On annoying clients

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.


7 thoughts on “On annoying clients

  1. Can you simply require him to set up these phone conversations as appointments so you have some say in when they take place and how long they last? Maybe in half-hour increments, and then if he’s not done by then, tell him you’ll need to schedule another one later.

    Also, I would recommend having something to do (reading, web surfing, playing a game, etc.) during those long silences. Or maybe work on another project you have going.

  2. Jemma says:

    Are there no respectable police officers? I know what kind of person the position attracts, and that the system is horrifically broken, but someone’s gotta want the job to actually protect people, right? You’ve said you have to participate in the system to work the system.

  3. Nina says:

    Have you tried giving him a time limit? Tell him you have a meeting or appointment in thirty minutes and end the call when that time has run out.

  4. AlligatorO says:

    I’m a newbie freelancer and struggle with client conversations sometimes for similar reasons. Long conversations that don’t always hit the necessary points. Hopefully I’ll get more assertive.

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