Freelancing: Handling the Midnight Client Call

Toby Somerville
Toby Somerville

One point that came up from my last post (3 Golden Rules For Working From Home) was; how to handle phone calls during and after normal business hours, whilst working from home. There are three basic scenarios:

1. Client call during work hours

Pick up the phone. Using voice mail has its place after hours, but during work hours: pick up the phone. An answering machine says to a client – I’m not here and that (in a client’s mind) can translated to, you being unreliable and you don’t care about their business. Think of it this way: a client takes an extra (perceived) risk using you — a freelancer — as you are not as ‘safe’ to use as a company. Therefore, it is vital that the client ‘feels the love’ and can speak to you during business hours. This helps to reassure them that their business is safe in your hands and you are not some ‘fly by night’ amateur.

2. Personal calls during Work hours

It is pretty standard for your mates or family to call you during work hours at home, and it is an issue you will need to deal with sooner, rather than later. Friends and family need a bit of ‘education’ on your work. During normal working hours you are working — full stop. A polite can’t talk now, flat out busy working – can I call you later tonight?, will usually do the trick. It doesn’t hurt to drop a subtle reminder about, how busy you are during work hours and that you can talk more in the evenings.

3. Client call out of work hours

It is not unusual to get client calls outside of normal business hours (I’ve had a late night call on a bank holiday). This is generally unacceptable, unless you provide 24/7 support. The only acceptable time to call outside of normal working hours (IMO) is if there is a critical business issue i.e. Help. My site has been replaced by a pill pushing porn site or Help. My site is down -– those are critical issues. I can’t remember how to create a link or I’ve forgotten my password, are not critical issues. So how do you deal with it?
  1. My strategy is a simple one: if it isn’t a critical issue, then explain that they have called outside your normal business hours and that you will look into it the next working day. Be polite, but firm. Explain that if they want support outside of business hours, then there is an extra charge. In 99% of cases, the client will respect your privacy won’t do it again.
  2. The next working day, address whatever the problem was, and then let the client know by email what you’ve done and restate your support hours.
As you might already have gathered it is all about communication. Let people know when and what it is acceptable to call you about. TTFN.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Handling Midnight Client Calls

How can I effectively manage midnight client calls without disrupting my personal life?

Balancing work and personal life can be challenging, especially when you have to handle midnight client calls. The key is to set boundaries and communicate them clearly to your clients. Let them know your availability and the best times to reach you. If possible, try to schedule calls during your regular working hours. Use tools and apps that can help you manage your time and tasks more efficiently. Also, ensure you take time off to rest and recharge. Remember, your health and well-being are just as important as your work.

What are some tips for maintaining professionalism during midnight client calls?

Maintaining professionalism during midnight client calls is crucial. Ensure you are in a quiet and well-lit environment. Speak clearly and listen attentively to your client’s concerns. Always be prepared with necessary documents and information before the call. Avoid multitasking during the call as it can lead to mistakes and misunderstandings. Lastly, always follow up with an email summarizing the discussion and the next steps.

How can I prepare for a midnight client call?

Preparation is key for a successful midnight client call. Review the client’s file and familiarize yourself with their needs and expectations. Prepare a list of topics to discuss and questions to ask. Test your equipment beforehand to avoid technical glitches. Also, ensure you are well-rested and alert during the call.

How can I handle difficult clients during midnight calls?

Handling difficult clients can be challenging, especially during midnight calls. Stay calm and composed, even if the client is upset or angry. Listen to their concerns without interrupting and empathize with their situation. Offer solutions and assure them that you are there to help. If the situation escalates, don’t hesitate to reschedule the call.

How can I ensure effective communication during midnight client calls?

Effective communication is crucial during midnight client calls. Speak clearly and concisely. Avoid using jargon and explain complex concepts in simple terms. Listen attentively to the client’s concerns and respond appropriately. Use visual aids if necessary to explain your points. Always confirm that the client understands what you are saying.

How can I avoid burnout from handling too many midnight client calls?

To avoid burnout, it’s important to set boundaries and stick to them. Don’t overcommit yourself and learn to say no when necessary. Take regular breaks and ensure you get enough sleep. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation and exercise. Also, seek support from colleagues and superiors when needed.

How can I improve my client call handling skills?

Improving your client call handling skills requires practice and continuous learning. Attend workshops and seminars on customer service and communication. Learn from experienced colleagues and mentors. Regularly seek feedback from clients and use it to improve your skills. Also, stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in client call handling.

How can I handle language barriers during midnight client calls?

Language barriers can be challenging during midnight client calls. If possible, use translation services or tools to facilitate communication. Speak slowly and clearly, and use simple language. Repeat and paraphrase important points to ensure understanding. Also, be patient and respectful of the client’s language skills.

How can I handle technical issues during midnight client calls?

Technical issues can disrupt midnight client calls. Ensure your equipment is in good working condition before the call. Have a backup plan in case of technical glitches. If a technical issue arises during the call, apologize to the client and try to resolve it as quickly as possible. If the issue persists, reschedule the call.

How can I build rapport with clients during midnight calls?

Building rapport with clients during midnight calls can be challenging but it’s crucial for successful client relationships. Show genuine interest in the client and their concerns. Use their name during the conversation. Be empathetic and understanding. Also, show appreciation for their time and patience, especially considering the late hour of the call.