Monday, December 16, 2013

Let's Have a Brief Chat to Discuss

When I worked in an office, there were numerous times I responded to a voicemail with an e-mail. I used the argument that I wanted to have things in writing for CYA purposes, but even then I knew it was a lie. There is one simple reason I hate, hate, hate conducting business on the phone.

Phone calls are disruptive.

Don't get me wrong. There are times when a phone call is necessary. If something needs to be discussed now or you need to get the person's reaction to what you're saying, e-mail isn't quite as effective. But after three months as a full-time freelancer, I've realized the same thing I realized when I was a cubicle worker.

Phone calls are disruptive.

Phone calls do have a purpose. Most of the time, phone calls are requested when a client is thinking about hiring me. Those are interviews. Once I'm hired, it's rare those clients ever want to speak on the phone again. In fact, I've worked with two of my main clients since 2011 and I think I may have spoken to one of them one time on the phone. I worked with a business located 30 minutes from my house from 2011-2013 and, not only did I never meet her in person, but I never spoke to her on the phone. She sent the assignments and I returned them. Clean, simple, and easy.

But occasionally, you end up with a talker. Someone who wants to speak on the phone every day. I'm not kidding about this. Assignments and notes on those assignments always start with, "Let's have a brief chat to discuss," even if there are numerous rounds on the same project. Every single day. The bad part is, people who work that way don't come with warning signs. You have the first conversation, agree to do the work, submit the work, and the next day you receive an e-mail asking for a phone call to discuss. If you want to get paid, you must speak.

Then you get out as quickly as possible. Why? You guessed it...

Phone calls are disruptive.

I think we've reached a time in history when people have so many ways to communicate, we just have no idea how to reach out to another person. Should we send a text? Type up an e-mail? Schedule a staff meeting for Monday at 9 a.m.? Or should we pick up the phone and call?

Because everyone has different preferences, we all stick with the way we personally prefer to communicate. In doing so, we ignore phone calls but reply to texts. We e-mail in response to voice mails. And we do so over and over again until people finally learn that if they want to reach us, they have to use our preferred method of communication. Unfortunately, most of the time the other person would prefer one method of communication while we'd prefer another.

For those who make their living based on how much work they perform, there's one simple reason excessive phone-talkers have to go. They cut into your income. Unless you bill for each call (not a popular option with most clients!), every minute you spend on the phone is a minute you could be spending making money. When you look at the clients who take the most amount of time for each $1 you earn, those who require 20-minute meetings every day will have to go based on pure lack of profitability.

Do you prefer working through e-mail or phone?


  1. "A brief chat vs e-mail"

    E-mail! I am not an orator. I can write my thoughts succinctly so they take a quick trip from my brain, to my fingertips, to the keyboard and "send." When I try to express my thoughts verbally, they first go to my fingertips and immediately discover there are no keys to press so they screech to a halt. They search for an outlet and finally hear a little voice that shouts, "The mouth—go to the mouth!" When my thoughts get to my mouth my brain short-circuits and the words come out something like this: "Ummmm, you said you wanted a, ummm, ah, an update, ah, I mean ….. uh, total sales for—well, are we selling more this year, I mean... last year's totals and this year's sales totals kind of fluctuated during the first and third quarters, but if you want a… what's the word?... a difference—no, a comparison—yes a comparison! Well, last year in January and March we kind of, well they weren't as good as this year, but May and October were better than both year's September totals ……. "

    An e-mail goes something like this: "See attached spreadsheet with a breakdown of sales by month with comparisons that include year-end 2013 versus year-end 2012 sales totals."

    E-mail definitely works best for me—and those with whom I communicate.

  2. For me it depends on who I'm working with. By day I'm a fruit exporter, so with people who don't speak English too well, I write, since it gives them time to understand my communication.

    With some of my suppliers, I phone in order to put pressure on them. Otherwise they take forever. I once phones someone every fifteen minutes for the whole day until I had my answer. But then, it had taken me four weeks of "yeah I'll phone you back..."

  3. Definitely email, but I find for my work that I have to use the phone more than I would like. =( And, yup, more than I'd like I get stuck w/the person who wants to give me all sorts of details that I don't need!

  4. I am notorious for responding to a voicemail with email. Usually the voicemail was totally unnecessary, just a request. But I work with some old school types who have trouble embracing technology. I will not change my ways, though. Unless there's just no good way I could answer via email, then I'll call. Begrudgingly. And not right away.

    I've finally got a couple of old school type folks "trained." They IM me when they need to talk on the phone, thus giving me the option to decide when I'm good and ready.

  5. There's a blogger I used to read who had a wedding planner who didn't read e-mail or snail mail, only phone, nothing but phone. As a result the blogger in question had to correct every detail of the wedding with at least 2 or 3 phone calls. Because the wedding planner always got it wrong. " For the third time we have 120 guests, not 80"-style...

  6. Emails for sure, but I realize there can be limitations if the person I am speaking with does not prefer to be comprehensive. I also prefer email since it is less intrusive. The person can respond to me when they are not busy--when I call them I never know what I am interrupting.