The title of this article might make you think that I conduct my editorial business poorly, but keep reading so that you can understand the merit of my approach, and how you can avoid dealing with your clients over the phone.
Q: When does a phone call record disappear?
A: The second the call is over.
Q: How long does correspondence, conducted via e-mail, last?
A: Forever (assuming you don’t accidentally delete it).
The types of editorial clients who wanted a phone call with me consisted of those who wanted me to proofread legal documents, and those who wanted me to write articles for them.
To avoid phone correspondence with your clients, here’s what you do:
A person may be interested in your services because he found your listing on a freelance site, or because one of your clients told that individual about you.
In their introductory e-mail to you, such prospects may ask you to call them, or may ask for your phone number. The bottom line is that their message is clear that they’d like to talk to you over the phone.
When this happens to me, I send an e-mail back that goes something like this:
I don’t conduct business over the phone, because the second the phone call is over, the record vanishes. I need to keep a record of every correspondence I have with my clients. This can prove invaluable. I hope you’re in agreement with this approach, as I’m sure that retaining a record of your correspondence with me would be very important. An e-mail record of everything keeps our history much more clearer. I’ve never lost a prospective client this way!
If the prospect is insistent upon a phone call, don’t back down.
To avoid the phone conversation, respond with an example of why e-mail records are so important: I need to have everything in writing. This eliminates the possibility of later on, someone declaring, “I never said that,” or, “I told you…”
Then cite an example if you have one. One of my examples is a client whom I write for; he told me (via e-mail) that he had instructed me to cut an article down in size that was sent to him by another writer. No such instruction existed. I dug up his original e-mail with the attached article, and his accompanying message. There was nothing there about cutting the article down.
Another example was a client who told me to send her Word’s color tracking version of the editing work I did on a technical report. To do this I would have to re-edit everything with Color Tracking turned on. No way was I about to do the work twice and get paid only once.
So I referred her to the e-mail chain in which the project was discussed, and nowhere did she instruct me to perform the editing with Color Tracking turned on so that she could get the Color Tracking version. Nowhere.
Had this correspondence occurred over the phone, you can just imagine the mess. She would have insisted she gave me the instruction, and I’d have no way of proving otherwise.
Great Example of Why I Want to Avoid Phone Calls with Clients
Recently I received an e-mail from a prospect wanting my proofreading services; some time ago I had sent a cold-call e-mail to her office expressing my availability. She wanted me to call her. Well, I decided, why not this time? I felt good about it.
I called her, against my better judgment, and a 25-minute correspondence ensued that five minutes’ worth of e-mailing could have accomplished. Finally, this woman stopped yakking and yammering and took my cues to wrap things up. We were set.
However, soon after, my phone rang; it was her and I answered, figuring it was just a loose end. The second I answered, commotion outside my front door ensued involving a few young children and a dog. I had to investigate and told her that “a crisis just developed outside my front door and I have to tend to it; can I call you back in five minutes?”
Dang if she didn’t just keep yakking and yakking; In the tension of the moment, I accidentally had turned off the speaker, so I didn’t catch what she was saying, but she didn’t get the strong cue to end the call, and meanwhile, I was hurriedly putting on my shoes to get outside.
She was still talking and I told her several times, “I’ll call you back in five minutes,” and she went into this spiel about how I didn’t have to call her back because…and at that point I was unable to get the reason because I HAD to go outside!
I was livid at 1) her disrespect for an urgent situation, and 2) my stupidity for phoning the prospective client in the first place. I finally said, “I HAVE to go!” and she agreed, and I burst out the door.
Let’s just say that had I burst out the door 30 seconds sooner, I would have had more information about the situation outside — information that surely would have benefited me.
From now on, I will avoid phone calls 100 percent of the time with current and prospective editorial clients, by giving them the reasons cited in this article. To get out of phone calls with clients, I’ve also told them:
Phone calls always turn into social visits, and I like to keep things strictly business. Phone calls eat up a lot of time, and invariably, the topic gets derailed. When I redirect the person or give cues that it’s time to end the phone call, the other individual will think I’m pushy or rude. So to avoid all of this, I stick only to e-mail.
Honestly, if a prospective client needs to hear your voice, I think something isn’t quite right with that person. I have had many long-term editorial relationships with clients whose voices I’ve never heard, and I have solid, permanent records of my important correspondence with them. Do not feel guilty about avoiding phone calls with prospective or current editorial clients. Unless you’re vying for a job as a disc jockey, they do NOT need to hear your voice.