A quick show of hands, please. How many of you have a heart-sink moment when you hear how a client just want to have another “quick” chat when the chats are anything but quick? How many of you have had clients for whom Skype chats over an hour long are a weekly occurrence, sometimes twice per week? It’s frustrating, I know, because they want to go over every tiny detail but won’t pay you for that time.
It’s problematic because their insistence on regular updates keeps you from doing your work, especially (and it usually is) with clients who put you on tight deadlines for every piece of work. This approach demonstrates wanton disregard for your own schedule and your other clients. Here is how to keep those clients happy while not actively avoiding them.
It is Not Their Intention to Waste Your Time
Assuming they are a genuine client (because fakes will certainly stall and waste time), it’s important to remember that their intention is not to delay you. It is not their intention to annoy you. They may be under pressure from other clients or from their line (micro)manager who wants constant updates. There is a high chance you’re getting it in the neck by proxy. With that in mind, no matter how much it tests your patience, try to remain calm.
Agree Some Boundaries
If they are the sort of client that will constantly pester you over Skype or other channels of communication, it’s best to set down some mutally-agreed boundaries. The last thing you need is to say something you regret when you log in to your phone just before bedtime to check personal emails, they see you online and demand your attention for something urgent. Once you’ve established a day of the week or a time of day to connect, they should have little reason to contact you otherwise.
As mentioned above, those who are most pushy for constant contact are often those who give you the tightest deadlines. That puts you under enormous pressure to get their work done. But they still display a blatant disregard for your work or life schedule. They want to go to the top of the pile and they’ll delay you (unintentionally) because they want constant updates. When you negotiate and agree to deadlines, including deadlines on updates, this should minimise (or preferably eliminate) the constant requests for contact that can border on harassment at times.
Stick to your Guns
These clients need to understand that your priority is to protect your business. While you’re prioritising that client and delay other week for constant Skype calls, you are putting other clients at risk. You are putting other contracts in jeopardy. Whether it is worth the risk is down to your personal judgement. But it is important that you stick to your guns on your schedule, how and when you contact the client and how you engage with them. Because I guarantee, when they think you will respond to an urgent request to chat about the contract at midnight once, they will expect it all of the time. That’s not good for your work-life balance (presumably the main reason you became a freelancer in the first place) and it’s not good for your stress levels.
You do yourself a huge disservice if you remain logged into Skype during all of your working hours. When you stick pre-agreed times to meet for consultations, there should be no need to contact you outside of these times and certainly not outside of your work hours. It’s easier for them to pester you when they see the green dot on Skype or Hangouts. When you’re not online they know they have to wait. Have you ever seen your Doctor, your electrician, your therapist or any other professional in the supermarket at the weekend on their day off? Have you ever stopped them for a “quick query”? Nor me. That’s why I stick to my work hours with one or two rare exceptional cases.