Why I won’t book a call to discuss your potential project…

why-i-wont-book-a-call-to-discuss-your-project

I don’t do calls.

Well, hardly ever. If I can avoid a call, I will.

Calls suck. They suck time, they suck because I work from home and get a billion deliveries a day, and they suck even harder when you ask for video on Skype (because I don’t feel the need to dress fancy for my colleagues, the dog and cats). But mainly it’s the time thing.

Don’t get me wrong, Skype has its uses, mainly in the text-chat capacity. And if we’re kicking off a project and you want to chat around some ideas, then I’m usually pretty happy to schedule call then, but otherwise? …

Let me break it down further…

  • Calls, of any kind, require scheduling. We have to block out time from both our schedules. While 10am on a Monday might be convenient to me, it might not be to you.
  • Calls over-run, we might have said ‘this is just a quick call’, but that soon turns in to 40 minutes!
  • We’ll spend at least 10 minutes going over niceties, getting our shit together, and saying goodbye. During those 10 minutes we both could’ve been doing something way more awesome.
  • Unless we’re taking endless notes (which prolongs the length of the call anyway), everything’s lost once it’s been said. The written word is so much better for referencing after the fact.
  • You might have an in-depth question about something relating to a bit of web development you need, things like that usually require a little research – totally not easy to do whilst on a call.

A call just pisses at least an hour of everyone’s time up the wall. And you know what’s worse? When we have to email to follow up after the call! Dude! That should’ve been the only bit of correspondence we needed.

So, if you try and schedule a call with me to discuss your potential project, I’m gonna be pointing you towards your email. If you insist that we chat, then I’ll have to charge you a consulting rate for the duration of the call. Time is valuable for both of us, and it’s totally not cost effective for me to dedicate an hours worth of time to a project that might not even make it to my table!

“But Kim!” I hear you exclaim, “How can we figure out if you can work on my project if we can’t talk on the phone?! How do I possibly know what to include in an email!”.

I’m glad you asked!

You see, I’ve been doing this making-websites-for-other-people thing for a few years now, and I know what questions to ask. Infact, I have a fabulous form that you fill in! Actually, I have two! I have one that I have you fill in to give me the low down on what you want me to do, and I have another for you to fill in when we kick off the project.

The answers on these forms give me all the information I need, and they even work in your favour — you get to sit down and really concentrate on what you need from the person you’re hiring, whether that ends up being me or someone else.

I know a lot of my peers will scoff at my not taking calls, bad client relationships they say, but honestly? It’s never been an issue in my business. I’ve conducted huge projects just via email and project management systems, and I’ve also been sat silent for 2 hours on group calls in big agencies (man, I do love billing for those two hours, though) when I could’ve been doing something way more productive.

If calls work for you and your business, and you’re 100% sure that there’s not a better way of communicating that’ll save both parties time, then great! Carry on! But me? I don’t do calls.

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  • I’m with you on this one. I don’t take calls either. I never have actually, and its worked well for business so far. I find that I get a clearer vision for a project when its written down. Also, it’s nice to have email records.

    Additionally, I think it’s a great idea to charge for phone consultations if you ever run into a situation where the client/potential client insists on talking via phone. Time is money for sure.

    • Email records are SO important for me! I refer back to very early emails from projects quite often, and it’d suck if that early information was lost on a call.

  • Kim, I totally hear you! I don’t do calls, either. I will do paying consultations on rare occasion. My personal experience has been most pre-client calls have either been to ‘pick my brain’ or to compare my services to someone else’s based on price and I’m just not going there. Time is too valuable and any client relationship needs to be mutually honoring…even before it begins.

    • I’m so relieved that I’m not alone with this, and I’ve had a lot of agreement over on Twitter, too.

      And yes! The comparing services is exactly the thing, and that’s infuriating, especially when you’re active on twitter, have a full portfolio, plenty of information on your site etc.

  • So with you, 100%. I’ll do anything not to take calls – part social awkwardness, mostly it’s just such a time suck. I have a friend who says that she ‘can’t hear very well’ – usually because’ve the screaming children around her instead of an actual hearing impairment, but no-one questions it!

  • I completely agree with this and I’m so glad to hear that lots of other people do too!

    In my old job there was FAR too much lost from phone calls where one party agreed to do something and later insisted it was never said.
    Plus like you say, we’re so British. Way too much small talk and niceties taking up our time.

    And you know, I’m totally awkward over the phone. Get me on Facebook chat (where I conduct most of my business related conversations – how unprofessional!) and I’m throwing ideas out there ;)

    • See, I’m against using facebook for business chats, too! I like to keep facebook personal, and even with my business pages I always find people trying to message me. Things get lost easily for me over on facebook, so I just direct people to my email :) Still, if it works for you then that’s awesome, and I guess it’s a great hub for you to reference back to a thread!

  • I totally agree, I have taken a few calls and they have always been a disaster so now if possible I stick to emails. I’m also the same about face to face meetings, in emails I can make clear, well thought out points whereas in person I have a horrible habit of burbling, loosing the thread and generally talking crap!

    I know some people who do all their business over the phone, and they’re great, they’re talkers but me I’m an artist, I’d rather draw you a picture in 5 mins then attempt to explain what I mean in an hour. I’m better at it!

    • It’s so easy to go off track and lose your train of thought (how many railway analogies can I fit in this comment?) when you’re talking for real, being able to edit down your text based responses is another asset to keeping things textual!

  • Love this! I agree. I think it’s the same as scheduling meetings in an office job and wasting 45 minutes talking about what we need to talk about to finish a project. Just send an email with a bulleted list, that way we have written confirmation of tasks, and no one had to take time out of their day. So glad I’m not the only person who feels this way. * thumbs up emoji *

  • 100% agreed! I’m pretty anti-meeting, too, for all the same reasons. I saw a poster on Pintrest that said something like “meetings are rarely necessary – manage your own time instead of everyone else’s” and I think that goes equally for calls. Glad to see so many folks who agree! :)

  • Totally with you on this one!

    When trying to describe a hat to client, or trying to get a description of their outfit, the old adage of “a picture speaks a thousand words” is TRUE! This isn’t perfect though and often a visit to my studio to try on designs and for me to see their outfit in the “fabric” is crucial…but how are you going to do any of this on the phone.

    I don’t mind initial contact being by phone to arrange an appointment or to scope out I can meet the client’s needs, but after that- it’s all about a written record. I like to have a total record of what we have discussed, what has been agreed, prices, appointments, deadlines and the best place for all of that is in an email folder specific to the client. That way, worst case scenario, I know that I have the brief right, they have the chance to confirm the brief…plus, then if they are slow to confirm their order I have an aide memoire when my design head has moved onto the next project! ;o)

    • That’s great to hear how it works in your business, too, and to see that actually face-to-face consultations work best for you.

      I know that every business is totally different, but there’re a few fundamentals that really transcend through all aspects of working-life!

  • Someone needs to be pro-calls! I like phone calls and meetings and skype. I like to make connections that way. I like the chit chat and what feels totally off topic before we get down to business. I know it helps me deliver more effectively to my clients over time. Can it waste time? YES! Do some clients only seem to do the work they are supposed to do when they get to the meeting or get on the call, umm, yeah – is that annoying? At times it is. I do follow up calls with detailed contact reports so that we get everything written down. I include time for meetings and meeting follow up in my costs.

    We all need to know who our ideal client is – and for all of you who know that you need someone who wants to skip the chit chat – good on you for having that clarity. And honestly for some projects – you are exactly the sort of people I like to work with.

    • Thanks for this comment, Pilar! And I’m glad you pitched in, like I say, I appreciate differing opinions (so long as they’re actual opinions and not just belittling me for mine!).

      It’s great that all that works for you, and like you say, at the end of the day it’s down to the individual. I still find them hugely time-wastey, though ;)

  • Nice post, I love how clear all the points are! Funny thing is that a year ago I saw a post similar to this one and I was completely against the idea of avoiding calls, because in video production industry in the country I’m from, 95% of the communication happened via phone. But after two very time-sensitive and logistically difficult projects I realized that taking phone calls took up to 60% of my time that I could have spent more productively. And people were always like – but it’s quicker and easier to say thing than to write them. But when you get about 30 calls per day, you realize that you’ve just been on the phone from the moment you stepped into the office until the lunch time. So now, I am completely supportive of the idea of avoiding calls. Writing an e-mail or communicating via management systems forces you into being very focused and clear about your ideas, suggestions or criticisms. Like you say, it’s great to refer to the written word later and you can respond to it in your own time, quickly and uninterrupted. And whenever I can’t avoid calls completely, I screen them. Some people feel offended if I don’t take a call immediately and call them back later, but unless it’s an emergency, I can too choose I time when to respond to it. Just like you said that for someone 10AM might work, but I on the other hand can be extremely busy at that time. So more often than not calls end up being like a person interrupting two people who are already in a conversation.

    • Really interesting to hear how it works out in your business too, Lauma! I think clients who have been so used to phone calls as the “done thing” find it really difficult to move away from that way of working, but when you explain why you’re doing it, it should hopefully begin to make sense for them.

  • I totally agree with you, Kim! I’m just not a phone person, and I prefer to read rather than listen. I forget everything that I’ve heard the moment I put the phone down. Plus, I’m the most awkward person on the phone! No Skype for me either. Thank you for writing this post!

  • You go girl! This is right on and something I’ve felt as a provider or even sympathetic as a customer for a long time. Glad you have the nerve to step up and admit it! My designer and I are working on a web dev project and we’ve done almost the entire thing by email (partly b/c I can tell she prefers that) and it’s been great. I’m just happy to do it the way she prefers b/c I want to support her in doing the best work – not just chat away by phone b/c some part of me thinks we have to…..

  • For the most part I’m with you. I much prefer to communicate by email.
    I’m an introvert and need to have the energy and be in the right frame of mind to deal with some tasks.
    I also prefer to ‘cover my back’ by having work written down in emails so I can continue to refer to them when I need to.
    However, I have found webchat (Skype or Hangouts) to be useful for connecting better with my peers and clients. I try to keep chit chat to a minimum but it has been useful for building longer term relationships. I just keep them to a minimum.

  • I can totally relate to this. I am a bit socially awkward with people and prefer communicating over email as opposed to calls. However I often find it difficult to avoid calls and/or redirect the same to my email. Maybe its because I don’t know how to go about doing that or what to say to the client. And that results in a lot of awkward conversations on phone. I’ve ended up sitting for hours in meetings that haven’t materialised too. Any way out of this? What should you say/write to the potential client?

    • Hey Mana,

      I actually have a document that I said to new clients that outlines my communications guidelines. I explain why we use project management software (was basecamp, now trello), and why I like to avoid calls (it’s basically what I’ve written in the bulleted point list above!). I think that so long as you’re communicating to the client that you want to avoid the calls for purely productive reasons, and also because you find it much easier/more effective to communicate via written word, then they should understand.

  • I play the deaf card- ‘sorry, I don’t hear very well on the phone. Email me or text me and I’ll get back to you’.
    It’s partly true but mostly just that I don’t have patience to sit/stand chatting when I could be working. Totally selfish! lol

  • This is probably weird, but the fact that you don’t do calls actually makes me want to hire you for my food blog. XD I don’t do well with phone calls because 1) I don’t live alone, and people I live with don’t understand blogging, etc.; 2) I’ve sensory issues and am autistic, so phone conversations are an extreme hassle and complexity for me; and 3) it’s just awkward, which… well, that could just be an Aspie thing.

    “We could be doing something more awesome” is exactly how I feel about it, though. >.>

    I’m not a super-duper fan or anything, but you’ve been on my radar, and it’s just cool that you don’t do calls… everyone else I’ve run into design-wise/a few that teach others how to raise their blogs and businesses think calls are personal – they need to see how you feel about something, and… again, autistic… that kind of thing just doesn’t work with me, and blah.

    Brownie points to you!

  • Love this post! I will do a call if the client absolutely (which most like emails, too) prefers, but I love email- I can get all of my thoughts down in one shot and can easily reference.