I’m a freelancer, and I have an older (middle aged) client who prefers calling me over sending notes in emails, and I hate it. I’m still billing him for the time, but these conversations last up to an hour and a half, they’re excruciatingly awkward, and they’re mostly unproductive. They involve me waiting for him to decide what he wants, a long back-and-forth while I try to figure out what he’s saying, and long, silent pauses. I’ve had a vague sense of dread for months because he’ll sometimes only wait a couple days between these marathon conversations before calling me again. To be clear, he’s not being inappropriate or creepy, just irritating, and I think my mild social anxiety is a factor here. Is there a polite way to tell him to call less frequently (e.g. “I want to tackle those notes today, can we talk tomorrow?”,) or do I have to suck it up and be a professional about this?
Yeah, you have to suck it up and be professional.
It’s perfectly acceptable to let your client know that your preferred method of communication is email, and it’s fine for you to politely remind him, but if he insists on calling, you’re gonna be stuck talking to him on the phone for as long as you wanna keep his business.
In the future, I recommend you implement something called a “supervised hour” that you bill for at least 150% of your standard hour. A supervised hour is basically where you charge your client more for the privilege of literally standing over your shoulder while you work. It costs more because it’s an added service, and the unspoken acknowledgement is that the client is annoying and you’d rather not have them there bothering you anyway. Of course, phone and video conferences with your client also count as supervised hours.
This would go a long way to solving your problem, and if you get stuck with a client who insists on holding you hostage over the phone, at least you can bill him more for being annoying.