It’s 2:45 PM. An alarm on your phone goes off. It’s a reminder for your client call at 3:00.
You feel that familiar pang of “ugh” in your gut. A tinge of anxiety. An urge to find some excuse to reschedule, or better yet, just cancel!
At 2:59, your heart is racing. You start doubting yourself.
Will you be able to answer their questions? Will they hear that you’re nervous, or somehow uncover the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing? Will they hang up when you name your rate? What is your rate anyway?
Then, the phone rings.
This scenario might make you feel like the only noob writer in the world who can’t handle phone calls like a boss, but don’t be hard on yourself.
Many freelancers feel this way when they’re starting out. In fact, even outside of a professional setting, most of us prefer texting to getting on the phone these days. It’s not just you.
Unfortunately, even in our plz-text-don’t-call society, getting clients on the phone is as important as ever. It’s one of my most reliable strategies for closing the deal once I’ve done the initial outreach via email.
Recently a member of our community, Amanda, asked us how to shake the phone call dread.
I used to feel this way myself, so I wanted to share some tips I’ve personally used for overcoming these nasty feels—and the unprofessional vibe they emit.
If you’d rather feel calm and collected than like a frantic rookie on client calls, check them out below. By the time you’re done with this blog post, you may actually be looking forward to your next call!
1. Diffuse tension by removing anticipation
When you’re waiting for a client to call, your brain is spinning. You can’t really do anything else because you don’t want to get caught off guard. Instead, you sit there doubting yourself and unraveling.
Flip the switch on this scenario and offer to call the client so you’re the one initiating the conversation.
Once they’ve expressed an interest in working with you via email, you can say something like: “Thank you for sending this information, Blanche. I’d be happy to give you a call to discuss further. I’m available Tuesday or Wednesday between 9:00 and 2:00. What’s the best number to reach you at?”
By offering to call the client, you’ll come across as proactive and professional while removing that pre-call stress.
2. Do your homework = feel prepared
In fact, be over prepared. Do more research than you need to.
Stalk the Linkedin profile of the person you’ll be speaking to. See if the client’s company has been in the news recently. Read their corporate history.
Check out their social channels. Notice any new campaigns or initiatives.
Note a few talking points and questions to bring up during your conversation.
If you’re able to seamlessly reference something during the conversation, you’ll make a good impression (ie: “Absolutely, Dorothy—I saw yesterday’s tweet about the new store location and I agree that geo-targeted ads would create more buzz”).
As a bonus, you’ll also feel more prepared!
And trust me, clients love this. Listen closely and you’ll hear them switch to a more colloquial tone when they realize they’re speaking to someone who’s invested.
3. Know what you’re bringing to the table
Your worst fear might be freezing up during a call when a client asks a question. You can eliminate that fear by being clear on what you’re bringing to the table.
Every call will be different, but here are a few things you should memorize before the call to avoid getting caught in a dreaded “umm…”:
- Your turnaround time: You get to set this, by the way. Know how long an email, blog post, ebook chapter, etc, will take you. Also, know how much you’ll need to pad that timeline based on your workload.
- Your rate: You set this too! Know what you charge hourly, per-project, per-word, or however you decide to roll.
- Questions for the client: For instance: “Sophia, can you tell me about your target customer? What’s your timeline? Do you have keywords established or will you need those researched as well?” Obviously, you won’t pile these on in the same breath…
- Your workflow: A.k.a. how you prefer to receive and send info about the project, how you’ll communicate, handle revisions, etc. Clients like it when you take the lead on this—but at the very least, they want to know how you usually handle it.
- Your background & expertise: Even clients who know a little bit about you will usually open with this line: “I’ll tell you a bit about our company and the project, and then I’d like to hear about you.” Do not ramble. Give them the relevant cliff notes. If it helps, write it down in advance.
4. Be honest
If you’re confused about something, ask them to explain it.
If they mention the job requires a skill you don’t have—or a service you don’t offer—let them know!
Awkward phone calls happen when you feel like it’s do-or-die and that you need to win the client over before you hang up the phone.
What actually counts is that you calmly and competently exchange the information you need before the call ends.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, request more details, or speak up when you’re unsure about something.
Remember: you’re a professional collecting the details you need for a potential project. No one is going to die if you say the wrong thing.
5. Follow up via email
This one is extra-important.
Don’t let the frantic nature of being on the phone trick you into lowering your rates, agreeing to work you don’t want to do, or anything else.
Making snap judgments based on nerves is a real risk when you’re starting out. Instead, take down notes and let them know you’ll follow up via email.
Clients actually appreciate when you take the time to carefully consider the details.
You can say something like this: “Thanks, Rose! You’ve brought up some great points. I’d like to take some time to think it over and I’ll email you by the end of the day.”
6. Do MORE calls
If you just cringed, stay with me. Like anything else in life, this gets easier with time. The more calls you make, the easier it will get.
If you really want to get over this fear and increase your confidence, make it a point to pick up the phone more often.
One way to pull this off is to change your mindset around phone calls entirely.
Social anxiety is very real, but your brain will believe what you tell it. You can actually transform anxiety about a call into excitement about a call in only a few seconds.
Tell yourself something like, “I’m really looking forward to speaking with this client! I can’t wait to get to know them and find out if this will be an ideal project for me. I’ve done everything I can to prepare and I can already tell it’s going to go smoothly.”
It might sound cheesy, but it can be very effective.
Bonus tip #1: Walk around the room
This is a bonus tip that I learned from Joanna at Copy Hackers.
You should always walk around the room while you’re on the phone. Never take a call sitting at your desk.
Walking around reduces nerves, livens up your voice to help you sound more engaged, and increases focus. It really works. Try it!
Bonus tip #2: This is not an interview
I felt like this tip didn’t quite fit with the others, but it’s still a crucial point to make before we wrap this up.
When you get on the phone with a client, you’re not being interviewed by them.
You’re a freelance business owner (and a provider of value) talking to another business owner (or a representative for that business).
You are equals. You are not “a writer looking for a job”.
You’re a problem solver, and they have a problem. That actually scoots you up one level higher, doesn’t it?
Before you get on the phone, remind yourself of this.
It’s no an interview. It’s a conversation.
If this concept is new to you, I highly recommend reading this entire post before you get on the phone or meet with any future potential clients: Don’t Interview for a Writing Job Before You Read This
Being able to speak naturally on the phone is a skill, and like any other, you’ll need to practice it to get better at it. If you use these tips, I promise they will help you feel more confident over time (and maybe even the first time you use ’em.)
Comic via @shreyadoodles
And hey—don’t worry if you mess up a few times.
I’ve said some truly awkward things in my eight years of copywriting. I’ve gotten stuck without answers, accidentally put myself on mute, and rambled endlessly after losing my train of thought.
My phone has even died multiple times during insanely important calls.
It may also help you relax if you realize that everyone goes through this! I’ve heard CEO’s say weird, awkward things on the phone, have their voices break, and even fumble their goodbyes.
We’re all human.
Finally, remember that phone calls are not just an annoyance.
They’re a golden opportunity—a chance to make a real human connection with the client, establish trust, convey your expertise, and increase your chances of getting the gig.
And once in a while, you’ll even find that the person on the other line is actually quite friendly and pleasant to speak to!
A client call can go from being the thing you’re dreading to something that actually brightens your day.
So until next time, fellow writers, hold your head high, dial that number, and land those gigs with confidence.
You’ve got this.
What was your last client call like? Have you tried these tips? Drop us a comment below—we would love to hear from you!
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