Not Using Your Phone Could Be Holding You Back

Are you afraid of using your phone ?

Well, maybe you’re not really afraid. But spending your precious time on a phone call while a client or prospect beats around the bush about what they want to do probably isn’t your number one choice for spending a morning.

I can totally relate.

However, if you have a tendency to avoid talking to prospects and clients on the phone, that tendency could be holding your freelancing business back.

In this post, I’ll explain why you should use your phone more often. And I’ll tackle common phone problems that freelancers face and offer a solution for each problem.

Why Not Using the Phone May Be Holding You Back

Most freelancers don’t realize it, but there are a lot of benefits for freelancers who deal with their clients and prospects by phone.

Here are some of them:

  • Real people. Making a phone call reminds the client that you are a real person, not just another nameless, faceless freelancer. A phone call can be the first step in building a real relationship with your clients.
  • Preferences. Phone calls really are the preferred method of communication for some. Most people have a preferred method of communication. Some people are more comfortable dealing face-to-face. Others truly prefer the written word. And some prefer the phone.
  • More effective negotiations. Over the past few years, the number of phone interactions that I’ve had with clients has increased. During that time, I’ve noticed that clients who talk to me by phone use low ball tactics less often than clients who communicate by email. I think it’s because using a phone puts a voice to the name.
  • Credibility. Using the phone helps you to seem more legit. In many businesses, dealing by phone is expected if you really want to be considered a professional.
  • Better communication. Dealing with clients/prospects by phone allows you to hear their tone of voice and thus, decreases your chance of misunderstanding them. A statement that seems to be outrageous in an email may actually be your client’s attempt at humor–which you quickly realize when you talk to them on the phone.

So, if you’re not currently using the phone to communicate with clients and prospects, your freelance business is missing out on these potential benefits.

Freelancing Phone Hazards

Of course, there are also some pitfalls to dealing with clients/prospects by phone. Here are some of the most common problems.

  • Time. Phone calls can really eat up a lot of your valuable time. Some people are talkers and get off track easily. You may wind up hearing about your client’s hobbies, pets, family, and so on–all of which has absolutely nothing to do with the project you are working on.
  • Free consulting. Sadly, there are “prospects” out there who will try to use a phone call to get free consulting from you. They have no intention of becoming your client, but rather want to get the details of what you would do for them so that they can do it themselves.
  • Inaccurate records. It’s easy to forget what was said in an oral conversation, especially after days or weeks have passed. What you remember about a particular conversation may be very different from what your client remembers.
  • Stress. If you have a tendency to be shy or don’t have a lot of experience dealing with clients by phone, a phone call can be stressful. I’ve even heard freelancers say that a phone meeting with a client or prospect throws them off for the rest of the day.
  • Interruption. Many freelancers are afraid to give out their phone number. That’s because unexpected client phone calls can disrupt your work and throw your schedule off kilter.

There are some ways to overcome phone problems and make phone calls more effective.

Make Your Phone Calls More Effective

Here are some solutions to solve the common pitfalls of talking to clients or prospects on the phone:

  • Let the prospect do most of the talking. Ask strategic questions and then listen carefully to what the prospect says. Avoid giving too much detail about how you would handle the project for the prospect. Instead, assure them that you understand their goals and can help them meet them. This will keep the prospect from using you for free consulting.
  • Stay on topic. If a client or prospect starts to talk about something other than the project, be kind but firm. You can say something like, “that’s interesting, but let’s get back to talking about your web design.” You may have to do this several times, but eventually they should get the point.
  • Schedule calls. To keep clients from interrupting your daily work, make use of your voice mail and limit the number of times you check it. Schedule return calls to clients. Your voice mail message should include something like, “I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. If you need to reach me more quickly, I can also be reached at your email address.”
  • Set a time limit up front. You can do this by setting expectations for the length of the call and referring to other appointments. To set expectations, state how long you expect the call to last up front–“this should take about a half hour.” And use a later appointment as an excuse to end the call–“I have another engagement at 2:30, so I’ll need to wrap this up before then.”
  • Recap the call in an email. It can be hard to determine the actual content of a phone call, so never rely totally on a phone conversation for your working agreement. Instead, send a written recap of what you agreed to on the phone to the client and ask them to confirm that the recap represents what you both agreed to.

Your Turn

How often do you deal with clients by phone? What phone tips would you add?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by JoshSemans