Before I even begin, let's address the low-hanging fruit: "Haha! The millennial doesn't like talking! Back in my day, all we had was the phone...." Yes, yes, I know that I've grown dependent on texting and emails for several things, but I don't think my aversion to client phone calls has anything to do with my age. Well, my age has MUCH to do with my feeling more comfortable behind the keys, but my nervousness has more more to do with professionalism and courtesy.
Some phone calls are fine: if it's the first time I've met you, or if you are confused on something, or need some quick clarity. What's not fine is a client calling me to turn something blue to green and it takes 30 minutes for them to explain why, when it could have taken me 5 minutes.
I firmly believe there are FIVE main reasons I'd prefer to stick to emails.
1. Phone calls take 3x as long as emails.
I understand you, clients, and I know you well - because you are me and I am you. If need to reach my post office, customer service for AT&T, or a retailer - I absolutely want to reach them in person. I'm a client sometimes too! I do believe, however, that there's a line to observe, since I deliver digital goods and I charge by the hour. Your phone calls are not free.
What you're not seeing is how fast I can type and how fast I can read. If you have a quick question for me or a few edits to a logo, I 100% guarantee that an email will take me 5 mins to read and then 10 mins to implement. Calling me with every single change you're seeking will take 45 mins that neither of us has.
2. Scheduling is a nightmare.
"I'm free Tuesday past 2:00. How about you? No? Okay, how about Wednesday after 10:00? No? You're only free 7pm to 9pm on Mondays? Well...." Sheesh. It seems to take several emails back and forth to even schedule a call - and in that time, we could have communicated via email or Basecamp.
I'm not a morning person, never have been. That might change someday when I have children or more of a routine, but for now, if you try to reach me before 9am, you're getting Zombie Sarah. I also put a firm stop on calls after 5:00pm because I believe strongly in work/life balance. That means that yes, you do have to call me in normal working hours - and not on my lunch break either.
There are great apps for this, like Calendly, but the calls I do get are often impromptu. Clients seek a 'quick chat' and don't want to go through a formal process. I want clients to use Basecamp - because I bet once we come up with a time to talk, I could have already had their business cards printed and delivered.
3. I've gotten blind-sided too many times.
True story: I once got a call around 4:00pm from a client of a client. (Remember I said my work/life balance was very important to me.) A very charming and kind gentleman was on the phone, but he was also desperate. "I'm hoping you can do something for me quickly. I need a flier designed and sent to a printer in an hour. Client X told me you were awesome. Can you please do this for me? Please? You're my only hope. I have no one left."
Well, that's what I get for answering an unfamiliar number.
This put me in a terrible spot. If I said no, he framed it in such a light that I would be letting him AND my client down. If I said yes, I'm compromising my integrity - I'm not a same-day print shop, I'm an experienced and professional designer. My head was screaming "NO!" but my Virgo heart was saying very much out loud "Oh...sure..." and when he asked for my hourly rate, I told him too low, and didn't add a rush fee.
Yes, I stuttered and stammered and didn't hold my ground. Had it been an email, I don't think I would have compromised myself and I would have explained that if the flier didn't get printed, no one would die. That's the cool thing about what we do. No lives are on the line. I made myself look like someone who has nothing to do but create last-minute fliers, and I grew from that experience.
4. A phone call essentially says "I don't feel like typing, so you do it."
Some of you aren't going to like that, but I said it anyway. Before you go nuts, I'd like to preface that there are several great cases for phone calls:
- Have we already sent 5 emails and are still not understanding each other? CALL AWAY!
- Are you in a vehicle and should never type and drive, and this is urgent? MAYBE IT CAN WAIT BUT I'D RATHER YOU CALL THAN TEXT!
- Is it SO quick that a call is honest-to-goodness faster than an email? Are you 100% sure? SAVE US TIME! CALL ME!
- Do you also know me personally and want to ask me any questions about my cats? THEY ARE GREAT! CALL ME!
If you're thinking to yourself "Wow, this is going to be a lot to type, I'll just call instead" what you are basically saying is "I don't feel like typing, I'll make Sarah take notes and type instead." That's completely fine - but that's why I charge for phone calls. You're telling me to take your notes so you can stream-of-consciousness into my ear without truly sitting down and thinking about what you want to say and how you want to appear.
5. Phone calls do not inspire action.
If you're a Type A like me, you know the power of marking off a checkbox or crossing off that to-do. It's powerful, and it's such a great feeling.
Lists inspire action. Words do not. If you take the time to type something out, it creates more command and inspiration. This is why I love Basecamp - it has a great to-do feature and I can always go back and re-read what was typed.
I have a client that calls me once a week for an hour to hash out projects. Here's the thing: none of these projects manifest. We will talk about them and dream of the day I am given content and direction, but without pen to paper (or keys to keyboard), nothing gets done. The call is an illusion of getting something accomplished, when that hour would be better used to give me content so that I can actually begin a project instead of talking about it.
To sum up a long post (that would have taken forever to read out, I might add - isn't reading fun?), phone calls are truly fine if you're a client and it makes you feel more comfortable and hate typing. Simply know that I charge for phone calls because they're harder on me, and I will end up typing a recap or email anyway to make sure we solidify whatever it was we talked through. I think a phone call is a great alternative to a meeting if you're not in Atlanta, and for something quick it's fine. It's not fine when you want to go through every aspect of your logo/site step by step instead of taking the time to truly sit down and think it through.
Your business takes time, and so does mine - let's use each other's as efficiently as possible!