Phone Phobia: A Freelancer Conundrum

I hate the phone.

Remember as a teenager when you liked the phone? Each ring represented possibility. It could be a friend you were dying to talk to about all that had transpired during the day, or it could be that boy you were hoping would ask you to some nameless dance, even though said boy had no idea who I was. (Yes, the change in pronouns just now was deliberate. Ugh. I hated high school too. Maybe even more than the phone)

Of course, just as often, the phone could be parents checking in, or telemarketers, or even, gods forbid, the school reporting on an unexplained absence or something otherwise suspect. Somehow that never seemed to bother. That whole stereotypical imperviousness, that insensible optimism or egotism ascribed to teenagers, held sway, and instead the phone became our own personal plaything, something for our pleasure.

As with so many other things that change with a bit of age, so goes the favored view of the phone. I can’t pinpoint when my hatred of the phone began in earnest, but I can specify the result. Today I view the phone as a leech, sucking away time and energy. It’s an insensitive beast, breaking into my concentration, taking me away from whatever paying or nonpaying project is consuming my mind. Sure, the unfamiliar number ringing on my phone could be a new prospect calling, or a current client with a compliment, or something else surprising and positive. But the cynicism of being older than a teenager holds sway now, painting that ringing phone as something surely to be a pain in the ass.

The real reason the phone irks me so? I think I’ve figured it out. It puts me at a disadvantage. I’m a person of the written word, most comfortable when I can say something ridiculous or uncouth or merely unfocused, and then rework it to make it presentable. I like drafts, of all my marketing and magazine projects, even of emails. The phone is so here and now. It won’t let me revise. And that makes me uncomfortable, nervous, and sweaty.

In my freelancing, then, I try to gently steer people towards emailing. I indicate to clients, for example, that I am much more responsive via email. I attempt to be as proactive as possible with them, emailing updates when they haven’t been requested, checking in on professional and personal lives, and making my emails clean, crisp and eminently readable. In that way I show how easy and preferred email communication can be with me. When it comes to marketing, I forgo the dreaded cold calling (ugh, I get nauseous just thinking about it) and make my marketing frequent and unique, with a different email or print communication method each quarter.

When it comes to the times when I simply can’t avoid the phone, I try to be as prepared as possible. I set up times to talk with clients and prospects, emphasizing how much better it will be when we’re both prepped and ready to speak about a current project. And that helps tremendously.

That’s my way of dealing with phone phobia. So what do you think: Am I a wuss? Do you have phone qualms?

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