Should You Turn Off Your Telephone?

Wouldn’t you love to pick up the phone and call anyone you’d like? Who do you want to talk to? Is it Halle Berry, or maybe Brad Pitt, or Steve Jobs, or Neville Isdell or the Dalai Lama?

You know there are people out there you’d love to talk to; admit it. It’d be great to pick up the phone, dial anyone you want and chat that person up.

Do you? No. Can you? No. Is that okay? Of course.

It’s perfectly acceptable that there are some people that you simply will never talk to in your life. There is nothing wrong with not being able to communicate with certain people. This is not a questionable action. This is not a situation that should create skepticism, concern or bewilderment.

Think about it: Do you question the integrity of Bill Gates because you can’t talk to him? No. Do you view Charles Denson as a suspicious character because he won’t call you? No, of course not. These executives and their distance from interaction are normal.

And yet, we expect everyone else – the regular, average joe people or the common businessman – to be at our beck and call and to respond to every form of communication that we choose to be the right one.

It’s bloody ridiculous. “What? No phone call? That’s it, you suspicious bastard. You’ve effectively set all my radars on red alert and now I’m going to question your integrity and seriousness as a professional because you won’t take 15 minutes out of your day to talk to me on the phone.”

That’s right, I won’t. I, James Chartrand, no longer do phone. Sorry. It’s out. Gone. Finished, finito and done. Yes, I’m being selfish and stubborn and extremist. And I really don’t feel bad about that at all.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit in time, shall we?

Six months ago, my phone lines were open to customers, clients, peers and colleagues (not to mention friends and family). I fully and firmly believed that if I wanted to be a top professional, I had to be reachable in every way possible.

I took calls from Australia at 2am so that I could accommodate clients. I snuck around my house whispering on the phone at 6am to not wake my family. I received phone calls out of the blue during supper and put my family on hold to talk. I set aside my work to accept calls from people who just wanted to make sure I was a flesh-and-blood person. (Trust me, I am.).

I lost many hours on the phone – both from my personal life and from my business life. I dealt with the distractions. I accepted that I lost wages. I humored every single person who wanted a piece of James.

It couldn’t go on. I was spending more time trying to fit five calls into a day than I was working on my clients’ projects. So I started setting limits.

No more calls after 7pm. (“What? What kind of service is this? The virtual world is international, you know…”)
No more calls before 9am. (“What? You don’t open your office before that? Are you lazy and sleeping in?”)
No more calls on weekends. (“What? What kind of web worker are you? Do you want the job or not?”)
Limiting the duration of calls. (“What? Only a half hour? Well, frankly, I can’t fit everything I want to say in that space of time. I’m insulted at your restrictions.”)
Limiting calls to specific hours. (“Only between 1pm and 4pm? What the hell? I can’t be available. You’re just going to have to change your hours.”)

One day, my Muse put her mojo on in a big way. She was strutting her stuff and she wanted me bad. I wanted her too. I grabbed my keyboard, started typing… and the calls started coming in.

Some were scheduled. Some weren’t. Some were urgent ones that needed to be done. Some were just chatty ones that were a waste of time.

After six hours on the phone and looking back over a whole day lost forever, I set the phone down and thought, “What the hell am I doing? When did my time and my telephone availability become a reflection of my integrity, my professionalism, and my ability as a businessperson?”

That was the last day I took a call.

My telephone is now completely restricted to family and close friends. I communicate via email and instant messenger because this is my life, my business and my preference – and there isn’t one thing wrong with that.

I am my own boss and employer. I have the right to choose. I have close friends of mine who are burning out from offering consultation and telephone calls. They are desperately scrambling to change their business model to get away from the phone.

I refuse to let myself get to that point. No way in hell.

To those who claim that my business is no longer accessible and that I am not providing good customer service, I refute your claims. Our business does provide phone service. I have a lovely account associate who is more than willing to spend her time on the phone answering questions or sharing information – and she does a fantastic job.

But a private, direct call straight to Jamie himself? No. I’m sorry. I’m going to put myself on a bit of a pedestal and point to the many people in your very town, your city and the world over that you cannot call.

No one, not one single person, needs to speak directly with me on the telephone. I am not a member of the CIA hording secrets that only I know that can only be whispered over encrypted phone lines in the dark of the night.

I am here. I am available. Contact me. Email me. Message me. There is nothing that I cannot communicate via text. I’m a bloody fast typist with about 20 different email addresses and six different instant messaging logins. You can reach me.

You don’t even have to be a great writer. You could write in bullet points, if you’d like. I’m a smart boy, and I can get a lot of information from just a handful of words. I could care less about your spelling, or whether you use paragraphing or not. Seriously.

Does this attitude cost me jobs? Not often, no. Most people understand (though some think it a little strange and a touch extremist. I’m stubborn that way.).

Sometimes, though, my unwillingness to talk on the phone does cost me an opportunity. I’m sorry it has to be that way, but I refuse to step down and I stand my ground.

These people who would hinge working together on my willingness to talk on the phone are turning their nose up at my skills and abilities for extremely poor reasons that don’t hold water. They question my character, my integrity and my personality based on a phone call.

There’s something odd about that, if you ask me.

So those people are not the type that I prefer to work with. Those people who insist on calls or the deal is off are the ones that started this whole crazy “no-call” cycle.

They lack respect for my needs, my desires and me – and in the same moment, they openly accept that there are some people in life they’ll never talk to on the phone.

Well, folks, one of them is me.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. It’s hard to escape the conditioning of responding to a ringing phone. Setting up a clear policy is the answer. Then one needs a transition plan so that existing clients and new clients are introduced to the new form of restriction (they will always see it as a restriction!) in a way shows them the benefits.

    Michael fitzGerald’s last blog post..Government IT – It’s always a people problem

  2. @ Michael – It’s very early and I haven’t had coffee, but I’m curious. What would be the benefits I should explain to someone that I’ve just told I don’t do phone?

    That’s a very good point though – benefits. Always benefits. I agree.

  3. I could not agree more. There seems to be an expectation that we should all be ‘on call’ 24 hours a day. I have lost count of the number of times I have restrained myself from erupting in fury as an important face to face conversation/dinner party etc is interrupted by a phone call – mobile or otherwise. It’s plain rude.

    For several years now I have screened all my phone calls via answerphone and it has been my saviour. If it is a matter of l ife and death I will pick up (it never is!) otherwise, if a return call is warrented, I will make it at a time that is convenient and suitable, failing that you will get an email or IM. Like you I am easily contactable by those methods – and I prefer it that way. I never give my phone number to business contacts – it is easier and more efficient for them to contact me by one or other of the online methods, if they don’t like it, we don’t do business.

    flaminglacer’s last blog post..The Video Age

  4. If it works for you, James, I’m fully behind your choice. Too many people expect those they work with to jump through hoops, and I limit the hours I accept calls. I’ve not completely ruled out telephone conversations, as you have, but I appreciate your point.

    David Airey’s last blog post..Why are designers never 100% satisfied?

  5. This is a policy I use now, too. I don’t do phone for clients, and in fact, nobody except family and a few close friends—close geographically and personally. There’s no need for it. In my experience the people who insist on speaking via phone suck up the time they wanted you to spend on their project, and don’t communicate anything in the thirty minutes of chin-wagging that couldn’t communicated in, oh, three lines of email.

    There is nothing—nothing—that “must” be done by phone. Oo, you hit a nerve with me ;)

    Joel Falconer’s last blog post..Digital Task Lists are the Harbingers of Doom

  6. @ Joel

    People who insist on speaking via phone suck up the time they wanted you to spend on their project, and don’t communicate anything in the thirty minutes of chin-wagging that couldn’t communicated in, oh, three lines of email.

    Yes. Resounding yes. There is one client that I do make an exception to the rule, but this guy REALLY maximizes the information he gives over the phone and he ALWAYS uses it as a last resort. Most just want to talk, blab, find out more about me, chit chat… there is NO need for that.

    @ David – You made me laugh. “If it works for you, James…” Indeed, and I wish more people had your philosophy that we each need to do what works. (I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes for call requests.)

    @ Flaming – Good idea. Let it go to voicemail and have a message that says they’ll be answered within X hours. Good job.

  7. I totally agree – I am deathly allergic to my phone (but shine brilliantly with email!) I hate the phone and so try to swing all communications via electronic joys.

    Makes my life much much easier, I’ll tell you that….

    Barbara

    Barbara Ling’s last blog post..How to add a Stripe Ad to the top of your blog for free, excellent review

  8. James, you’re lucky. I’ve never, ever come across anyone who could maximize information and get on with it on the phone. Though they often do claim they can.

    Joel Falconer’s last blog post..Digital Task Lists are the Harbingers of Doom

  9. I hate, hate, HATE phones. I hate talking to clients on the phone, I hate talking to my landlady on the phone, heck, I don’t even like talking to my boyfriend on the phone.

    It’s a huge waste of time, especially because I can’t get anything else done while I’m on the phone, but if I were emailing or IMing the person, I would be able to get all sorts of work done at the same time.

    Plus, for me, my thoughts don’t always translate quickly and correctly to words, so I’m better able to articulate what I want to say through writing than through speaking. Hence my hatred of phones.

    On a side note, it makes me giggle to see ER markup sprinkled throughout your post. :D

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 9

  10. @ Allison – Oh for god’s sake. Thank you. Going to fix it now.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Should You Turn Off Your Telephone?

  11. @ Joel – As I just said to you (VIA EMAIL! It was worth repeating), 95% of people who used to call never hired me. They just kept calling. Over. and over.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Should You Turn Off Your Telephone?

  12. James,

    I understand your position. I prefer e-mail to the phone any day, but I have a couple of clients who like to talk through projects on the phone.

    They can describe what they want much better verbally than in e-mail. I use a headset while I sit at the keyboard and take notes. Of course, I charge an hourly rate and every minute I’m on the phone with a client is billable so it’s not a waste of time.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..Copyright: Part 4 – Protecting Your Copyright

  13. Brett Legree says:

    James,

    Good move. That’s the way it has been in our house for a long time. The phone may ring, but no one runs to it. If someone wants to leave a message, they leave a message.

    I’m halfway tempted to turn off the ringer next. The electronic band Kraftwerk apparently did this when in the recording studio. One of the band members would pick up the telephone at the same time each day, and if someone was fortunate enough to have got the timing right, they could talk.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kraftwerk

    I have email, IM, and a physical address. If you call, I might answer. Or you might get voice mail. That’s how it works with me. I have four kids, a wife, and a lot going on. No time to jump every time a bell rings.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..one at a time.

  14. @ Lillie – Tried that route. People were more offended over the fact that my time is billable than the fact that they now can’t talk to me at all. Interesting.

    Also, the problem on my end with that idea (which is a great one) is that I can’t listen to sound while typing, and I have to pace when I’m on the phone. I wear out the floor ;)

  15. I deal with most clients by email. I am available on IM if necessary. Like you, James, I find that most jobs can be dealt with that way and I avoid the time sink of phone calls. I have Skype for the occasional person that insists on talking on the phone, but in most cases the phone calls don’t lead to steady work. Email does. As a writer, writing down what I need to communicate comes much more naturally to me than speaking on the phone. I haven’t banned the phone, but I don’t communicate that way unless it’s necessary. I’m pleased to hear that avoiding the phone hasn’t hurt your business.

    Sharon Hurley Hall’s last blog post..Are You A Team Player?

  16. I’m an online contact person too. I hate doing the phone thing. More often than not, the phone just serves as a place for someone to talk to hear themselves talking, to orate… I know this because I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. When I get on a concall with 3-4 people who are there to talk _to me_ I start babbling. Much better to stay between the bits and bytes. :)

    Jamie Grove – How Not To Write’s last blog post..How I Almost Started Writing: York

  17. Phones are evil. Necessary sometimes, but still evil.

    P.S. It’s Dalai Lama.

    Rob in Denver’s last blog post..Recently overheard in my house

  18. @ Rob – Goes to show you how much I know of religion ;) Correcting now, and my thanks.

  19. A few years ago, I asked myself, “Who pays your phone bill? You? Or the jerk who calls you at dinnertime or at 7:00 a.m. to sell you something or who wants a donation at 8:00 p.m.? I do.

    My husband has an answering machine for messages if he isn’t home to answer your business questions. He does not pay me to answer the phone.

    I reserve the right to break into your sales talk and tell you I am not interested and I am hanging up now and please remove me from your calling list. If you continue to talk, it is to yourself because I am off doing something of importance to me. My time is just as valuable as yours. More so since I am the one paying the phone bill. I am polite but I am firm.

    I have a friend who calls and talks for an hour or more every time. I scan the caller ID and decide if I have an empty hour, if not I call her back when I do have the time. I have taken charge of my phone. It doesn’t control me. Have a great day.

    Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker’s last blog post..We Can Only See Who We Are

  20. James, I think you’re doing completely the right thing.

    I dislike phone conversations generally (and find it an ineffective means of communication in many circumstances) so I haven’t even put my phone number on my business cards. Partly because I’m currently still in the “day job” — leaving at the end of the month — so I’d rather not risk being phoned during business hours.

    My day job is tech support, done only via email and forums. We sometimes get requests for phone support, but don’t provide it; it’s so much easier to resolve problems when they come in by email, rather than trying to suss it out with an annoyed or clueless user on the other end of the line, demanding a response RIGHT NOW.

  21. Excellent points. I hate, literally hate, to be in a meeting with someone and have them answer the phone. I scheduled the time and took the time to come see you. And you take a random phone call? Sorry, I schedule my time, not my phone or the salesman on the other end. It wouldn’t be so bad if people just used some common courtesy.

    And don’t even start on cell phone etiquette. Why do we all who are shopping or standing in line near to listen to your inane conversation?

    Michael Carnell’s last blog post..Does Twitter Damage Blogs?

  22. James, I know for a fact that the number one reason I burnt out on Real Estate was the dang phone. It rang so much that my messages would fill every single day while I would be with one client, others were trying to reach me. I was a huge hand holder and I put myself in that position so I have no one to blame, but looking back I spent hours of my life talking on the phone because it made people feel better to chat with me.

    There was no way to keep up the pace. I finally had to put a limit on when I would be avaliable on the phone. The way I did it was to just put a message on the phone saying I was with clients and would return emergency calls as quickly as I could. Then, as I got involved with every new client from then on, I explained that time spent on the phone was time away from actually selling their houses so the majority of them started off our relationship with a new mindset. that included e-mail. But I had to set the standard up front.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..The Perils of Perfectionism

  23. Hehe, James, I’m a pacer too. I can’t sit down and talk at the same time. Which is why I hate talking on Skype even more than I hate talking on the phone.

    It comes to mind that some of my best clients, the easiest to work with and the most prompt to pay an invoice, are even minimalist in their use of email. Folks like Collis Ta’eed are a pleasure to work with, and he only ever sends over enough information to get the job done—doesn’t rabble on like some of my clients who are slow to pay and hard to work with do. Seems to be a connection: less talk, more play (assuming you enjoy your work!).

    Joel Falconer’s last blog post..Digital Task Lists are the Harbingers of Doom

  24. I’m so glad I read this today because I’m getting SUCKED in with Skype and with the phone. I thought it was fun at first but now find myself leaving it turned off because I HATE the phone.

    I worked at freelance writing on dialup for almost 2 years so everyone gave up on phoning me. It was a novelty the last few months being able to talk and type simultaneously but not I’m back to HATING the phone. I’m not going to all out ban it to clients but I’m certainly not going to encourage it and if calls come in that aren’t scheduled on the phone, they’re getting ignored and the voicemail will be returned with an e-mail. As for skype…I think I’m going to handle it as urgent only for just a few clients. It’s there but I certainly don’t plan on being visible there much. I articulate myself very well on the telephone but I was chained to a phone for ten years when I sold software so I’m not interested in going back.
    Great post, James.

    Dana’s last blog post..Happy Canada Day

  25. James,

    Had to think about this for a bit. I don’t (usually) have folks abusing the phone, maybe because I set it up like any other appointment. Agenda, etc.

    The thing about talkers not turning into clients… after thinking about it I guess I’d say yes. Folks who mull things over too much in an initial telephone discussion often don’t turn into paying customers. For me, that’s true via email, too.

    I like how most people’s thoughts are more succinct via email, but other than business hours and business topics, I haven’t limited things. I do see many folks in person. I wonder if that has anything to do with not feeling the need to decide if I’m real via lots of calls?

    Hmm, hmm.

    You know I loved your Skype post. Too many ways of keeping in touch does make it easy to waste each other’s time. (On the other hand, friends are a welcome break. Email by day, phone by night. That’s always good.)

    I wonder how your clients have the time to pester you?

    Oh, and one more qu. Where’s Harry on all this? Were you already the primary contact, so this hasn’t happened to him?

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Failing. With Style.

  26. Brett Legree says:

    Ack!

    That’ll teach me to put a link in my comment, I think Akismet ate it… :)

    Oh well – my point was one of “bravo!” because I totally understand. If you call me at my house, you’re lucky to get me “live” without first leaving a message. My link dealt with the electronic band Kraftwerk, and how they apparently had a telephone at the studio with no ringer. You had to call at a certain time of day, as one of the band members would pick up the phone at exactly that time. So you were lucky if you got the timing right…

    I’m with you James. I have email, IM, and a physical address. If you call and leave a message, there’s a good chance I’ll call back, when the time is right. I have four kids, a wife, and a lot on the go. I’m actually more likely to talk with someone on Skype than on a regular phone…

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..one at a time.

  27. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    A little eccentricity is a lot of branding.

    Well, James, I don’t blame ya. There are clients I didn’t like all that much after speaking with them on the phone (I probably shouldn’t say that, but whatever). Had I dealt with them by email / IM only, things would have gone better.

    I have so far always done an initial consulting call for free for 20 minutes. When Skype goes on the fritz, the whole thing goes to hell. I thought one guy the other day wasn’t going to get back to me after dropped and garbled connections. But he did.

    So you raise some interesting questions, James. I’ll be reconsidering my intake process. Thanks for this post.

    Michael Martine | Remarkablogger’s last blog post..What Conversion Is, Why it Matters, and How to Improve It

  28. @ Michael – I do find that those who insist (and I mean insist) on phone can be some real crackers. Well over three quarters of the conversations ended up being ones where I told Harry, “Man… that was weird as hell.”

    The best conversations are usually with people who are already in business. Direct, to the point and no time to waste (like yourself). Unfortunately, that isn’t the norm of calls.

    @ Kelly – Harry has by choice clearly stated that he does not prefer the phone and that if people can’t respect his choice, then they are not people he’d like to do business with. He *has* had a phone call or two, but I’m not sure that he ever enjoyed it. And he has always said afterwards, “That was one LONG call. I don’t know how you do it.”

    @ Brett – I released it from the beast. Damned if I can find it now. Heh, and yeah, you of all people would probably have NO time for phones.

    @ Dana – Foot in the door syndrome (just one call, just one more) and a heap of guilt (if I don’t do phone, I’m not a professional) often makes the quandry a difficult one for many businesspeople.

    And yet, there are TONS of people out there that we’ll never talk to, and that’s okay. Why is it not okay for us, too?

    Also consider this. If I have 100 clients, and all 100 want to talk to me for 15 minutes to an hour… Um… yeah. You do the math. Obviously, the quality of my work and our service is going to take a major hit. We don’t want that, so we make choices to keep quality, spirits and service mighty high.

  29. It makes perfect sense to me. I don’t mind the occasional phone call, but find I’m much more productive when I use email instead. AND it gives me a chance for self-editing, to make sure I don’t say anything I don’t mean to say, or to make sure my explanations are clear. Are there times when a phone conversation is faster? Yes, I think so. Every once in a long while, a 5 minute phone call can clear up a series of misunderstandings from a 20-email back-and-forth that went nowhere, but otherwise? Usually? Keyboard, please!

    –Deb’s last blog post..MM: That Is, for Example….

  30. Interesting point. There are always some issues that can only be done through telephone conversations, but to tell you the truth, 90% can be put to hold or be communicated in other way.

    Great post, James…

  31. Jamie Simmerman says:

    I feel your pain, James. My kids know not to answer the phone, ever. I have voicemail and I use it leberally. It drives my father-in-law nuts that I ignore a ringing telephone, but I have 2 kids that go bizerk the second I pick up the phone. I have to plan out my calls to keep my household intact.

    I was on call as a nurse for years and had a boss that felt the urge to call me every 15 minutes during the day. It. Drove. Me. Nuts! I now cherish being able to decide when I pick up the phone.

    It sounds to me like you tried several solutions, and none of them were successful. It would be different if you flew off the handle and suddenly said, “That’s it! No more phone calls, EVER!”

    Clients are a dime a dozen, good ones will understand your need to focus on business. Besides, aren’t writers supposed to be quirky and reclusive? :D

  32. Bwah ha ha. Monsieur Chartrand, reclusive.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Failing. With Style.

  33. Brett Legree says:

    @James,

    There it is! Oh well, gotta get my comments count back up here somehow :) it’s a new month and I slipped last time…

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..one at a time.

  34. 100% With you, James. I don’t use my telephone for business at all except for coaching calls and calls I initiate. Email FTW.

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..5 Tips To Recharge Your Body And Mind Overnight

  35. Jamie Simmerman says:

    @ Kelly, yeah, I know, it’s a stretch. Try not to blow your coffee out your nose.

  36. Jamie Simmerman says:

    We have a right to treat the telephone as a business tool, not a summons.

    This lady doesn’t recommend completely shutting down the phone lines, but she agrees that telephone interuptions kill productivity, and she is a “productivity expert”.

    http://www.productivitytoday.com/managing-incoming-calls-better-time-management

  37. Yep!

    Judging from the comments and feedback I’d say nearly everyone agrees with you. Speaking for myself, I prefer e-mail by far.

    E-mail also leaves a nice record of the conversation. When I am forced to take a phone call I always send a summary of what was said by e-mail anyway.

    In general, I won’t give my number out. Once client does have it, but I think that they’ve only called once in the five years that I’ve done work for them.

    Currently I do have a few clients who request a call from me (I always make an appointment and hit *67 when I call them so that they can’t call me back). Your post has got me thinking I should charge extra for clients that request phone appointments.

    Thanks for verbalizing what a lot of us already feel.

    Laura Spencer’s last blog post..Delta – Blogging Under the Wing

  38. James. I hate the phone too. You have to sit there and listen to all of the “ums” and “ams” as people try to collect their thoughts, then they add a whole bunch of irrelevant information, then they repeat themselves, then they start talking to someone who just walked into the room, and then they add, “well, if I think of something else I’ll just call you back.” Oh, and here’s the best part: when you don’t answer the phone and the same person just calls over and over and over again within the span of ten minutes. II think you’re setting a good policy.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..How to Become a Renaissance Man/Woman

  39. I have a love/hate relationship with the phone. I love it for catching up with friends or just shooting the breeze while on long boring drives in the car.

    I HATE IT FOR WORK. There’s a few reasons, but the main one is that I write a lot better than I speak. If I’m trying to come off as professional, it’s much easier for me to do so on paper/email.

    Also, I tend to have short term memory issues, so if someone wants me to remember something, it really needs to be in my Inbox. My students learn that if they want me to remember things, they need to tell me AND email me the same information. :-)

    Geek’s Dream Girl’s last blog post..Random PHP question?

  40. James: I’m 100% with you on this one. As a freelancer, everything I do is online anyway, so I’m very likely to answer any emails immediately. I don’t need or want the phone, although I do have one in my office. As for friends and family, unless I’m having a weak day, I limit answering their calls as well to before or after work hours.

    steph’s last blog post..Commit to the Reward

  41. This is a post I can relate to! I love it when my clients are content to communicate using email. It’s just easier for me.

    Kimberly Ben’s last blog post..The Non-Freelance Writing Project that Never was…

  42. As I told Kelly yesterday, the ringer of my phone is never on. Clients know to reach me by email. Some still call and leave messages, which I check regularly. Most of those calls I follow up to by email; the only exception I make is if I think it would be faster for me to call back rather than have a dragged out email conversation.

    I used to be available by phone to my lawyer clients. This dragged into folks calling every three minutes, then putting me on hold six times and eventually coming back to tell me nothing that couldn’t have been said in a three second email. The bigger problem was the “let me conference you in with [insert the name of someone I don’t need to talk to here]” syndrome. I got sick of it. It was a waste of my time, and my sanity. I never realized how much it bothered me until I quit smoking. I used to go outside and smoke while talking on the phone (horrible reception in my apartment), but once I stopped having that excuse to go out, it just got really old.

    I hate the phone and always have. Even friend-wise, it’s email or nothing. A few of my friends don’t have computers at home, or don’t have email at all, and those friends call occasionally to make plans. But otherwise, it’s face-to-face or email for me. At this point, I’m not hurting for clients badly enough where I need to sacrifice my sanity to please any of them. I had one guy refuse to hire me because I refused to participate in a 45-minute training session by phone on how to use his wordpress blog on a day I would have been trying to participate in said session while on a train (horrible reception). I quickly decided it was no big loss.

    So I feel your pain.

    Amy’s last blog post..Aim for the Middle: a Lesson in Professional Life and Potty Training

  43. Life is about balance. And the only person who can draw the line is the individual. If the world draws your own lines – you are in trouble.

    Bamboo Forest’s last blog post..Making People Feel Appreciated can Make You Rich

  44. wordvixen says:

    Good for you! I worked in customer service for a year and a half. By the time I quit, I was crying on the way to work. After I quit, it was a full 3 years before I stopped having panic attacks at the sound of a ringing phone.

    I’ve turned down great office jobs because they required answering phones, even in small part, and I won’t take any call unless I know who it is. Friends know to reach me by email, and family knows to leave a voice mail if I don’t pick up.

    It’s a bit of a different reason than yours, but the result is the same. The only need for answering phones is in case of an emergency- and a client, while important, is not an emergency.

    wordvixen’s last blog post..My Work Space

  45. Tim Weaver says:

    Short of becoming one of “those” Internet retailers who try to hide from customers, the ability of customers to call me and ask about inventory, product questions, etc., has vaulted me above most of my competition.

    I don’t like spending a long time on calls, but I’ll spend as much as necessary for a customer to get his/her questions answered.

    Additionally, retail isn’t really one of those areas where you just shuffle off customers, since there are hundreds (if not thousands) of folks just like me waiting to talk to a customer….

  46. @ Wordvixen – I worked in CS for 12 years for a corporate office. I did everything I could to maintain that level of access. But there’s a free in freelancing and lately, it hasn’t been my time, so I’m fixing that the only way I can.

    @ Bamboo – Ooh. That’s a very smart thing to say. There’s a blog post in that, you know. I like.

    @ Amy – I think what makes me the most mad is that I adore talking on the phone. I do. I’m angry that people have forced me to hate the phone with a passion. That sucks.

    @ Kimberly – I find it easier and there is a paper trail. It’s just good business, I think, especially on the web.

    @ Steph – I’m equal opportunity. Family and friends got the boot too. Took them a long, long time to figure out that a freelancer isn’t at their beck and call.

    @ GeekGirl – I HATE THE PHONE TOO! There. We did that together ;)

    @ Marelisa – Search this blog for “fetish” and tell me if THAT phone call was one I enjoyed.

    Holy crap. Okay there are a ton of comments left… I’ve read every one and I can’t say anything more than I agree and I’m truly surprised at the support. I thought my blog would be on fire from my angry post.

    I guess not. Someone on Twitter this morning thanked me and said, “You say the things we can’t.”

  47. I’m like Brett, more often than not I’ll let the phone go to voicemail, especially if the call is from a number I don’t know. I figure if it’s important, they’ll leave a message, so if they don’t leave a message, I usually will just completely ignore the call.

    My cell phone and I, we are not good friends.

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 9

  48. Boy I wish I could get away from the phone.

    I work on a help desk and have to take calls all day long. Personally I think my industry could benefit from less phone calls because those always result on “I want it fixed now”. The best substitute would be a self service ticket system or email.

    Anyway enjoyed the article! Cheers!

    TheNerd’s last blog post..Whats your Weather Like

  49. Bubble. Ya gotta create that bubble around the zone. Wherever it is that Merlin makes his creative magic it needs that protective bubble. So no phones in the zone for me please. I can multitask on some things, schedule others, but leave me way alone until I come up for air when I am in studio mode.

    I think creative work is like that. Every interruption requires a mental reboot. How effective can we be if we are constantly saying, ” Now where was I ? ”

    Email. Gotta love it.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..A Goal Setting Template-Part 3

  50. James,

    Here’s the key, as you say:

    “I communicate via email and instant messenger because this is my life, my business and my preference – and there isn’t one thing wrong with that.”

    One of the major reasons for becoming an entrepreneur is so that one can have more control over how work affects the rest of one’s life–if one ends up being on-call all the time through any means necessary, then you become just as much (perhaps more) of a prisoner to work and others’ claims on your time than you ever did working for someone else.

    Jesse Hines’s last blog post..Is Your Blog Font Chasing Away Readers?

  51. @ Jesse – The beauty of me is that I make all the ‘mistakes’ and learn lessons the hard way so that no one else has to ;)

    What I found ironic was that I initially shunned phone communication but some blog posts around the ‘sphere had me thinking, “Yeah, they’re right. Pro business, pro service. Have to do it.”

    Harry would tell me I should have followed my gut instinct. *sigh*

  52. @ Janice – I can’t be Merlin. I’m too busy being Puck ;)

    @ Nerd – Think of it this way: It’s only temporary. One day, you too will rip your phone out of the wall. I tell you, it’s a good feeling. Especially when it’s your employer’s wall and not your own.

    @ Allison – Even if it sang you cool ringtones?

  53. Chuckling. There’s a delightful image. You made me smile.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..A Goal Setting Template-Part 3

  54. What I’ve found is that clients will tend to pick up the phone and “spray” rather than organizing their thoughts through composing an email. It’s so easy to “wander” off course in a phone conversation.

    I was feeling guilty because I’ve HAD to begin letting the phone go to voice mail if an appointment hasn’t been scheduled. (I’d even turned off the ringer… then turned it back on out of guilt!) However, I’m feedling emboldened by not only the post, but by other comments as well. I’m turning off the ringer on the phone and this time, I’m going to feel GOOD about doing it!

    Thanks James for the encouragement!

    Virtual Impax’s last blog post..Comcast Changes Outgoing E-Mail Settings

  55. There have been some really great comments on here. The only thing that I would have to caution against is the thought that clients are a dime a dozen.
    Especially being one, that is not how I would like to be thought of ( And I know that PenMen don’t think of their clients that way.)

    But there does have to be some balance between communicating the need (benefit) of a different form of communication rather then setting yourself up for a perception (here you go again) that clients are a dime a dozen and that your time is more important than their needs. There is a balance here and marketing and communication are the key.

    Fortunetly, I happen to think you will be good at that. IF not, Luckily you have honest friends who will let you know how you are coming across, :)

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..Loving Laughter

  56. James,

    “Listening” all day. Who knew so many people felt so strongly about telephones?

    I got a big, serious article in my inbox today on the importance of being available by telephone as a competitive edge. Well-reasoned, bullet-pointed, and all. Funny contrast to ripping it out of the wall.

    Two sides to every coin. I hate being a slave to the phone (cell phone ringer is always off, you leave me a message and I call back when I can), and I’m pretty shy about making calls, but I do like voices. Both as a provider, and as a customer. I like to be able to talk to a human being, as long as we’re not wasting each other’s time. Sort of like the manners discussion the other day. Not so much worry about misunderstanding with a voice on the end of a line.

    Lots of food for thought here.

    Until later,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Inspiration Points: Failing. With Style.

  57. John Hoff - eVentureBiz says:

    Ok, I loved this post and will definitely be a stumble for me.

    What else can I say other than I totally agree. Recently I had 2 possible clients who called me back to back (one was a guy I knew not so well but he had my number and the other was someone my cousin referred to me and gave him my number).

    Between the two of them I spent an hour and a half on the phone and walk away with a bulleted list that could have been typed up in a matter of minutes.

    As it turned out, both of them were just *lookers* and wasted my time.

    I think I need to create a clear phone policy as well. Dang. Another thing I gotta put on my list. It just keeps growing and growing.

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..Real Estate Challenge: Which Is A Better Investment – Owning or Renting and Saving

  58. I can tolerate the phone to a certain extent, but I know what you mean.

    One thing I’ve seen that seems to work well in a home office is letting the answering machine play secretary. It screens, it lets you get the important parts of a message without having to ask for the same phone number three times because they talk faster than you write….

    ….and it gets rid of the ones who are probably going to waste your time anyway. (I’ve lost count of how many people have hung up after “And we’ll either pick up, or get back to you shortly.”)

    Ravyn’s last blog post..Mass Battle: How to Cover Your Achilles Heel

  59. Right on. Looks like you hit on something here. I became allergic to phones about four years ago and have yet to recover. When I do have to talk on them, I prefer land lines to cell phones. Maybe with so many avenues of online communication it just seems redundant. If I need voice, I much prefer face to face.

    Billy, aka BillyProBlogger’s last blog post..Background Info: Blog to the Beat Pt. 2

  60. You realize, James, those same clients are just going to bitch at you for not answering their emails soon enough.

    This obsession we have with being in touch any time, all the time is madness. Regardless of the mode of communication, comes a time when we all have the right to be let alone.

    Debbi’s last blog post..Lessons Learned (Part 2): Be Brave, Be Strong

  61. @ Debbi – Ahh, but in fast email reply? There, I excel, and with fervor. I *love* my email, and there’s a reason we answer typically within an hour. I think I surprise people by actually being at my desk, heh.

    I think it’s because I’m not on the phone ;)

    Everyone, your comments are fantastic today, and I’m pleased to see so many new faces in our blog section. I’ve found all the opinions valuable (even those that disagreed) and I’m frankly surprised to discover so much support.

    Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of people who disagree with me, but that’s cool too.

    Cheers!

  62. No phones here! Well, perhaps on the very rare occasion when a (pre-scheduled and essential) conference call is the only alternative to spending half a day travelling to and from a meeting… Blessings on all answering services, on Caller ID, and on the myriad internet communication methods that make telephone conversations all but redundant.

    Benefits: I am more efficient without phone interruptions, so you get a better quality of work from me and you get it done more quickly. And if I do, now and then, choose to pick up the phone when I see your phone number come up on the Caller ID display – you’ll know how very very special you are to me!

  63. Oh this post was full of awesomeness. Thanks for the reminder that yeah, we get to choose. And anyone who doesn’t get it isn’t someone you want to work with anyway.

    So …. the way I solved the phone thing (for now):

    1. Added to my contact page the sentence “I’m not really a phone person, but I can act like one if I have to …”
    (Guess what? Since then hardly anyone calls. Score.)

    2. Got a Grand Central # to put on my site. It forwards either to my cell or my office or an answering machine, depending on my willingness-to-talk mood, and sends me the messages via email. Best. Thing. Ever.

    3. Okay, get ready for an “Oh, the irony” moment, but I wrote a post yesterday about how all the people who want advice from me should actually be getting it from you. Alas, having not read this yet, didn’t tell them that they should *write* and not call. But yeah, sending everyone your way and warned them that they should have their $30 in hand.

    I have a feeling this post will become a secret manifesto for all those people who really, really, really don’t enjoy the phone stuff.

    Havi Brooks (and duck)’s last blog post..Ask Havi #1: The “How come?” edition

  64. @ Havi – Ahh, you grace my blog with your peace. And we’re all about secret manifestos. I think that’s why people love us. I hope. Or at least like us a little.

  65. Meryl Evans says:

    One advantage of being a deaf person… never slave to the phone. I think this has helped me whole career because it forces people to contact me when they truly need me (except some friends and family… they’re the chatty ones and I had to stop using AIM every day).

    I think that’s the big reason why I didn’t work crazy long hours all the time. Receiving phone calls twice a year makes it possible to get work done and still have time for water cooler talk.

    Thanks for the drink. Back to my desk.

    Meryl Evans’s last blog post..Take Advantage of These Productivity Tips

  66. James, you can’t see me but I’m standing up and clapping for you! You’ve made a decision based on a lesson I learned a long time ago (and one which I keep having to learn over and over as I realize it applies to different areas of my life): If you’re willing to accept the consequences of your decisions, you’re free to make any decision you like. You need no one’s permission.

    BRAVO! :o)

    Carolyn Bahm’s last blog post..47?365, No. 65 – Karl F.

  67. @ Carolyn – Ha, now that I read your OTHER comment on the other post, I get this one.

    Now. Can you tell me how to escape the consequences of my decisions AFTER I accept them? That’d be grand of you ;)

    @ Meryl – While I’m sure being deaf has its challenges and in no way do I mean to insult you, please allow me to say… you lucky thing.

    I’m also curious. What *do* you use to replace a phone? IM/email always?

  68. James, I wholeheartedly agree! I use a virtual phone for my office. It is programmed to go straight to voice mail for all extensions from 5:30 pm to 9 am. It has a follow-me announcement feature and emails with messages. I can ignore it and return calls (or more than likely email answers) when it’s convenient for me. I ditched the “real phone” several months ago so am no longer annoyed by ringing. It works and I have had no complaints from clients. Great post on a topic that is rarely discussed.

    Karen

  69. I have never heard such an eloquent description of the ridiculous expectations the phone seems to have of me… thank you for giving us all permission to shut that damn thing off (does it apply to Mother-in-Laws too????)

  70. @ Krista – Only if they don’t buy you birthday presents or make good food for you.

  71. Wow, great post! Today I’ve been working on my online graphic design portfolio, and after reading your post decided to remove my number altogether.

    I completely agree – 99% of tasks are more efficient and managable when done by e-mail. You can categorise/flag your messages by priority, and have a record of all conversations. It also removes the need for countless scraps of paper and hastily scribbled notes!

  72. I agree with your sentiments completely. I’ve too often been roused from sleep way too early or pestered in the evening when I’m trying to have my dinner. Working for yourself means working when you want, how you want; if a client wants someone available to talk to instantly, they should look for a full-time, on-site member of staff.

  73. That’s funny. We get minimal phone calls too, but probably because we’re in Spain and most of our clients are in the U.S. I keep thinking we are missing out by not having a phone line, but this is making me rethink that.

    One thing I would like though is having a voice to put with the name of some of our clients. We’ve had a few for several years and I haven’t talked to them on the phone yet. Kind of strange.

    Naomi Niles’s last blog post..Aligning Your Work with Your Beliefs

  74. Not sure how the hell I missed this post, but DAMNIT I love it :) I have people ask me all the time why I never give out my personal number and now, I can just save the long winded email and send them here :) Glad to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t give out the phone number to clients. I too have had people turn me down on jobs because of no phone, but if they can’t handle me not having a phone, then obviously they would have been a pain in the ass over the phone anyways. So, forget ‘em :)

    Mike Smith´s last blog post…37 MORE Information Packed Twitter Backgrounds

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