'm sorry to say that I won't be able to make our meeting today. There was a scheduling conflict that I didn't anticipate. I know this is last minute, but I wanted to let you know as soon as possible. 

I would be happy to reschedule for another time. Let me know if you're available on any of these dates: [date 1], [date 2], or [date 3].

If you're not available on any of those dates, let me know, and we'll try to find another time that works for both of us.

Again, I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope we can reschedule soon.


[Your Name]

What are the perks of canceling a meeting politely?

If you're a freelance service provider, chances are you've had to call off a meeting or two in your career. It's never easy, but you can reap some benefits by handling the situation carefully. 

The advantages of being polite in your conversations are as follows:

  • It shows your professionalism. If you can cancel a meeting without burning bridges, it shows that you can handle difficult situations calmly and collectively. It can only reflect positively on you and your business.
  • It helps build goodwill. Postponing a meeting by giving your client early notice can build goodwill between both parties. They'll appreciate that you were considerate enough to cancel the appointment instead of just ghosting them.
  • It shows your respect for the time of others. If you can cancel a meeting without causing inconvenience, it shows that you understand that everyone's time is valuable. 
  • It ensures you're fully engaged in the meeting. By canceling a meeting when you know you won't be able to give your full attention or presence, you're ensuring that when the meeting does happen, you can be fully engaged and productive. A well-phrased cancellation message can convey this intent, and your clients will likely appreciate your commitment to productive conversations.
  • It paves the way for future interactions. Polite communication while canceling a meeting sets a positive tone for any future interactions. Your client is more likely to be understanding and willing to reschedule the meeting for a later date, thus ensuring the continuity of your professional relationship.

What to do if the client still takes offense

We all know that one client who, no matter what you do, always seems to be offended. You've tried your best to be polite and professional, but somehow they always manage to take offense.

If you're in a situation where the client still takes offense after you cancel a meeting politely, here are some things you can do:

Try to understand the client's feelings

What might be causing them to react this way? It could be something personal, or it could be something related to the project. If you can't figure it out, try asking them directly.

Offer a compensation

Once you understand their perspective, find a compromise. Maybe there's a way to reschedule the meeting without offending them. Or perhaps you can offer compensation like a discount on your next project or a freebie that they can use.

Give the client space

You may need to distance yourself from the client if all else fails. It doesn't mean you have to end the relationship, but you might need to take a step back. Tell them you're still committed to the project but need to take some space.

Reassess your business relationship

If the client continues to be unresponsive, you should reassess your business relationship with them. They might not be a good fit for you, and that's okay. 

You don't need to work with everyone who comes your way. Focus on finding clients who are a good match for your business.

Don't overcompensate

Canceling a meeting doesn't mean you must go out of your way to reschedule or make up for it in some other way. Just be polite, give notice, and move on.

Hopefully, these tips will help you deal with an uncooperative client. Remember, it's important to stay calm and professional, even when they're not.

Final words

Being a professional isn't just about your resume or experience. It's also about how you handle tricky situations and communicate with your client. Canceling a meeting is never ideal, but sometimes it's unavoidable. By following our tips, you can do it without upsetting your client. It's about maintaining etiquette and fine-tuning pitches, so you don't lose any business leads.

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