Years ago when I was an editorial assistant I worked for a very high maintenance publisher. She expected me to come in at the crack of dawn and work until all hours of the night. She called me Sunday mornings at 8 and Wednesday nights at 3:00 AM. When I told her she was crossing a line she told me I was welcome to clean out my desk. So I did. I left publishing for the incredibly boring world of accounting, and though I missed the fun of working in an editorial office, I knew I could go home and not have to wonder if I should pretend I’m not home every time the phone rings.
It’s happening again. I have a client who likes to call me at 6:00 PM when my family is eating, at 7:30 PM when I’m putting my son to bed and other times she feels appropriate because she knows I’ll be home. I have caller ID and will not answer the phones at this time. I’m not being petty, but it’s my experience if you don’t tell clients the office closes at a certain point they’ll be calling you at midnight.
No one wants to lose a client but if a client isn’t respectful of my family time, I don’t want to work for her anymore. Freelance doesn’t mean open all night. It’s important to establish boundaries.
- Tell clients the best time to call. Strongly suggest they call during these times only.
- If they’re in a different time zone, or calling at your convenience isn’t working for them, set up a mutually agreed upon time to talk.
- If they’re calling too much or at inappropriate times, let them know it’s not going to fly – but be nice.
- Suggest they email requests and changes and only call when it’s really important.
Pain in the Butt Clients
I don’t have many pain in the butt clients at all. Most leave me alone and I never hear from them until the job is done or it’s time to pay me. With the networks I do have regular communication with my editors but that’s usually through the network forum or chats. My pain in the butt client emails constantly for very silly reasons. For instance, she doesn’t know a thing about blogging so she feels her bloggers don’t either. The thing is she hired a bunch of experienced bloggers because she doesn’t have clue. Every week brings step by step instructions on how to use Stumble Upon or how to write a blog post. Plus she’s always changing the dates of my posts around so Monday’s post appears on Wednesday and Friday’s post appears Tuesday. There’s no reason for this, except maybe boredom. She loves to change my headlines and subheads too. I could live with all this. It annoys me, but I can live with it. Once she started calling all the time at dinner time I started getting a little angry.
Nip it in the Bud
If you’re letting your clients take over your life you must stop it immediately! Today it’s a phone call at dinner time, tomorrow it’s like you’re working for
Anna Wintour Amanda Priestly. If you offer a pain in the butt client a line, she will indeed cross it. Once that happens things can only get worse.
Diane Penna says
I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this! I was just telling Shannan that I would hate it if my clients called me…I write online because I prefer to communicate online. I understand that sometimes it has to be done, but there is no good reason for her needing to call after your daily business hours are over.
I tell my clients my business hours and that I’m only in my office at those times unless previous plans have been made.
I only give my cell phone number out as my business line because I won’t tolerate being called when I’m having dinner or whatever.
That’s not to say I finish working at 5 and that’s it. I’m known to be working well past midnight but sleep in the morning instead. But, my clients don’t need to know that unless – again – it’s mutually agreed on.
Before I moved (and changed my number) a client somehow found my home phone and called me out of the blue – and I hadn’t given it out!
My number is now unlisted and I have a skype call-in number if anyone needs to reach me by phone. I like communicating by e-mail mostly because then all the details of the project are in writing.
That is a lame situation. I don’t like doing client phone calls either. Mainly because the bulk of my work is done on the weekends and I homeschool and hang with Cedar on weekdays. I check feeds and emails but rarely blog during weekday daytime hours. But clients have called me then because I’m “just homeschooling.”
Luckily, most people who need me by phone make an appointment time, which I don’t mind, so long as it doesn’t run over a half hour.
James Chartrand - Men with Pens says
I have to admit that I refuse to take calls now. By February, I had so many clients calling me that my work (and income) was suffering. I tried to keep calls short. I tried to schedule convenient times. I tried to schedule the duration. I tried to make calls productive.
None of it worked. Enough.
My lesson? Clients who only want to use the phone are the clients you DON’T want to have.
Most of my clients communicate through email, but every so often someone calls when I don’t want to talk.
I solved the problem by getting my business line from Grand Central (www.grandcentral.com). They gave me a phone number, and I can forward it to whatever number I want. When I get a forwarded call, it’s announced as “a call forwarded from …” and if it’s not a number in my phone book, it says “unknown caller.”
If it’s not forwarded anywhere, the caller can leave a message. I can ask for an email to be sent when I get messages, or not — as I see fit. I unforward it when I finish work at the end of the day, and I leave it “off” all weekend.
I suppose they could find me if they wanted to, but so far this works fine!
Yikes! I might just have gotten lucky, but all of my clients know that phone calls should be scheduled in advance most of the time. I will occasionally get a call on my cellphone or my home phone out of the blue, but I don’t think any of them have ever called after normal working hours or on a weekend, unless it was pre-arranged. Brand new clients get my Google Voice number only, which goes directly to voicemail. Once I talk to them, they can have my home phone number, and if they’re really good clients, they can have my cellphone number. I think I’ve only given that one to three or so of them over the years, though. I don’t want to deal with calls when I’m out with my family.
You could try answering and saying, “Thanks for calling. I’m not in the office now, but I’d be happy to return your call tomorrow. I can call anytime before 10:00 am, or at 1:30. Which would be better for you? Or, of course, you could simply not answer and only call back during your working hours.