my client wants me to be constantly available

A reader writes:

I work as a consultant for a few small nonprofits. Recently, the manager of one of the organizations I work for retired. She and I worked together for several years and our communications styles matched in that we both generally preferred using email over the phone for most things (except for calls we’d plan in advance or in extreme emergencies). 

The organization’s new manager has taken to calling me multiple times a day to “check in” on things that I’ve already emailed him updates about, or on things we agreed to follow up on later, pending additional info I’m still waiting for. Other times, he will randomly call to have some big group discussion about something, without prior planning. Several times, that has happened when I was away from my desk and then it becomes an issue of where am I and when will I be able to call back, which means I need to get to my desk as soon as I can.

What’s more, he will leave totally useless voicemails when I don’t answer, saying things like “Hi, it’s (name). Call me back.” I mean… if you’re going to leave a voicemail, at least SAY SOMETHING in the voice mail beyond that you just called, which I can already see based on the three missed calls I’ve had from you in the past 20 minutes.

In addition to being annoying and distracting, this dynamic of constant phone calls is really stressing me out. I’m a consultant, not an employee, which means that I’m not accountable to the org for my whereabouts and activities during the day so long as my work gets done (which it does) and this constant barrage of calls is making me feel chained to my desk and phone at all times. And believe me, they don’t pay me “chained to my desk” money. Beyond that, his numerous “check-ins” on items I am actively working on are making me feel hounded, nagged, and micromanaged.

My friend advised me to try to “train” the new manager in how to communicate with me by telling him “I’m not available by phone, but I will be available by email” and by responding immediately to all emails, but not answering my phone. I’ve tried this, but so far it hasn’t been working. If I don’t pick up, I can usually expect several more missed calls until I finally bite the bullet and call back. And the issues he’s calling about are never “emergencies.”

This is making me crazy and the longer I let it continue, the harder it will be to make it stop. It’s to the point where he and I chat on the phone six, seven times in a single day. Are there more direct – but still professionally acceptable – way to tell him that he simply cannot call me so often?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    Ugggggghhhh, the client who wants to pay for 25% of your time but expects you available for 100% of it.

    I hope the OP was able to use Alison’s advice successfully. (Was there ever an update?)

    1. topcat*

      In the early days of freelancing and the general mistakes that we all make when first going solo and being desperate to please, I had a *pro bono* client like this!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Agreed, too. I don’t know if this guy just has too much time on his hands or if he’s forgetting that consultant =/= employee or what, but I’ll be shocked if he shaped up.

      1. Seriously?*

        If he was just confused about the role of a consultant (and what they are being paid) then he may have backed off when it was spelled out. He may have thought that they were paying for full time work.

    1. uranus wars*

      That is 100% what I was going to say. I think there are a significantly higher number of people out there who have NOT worked directly with a consultant in this way than there are those who have. He might just need for someone to explain the role, the multiple clients, the agreement/expectation for X number of available hours, etc.

    2. Hey Nonnie*

      Some of these guys practice willful “ignorance” on the role of a consultant, too. If this guy is one of those, OP would almost certainly lose him as a client sooner or later (because what he really wants is an employee he doesn’t have to pay a full salary and benefits for). If you assert boundaries with a client like that, they may pay lip service to “understanding” and agreeing to them, just to replace you with someone they CAN walk all over.

      I once had a client who sent me a project and asked for rush turnaround “but without the rush fee.” We had a written contract where standard turnaround times and when “rush” applied were explicitly laid out. For the sake of keeping the peace / client, I didn’t call her out on it, but feigned confusion (I knew exactly what she was asking) and just asked her to clarify whether she wanted the project rushed or not. She came back with “Oh, I guess we don’t need it rushed, then.” (They were garbage at planning ahead so I wrote that boundary into the contract on purpose specifically to remind them how working with a consultant is supposed to work.)

      To no one’s surprise, she informed me that they had already replaced me a month or two later. They gave me “notice” (required in that written contract) by telling me my replacement was already doing my work, and this was the start of their required notice period, without actually giving me any further work during said period. I hope they coughed up the cash for an actual employee, but as cheap as that organization was, they’re probably driving a different consultant crazy now.

  2. Elysian*

    One of my biggest pet peeves is the useless voicemail. My dad does this all the time – I’ll go through all the work of logging into my voicemail just to hear him say “This is your dad. I’m going to try calling your landline. Call me back if you have time.” And then he’ll leave a similarly useless voicemail on the landline. It drives me nuts!! I hate those little alerts that say I have a voicemail, and I want them gone, but it takes so much effort…

    1. rldk*

      It seems to be a vestigial habit from pre-caller ID days when you wouldn’t see a name with a missed call. But it’s so frustrating! If you really needed to call, tell me why!

      1. Mmmm S’mores*

        I agree that its an old habit.

        At the same time its been what, 25 years since the caller Id was invented, 20ish since it was really common.

        I get that change is difficult and only gets more tiring as we age and have to somehow keep up at least partially. But communication changes should really be a priority.

        Yes for sure older peoples preferences have just as mich weight, but when you actively keep doing something thats annoying… thats different.

        My grandma is very clear that she does phone calls only, she wasnt passive aggressive or unreasonable. Shes very goid at reading other people and clearly stating what shes willing to do. And shes willing to try to do quite a bit.

        It makes her timeless and priceless honestly, to family and her employer who bends over backwards so keep her as long as she wants to be there.

        Im going to go call my grandma now.

    2. Thursday Next*

      For personal relationships, it’s just a different (generational) way of viewing phone calls. Your dad probably grew up when you called something just to chat for a bit—no agenda. I think that’s closer to how people use texting now—the “hey, are you up?” kind of text, where it doesn’t matter if the person doesn’t see it or respond for hours.

      My parents have filled out their voicemails more, so they let me know they wanted to say hello and it wasn’t anything important or particular. It’s when I get the “It’s Your Parent. Please call me” voicemail, with no qualifiers, that I know to call back ASAP (my mom won’t say things about serious illnesses or family deaths in voicemail).

      1. Artemesia*

        My son is not easily reachable. If I call and leave a vm that says ‘It’s your Mom, give me a call’. he calls back very soon. I reserve that for calls like ‘Grandma died this morning.’ If I just want to chat I say ‘I’ts your Mom, just called to touch base.’ And eventually maybe I hear from him.

        For the LW’ client, I would couple not being available with the talk about setting up a time each week. e.g. he calls and wants you in on a conference call this afternoon. ‘I am sorry but I am meeting with another client this afternoon and so am not available — let’s talk about scheduling this sort of thing in our Tuesday call.’

        And obviously try to not be dependent on one big client or you do end up having to be on their leash.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        My husband communicates with both his parents regularly (like at least every day, often multiple times) by text. His mom has no problem with this, but his dad definitely prefers phones and when there’s something complicated to discuss (medical issues, family issues), he prefers to talk rather than have to type things out (in poor grammar and syntax).

        A few times, FIL texted or called, leaving a generic “please call” message. Husband assumed this was urgent and dropped everything to call, and… it was not urgent.

        Husband finally spelled out directly that for actual emergencies – health issues, deaths, etc – calling should obviously be the choice. It seems rude to inform him of a death in the family by text. But for minor issues like are we going to the beach this weekend and can we pick up Gramps? There’s no need to have a drop everything phone call. So now, FIL will say something like “please call to talk about X” instead of “call me back” with no details making Husband freak out. It seems to work out.

    3. Ali G*

      I know! I have this really pushy sales dude from my first job who stalks me on LinkedIn. He calls like once a month and is like “Hi Ali G, it’s annoying sales Dude. I look forward to you returning my call.”

      Um no. You can look forward to that all you want. If you are calling me, you have a reason, so tell me what it is.

      1. CM*

        “I look forward to you returning my call” strikes me as “The Secret” type stuff — like, if he puts it out there in the universe that you’re going to return his call, you eventually will.

        I wonder what happened with this one — I’d expect that the alternatives are to train the client, charge the client way more, or fire the client.

      2. Amber T*

        “I look forward to you returning my call.”

        Get used to disappointment. (courtesy of Princess Bride, aka best movie ever).

        1. RVA Cat*

          “My name is Annoying Sales Guy. You did not return my call. Prepare to….keep doing that, actually.”

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Hmmm. What’s weird to me is that the OP assumed the client assumes she will call him based on 3 missed calls. I hate voicemail too, but if you can’t or won’t send me an email or text, you better leave a VM. I’m not returning a missed call with no context. I know when I’m at work and something is urgent enough to actually CALL someone, I will probably call a handful of people capable of answering my question until I get someone, so I’m not going to leave a VM and I’m not going to expect them to call back.

      1. Amber T*

        I hate voicemail with a passion. I’ll give our vendors a quick call, and if they’re not available, 9 times out of 10 I won’t leave a voicemail, but I’ll drop them a quick email saying “hey, just tried to ring you, wanted to touch base on X, give me a call when you can.” Why I can’t leave a voicemail saying the same thing? I dunno. I prefer getting the emails too rather than listening to the voicemail (did you say ‘teapots’ or ‘leakpots?’ *Probably* teapots but we did just talk about leakage the other day…).

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s SO MUCH EASIER for me to access email than voicemail. I, for one, would really appreciate people not leaving a voicemail at all, and just emailing with a request for a phone call on X.

        2. misc.*

          fwiw, I think this is a fine way of handling it. the point of a voicemail is to tell me why you called, and if you send me an email with that same content then I get the information, one way or another.

      2. Yvette*

        If it isn’t important enough for the client to leave any information, it isn’t important enough to get a call back.

      3. misc.*

        I had to change my voicemail because I was getting so many random calls with no or blank voicemails that I just couldn’t call everyone back, so now my VM says “If you need me to return your call, please leave a voicemail and I’ll get back with you”. Still get lots of calls, but very few VMs I have to worry about.

      4. AGeekNamedBob*

        My last job at Teapot Insurance we had that for a policy – If you don’t leave me a message, I’m not going to call back. Caller ID was spotty and our missed call longs were just missed call. We can tell some of the callers but no time to go through. Of course, there were many people who would just call over and over again without leaving a message. Ruin our call percentage with just non-stop.

    5. Lemon Sherbet*

      My father likes to call me and say, in an ominous tone of voice, “Call me back when you get this.” And then I call him, thinking someone has died, and he says, “How do I delete an email again?”

      1. only acting normal*

        Ah, yes, The Voice Of Doom (TM). My mother uses it, like one time when she shrank my cardigan in the wash – I also thought someone had died or was dying.

        1. Been There, Done That*

          Well, your parents are your parents for all of your life… They get privileges that don’t go to the client who thinks they own all your time. Or who are so at loose ends at their own job, don’t know what they’re doing yet or just have too much time on their hands, that their solution to dead air is to pick up the phone and call somebody (I once worked at an organization where we had one like that) and chatter. Not too productive. Nowadays I work w/ people who have their own preferred contact method, for some it’s email and for others it’s phone.

    6. Cruciatus*

      I’ve received similar messages, but my dad ends his voicemail messages to me with “message over.”

    7. The Cosmic Avenger*

      YES! My dad used to do this, and leave a message on all 3 lines!! And it was the kind of random question like “Do you remember the person we lived next door to when you were six months old? We moved away when you were eight months old, and never saw them again?” (Seriously, he’d ask me about things I was too young to remember, not for any reason, because he was thinking about them. I learned to just keep saying “no” over and over and over and over.)

    8. Koala dreams*

      I also find voice-mail complicated, so I called my phone company and told them to take away the voice mail feature. Now I don’t get voice mails, and if people want to leave a message, they can text or write an e-mail or a regular mail or whatever.

      As a millenial, I remember the pre- everybody has a mobile phone time. People had landlines and if you were lucky either caller id or phone message. Sometimes it really was quicker to send a regular mail, even if it took two days…

      1. KayEss*

        If we want to talk pre-mobile dark ages, my (doctor) mom had a pager when I was a kid. Imagine giving your pager number to an anxious 10-year-old latchkey kid–I page her SO many times with what was ultimately meaningless kid stuff, but she didn’t have any other option for emergencies, so there it was.

      2. Submerged Tenths*

        As an Older Than Dirt person, I remember when I was a kid and we had . . . a party line! We were not allowed to “chat” on the phone, because someone else might need to use it. Single line, then answering machine, and now texting. Gimme text any day!

        1. Been There, Done That*

          Wow! When I was a kid my best friend’s family had a party line. I’d heard about them but didn’t know anybody in the Modern Era still had them in town. Those poor party line people–we kids burned up the line all the time and the grown-ups hardly had a chance.

    9. Susan Sto Helit*

      My mother is even worse – she waits until the call goes through to the voicemail, listens to the message all through, and THEN hangs up – so you get a voicemail message, but all it is is the sound of her putting the phone down. It’s like she’s still waiting for me to pick up and doesn’t understand that once the voicemail has kicked in I *no longer have the option* of answering. Not mention that I haven’t willingly rung my voicemail since about 1997 anyway.

      I’m still trying to train her to just send me a whatsapp message.

    10. nonegiven*

      My mom does that. She always says, “It’s just me. Call me back.”

      I just wish she would give me a hint. Does she want to tell me something and there is no hurry or does she want me to drop everything, drive 50 miles, and take her to the ER?

  3. Bridget*

    I worked at a country club and some of the members were like this—calling me constantly for non-urgent things. Something that slowly somewhat trained them out of it was setting up my voicemail to say that they should email me for the most prompt response and that I would respond to voicemails within 48 hours. I was the catering director so half the time I wasn’t at my desk, but could respond to quick email requests on my phone and not have to take the time to sit back down and make a phone call.

    1. Let's Talk About Splett*

      I had a job where customer requests fell under my purview, and to grant/deny I had to look info up that may take awhile. So I changed my vm greeting to add, “Please explain how I can help you”. That way I could look up the info I needed before I called them back to eliminate phone tag.

  4. LSP*

    I work with a lot of consultants, and although most of them are contracted to work full-time or close to it, I work particularly close with one who is less than half-time. She is probably one of my most valuable contractors, which is why I always check to see if she’s available for a call if one is needed. I also encourage her to take entire days off now and then just to decompress, because I know how much work she gets done for us in the 15 or so hours a week we have her, and I don’t want her to burn out.

    This manager might not be used to what it means to work closely with a contractor, and will need a little reminder that you are not an employee and cannot give him all of your time. If he is decent at his job, he’ll understand you are a valuable asset and he’ll do what it takes not to drive you away.

  5. nonymous*

    When I’ve worked with vendors in a personal capacity it seems the experienced ones, with good boundaries and excellent communication (and hit their deliverable consistently!!) are also the most up front with expectation-setting. Like “$XX gets Y time portioned out in A, B, C ways; here are a few samples of work, here are add-on options which may be valuable for your particular situation/budget”, and then in subsequent convos they are good at setting timelines for the action item list.

    It doesn’t have to be full on Gantt chart. I’ve found a very effective low key approach when wrapping up a meeting is to summarize the list of action items (with due dates) and a date/time identified for the next connection. I do think it is worth pushing for a commitment for the next meeting be it by video, phone or in-person. It allows for polite deflection of anything that is not an action item until the next meeting. Even if a colleague or client has the work habit of spamming instead of collating, it’s easy enough under this framework to wait it out. If stuff is coming up that is time-sensitive between the meetings, that’s an indicator that the meeting spacing is too far apart. Note that I’m using the term meeting loosely to include both formal and informal types.

    1. uranus wars*

      I wonder if this kind of conversation happened when they first negotiated the contract but then never re-happened when a new person took over the role.

      I worked as a consultant for 3 years and definitely discussed all of what you were saying before signing a contract. I probably worked more hours than stated in the contract some weeks but definitely fell short others. It was really more about paying me for a job, rather than for hours, but it was all flushed out prior.

      1. nonymous*

        The other thing is that customer might be a constant boundary pusher.

        I had one neighbor who was like this on the HOA board and thank goodness the vendor kept saying “You’ve already allocated my hours for X activity. Are you authorizing extra $ for this? It would cost Y” instead of just sending us a bill when it was all done, like a lawyer or accountant. I’m pretty sure she had to repeat that statement 3-4 times every meeting >_<

    1. Antilles*

      As mentioned in the post, Alison re-runs older letters at Inc. about once a week.
      So yeah, you probably did see the original either way back when or possibly recently through following a rabbit trail of “similar posts…”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them).

      From the bottom of the letter.

  6. Free Meerkats*

    When the next contract negotiation come up, include in the contract that it covers X number of scheduled phone calls a week and Y number of ad hoc calls. Additional calls are charged at $/hour or part thereof (so if he calls just to check in, he pays for an hour.)

    That is, if you decide he’s worth the trouble and stress.

  7. Wendy Darling*

    Wow! I could easily have written that letter and I hope OP take Alison’s advice. I worked for that type of manager as a full time employee and watched him do this to consultants ALL THE TIME. I cringed everytime I was asked to call the consultants for him. No amount of dissuasion could put him off. Helping him understand the points that were made here about consultant vs. full time employee would only throw him into a rage about ‘how much he paid for their services’. This almost always to a one derailed into LOUD ARGUMENT with consultant, THREATS and eventually firing the consultant before they got the chance to fire him and moving on to the next victim, er, consultant. He was a horrible, toxic manager and I’m so glad I left there. Best of luck, OP – fire that client and make room for one’s who appreciate and respect your work.

    1. uranus wars*

      I really hate your guy, but I wonder if this guy may just not understand how consultants work or are contracted. Or how this particular one is. I have worked as an employee with contractors who were ours 40 hours a week and we could call on as needed, but have also worked as a contractor in the capacity the OP is writing about. When this guy took over I wonder how much her role was explained to him. I wish we had an update in the logs somewhere!

  8. Shakes the Clown*

    Are you billing them for the phone calls? My lawyer sure as hell would, in 6 minute increments.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    My first thought, and Alison’s advice reflects this, is that he genuinely doesn’t understand you’re a consultant with multiple clients. Including that he’s not paying her anywhere near enough to be his full-time employee. He’s acting like she’s a full-time regular employee who works from home, and maybe that is how he pictures her in his head.

    Context–I freelance, and everyone I work with knows that if they’re lucky I’ll answer their email right away and if they’re not lucky I’ll see it in four hours when I finish some other thing that is occupying my attention. They are paying for me to complete their project by the agreed-on deadline and answer intermittent questions that arise about that, not to be available 9-5 M-F to them. New dude doesn’t seem to grasp this, and it may be sincere not grasping.

    1. GingerAle*

      Yes, agree. I worked at an agency that did consultant work. One time, someone told a client, “Well, I have to go now, I have a call with another client,” and that client said, “You have other clients?!” They genuinely thought their team was dedicated just to them. Um, no, every team has like 5-7 clients…

      1. Jaybeetee*

        In the past I had a WFH virtual assistant job – it wasn’t even consultant work, I was with a company that worked with two other companies providing these services to all their employees. The job was mostly research – things like looking up local daycares, doctors, helping plan vacations, etc, so that employees weren’t spending their work hours on that stuff. I still remember this one guy who placed 5 separate requests for me to research hotels in 5 cities he was going to visit with his family on this huge European vacation that summer. All 5 requests together were going to shake out to about 10 hours of work for me, which, with other requests and bearing in mind I only worked 8 hours per day, would take me several days to complete.
        He placed the requests on Friday. By Wednesday I had just about all the info he needed, when he emailed me and abruptly said he’d done all the research he’d needed already in the space of two evenings and that I was too slow getting back to him. (In that job, we always sent “acknowledgement” emails indicating when we’d have the info ready by, so he wasn’t just waiting in the dark for me). I was so steamed that I’d just spent a big chunk of three workdays doing this for him, only for him to decide it still wasn’t fast enough! He was a difficult dude for other requests as well, and he clearly didn’t realize that I wasn’t sitting around waiting for him to put in tasks – I was doing other things for other people too.

    2. Ama*

      I am the primary contact for a contractor who has worked for us for years on a very specific project (primarily because she was hired for her in depth knowledge of the database software we use to do that project). As part of her scope of work she attends a couple in person meetings a year and communicates with other collaborators on the project. However, because most of my coworkers only ever saw her at that in person meeting (where she often helped me with set up and other event duties because she’s a nice person, not because she was required to), I often had to explain to other department heads that, no you can’t ask Jane to help with your event because she’s not actually an event coordinator, she’s a consultant for the database.

      I could also see, since OP has worked with the org for years, that others at the org, even the outgoing manager, may not have realized that the way the working relationship is structured may not be as obvious to an outsider as it feels to them.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        And lots of “contractors” really are working full-time for one client. And many people confuse and conflate contractor and consultant. OP used the word consultant but I’ll bet this client doesn’t get the difference at all.

        Agree with the folks who say that OP should start charging per phone call. (Should have charged. Keep forgetting this is historic advice.)

  10. Maddie*

    I wonder what happened. I would have put that guy on notice that if this doesn’t stop, consulting stops.

  11. AdvertisingAce*

    I work for an ad agency and we have several clients like this… They call at all hours (literally around the clock, even at 3am to your personal phone, for”just wondering” non-emergency questions), leave vague voicemails, and expecting you to be available for last minute calls without notice.
    I do a combo of setting immovable boundaries (like muting their calls on my personal phone so it never rings aloud outside of office hours) and just reminding them of scope as if it’s routine. “You know, I haven’t budgeted for that conference call in your hourly retainer, so I’ll have to add time to your invoice, let me know if you still want me on the call.”

  12. boo bot*

    At one point I made a rule (for myself – it was a secret rule) that I wouldn’t schedule same-day phone calls. Everyone who asked to talk was told, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. (There are almost no emergencies in my field. No one will ever die or have their life irrevocably altered for good or for ill, because they can’t get me on the phone right this second.)

    Now, I’m more flexible. I have a few clients who I will talk to pretty much whenever they want, but that’s because I’ve been working with them long enough to know they are respectful of my time, and I like working with them (and they text me first. Why don’t people text first?) BUT setting the boundary as far out as I feasibly could was so good for my perspective – I stopped feeling like I had to jump whenever someone wanted me to, which is, in part, the point of being a consultant. Obviously the next-day rule is crazy in a lot of workplaces, but I would strongly suggest setting some kind of unflinchingly rigid boundary for yourself. Other things I’ve done include:

    (1) I don’t ever pick up the phone when the client calls, I listen to the message, wait 15-20 minutes, and call back when I’m prepared.
    (2) I make them schedule calls, even if it’s, “I can talk at 2:30” when it’s already 2:00. (Also: don’t say “in half an hour,” say the time of the call, it reinforces the scheduling principle.)
    (3) I don’t take calls before X time, after Y time, or on weekends (or whatever).
    (4) I start every call, including scheduled ones, by telling the client what the end time is. Whether or not I do this, I end the call at the end time.

    Like I said, I don’t usually stick to these any more (unless a client earns it) but doing it for a while really helped me in days of yore.

    1. ZucchiniBikini*

      I’m a freelance consultant too and I do a lot of these things too! I will accommodate same-day calls if they are scheduled (eg client X emailed me yesterday at 9am asking if we could do a call to touch base on a project that day; I replied, “sure, I’m free at 1pm or 2:30pm”; they sent an invitation for 1pm and we went from there); but unless we have scheduled the call, I definitely don’t pick up immediately but listen to the VM first. I don’t take calls on weekends ever for any reason. (They are welcome to email me at the weekend, and I will respond if I’m able to, but none of them are paying me for 24/7 or even 7 days, and in my field, there are no genuine emergencies either). I generally schedule calls between 9:30am and 4pm Mon – Fri but if a client asks, with notice, for an earlier call, I’ll do it (one of my clients, for instance, likes me to dial in for their monthly strategic planning meeting which is at 8am). I am much firmer about no evening calls though.

  13. Kitty*

    “If I don’t pick up, I can usually expect several more missed calls until I finally bite the bullet and call back.”

    The problem is that when you give in and call back, you’re teaching him that it takes x number of calls to get through to you, so he’ll keep doing that. If you want this kind of behaviour training to work, you really have to commit to not ever using the phone. If he can never ever reach you that way, eventually he will give up on it.

    But that sounds like an exhausting waste of your time. If this client doesn’t account for all or most of your income, it might be easier to just end the working relationship with them.

    Good luck!

    1. Nanani*


      I would suggest muting his number or just silencing your phone entirely when you’re not expecting a pre-scheduled call. He will contact you in agreed upon ways or he will not contact you at all.

  14. Rae*

    Google voice, as well as other services, can transcribe voicemails and send them to email. I would create a boilerplate response.

    “I received your voicemail and am currently unable to consult by phone. I am happy to help you (troubleshoot?) however, you did not include an issue. If you email me back letting me know what the inquiry was before X o’clock I should be able to handle this matter with you between the hours of Y and Z.”

  15. ZucchiniBikini*

    I also am a freelancer and I currently service 3 major clients, in the proportion 40 / 40 / 20 (ie Client A gets 2 days, Client B gets 2 days, Client C gets 1 day, although this an average, week to week the proportions will shift based on deadlines).

    Two of my three clients are excellent about communications – primarily via email (and plenty of detail!), with one fixed scheduled call a week, and when I need to attend for meetings in person, either plenty of notice is given, or the scheduling is left to my convenience.

    One client is so poor at communication generally that for the sake of my own sanity on the project, I have taken to doing one of my two days for them in their office, as it is the only way I can reliably get the direction and input I need. When I am not on site to them, I get unscheduled calls every day, although not 10 times a day like the OP! (Usually one, sometimes two, a day). I have a fixed policy of not answering unscheduled / unexpected calls from *anyone* except my children’s school during my work day – my mother is still getting used to this! – so I do not answer the call but rather listen to the VM and get back to them within a reasonable timeframe (usually 20 minutes). Sometimes, instead of calling them back, I email them the information they need, and usually get back a surprised thanks in response (they are used to multiple phone calls to get to a result rather than one beautiful self-contained email).

  16. Anonymosity*

    Ugh, Inc is just unreadable without an ad blocker and completely unavailable with one. Sorry, I can’t look at it.

    I was just thinking maybe schedule calls, and hash communication out before the contract was signed (or put it in the contract), but then I noticed that the OP was already on the contract and it was the manager who was new.

    1. MassMatt*

      I agree, OMG that page was terrible, Alison I know this is out of your control but maybe you can give them feedback? I assume their goal is to drive traffic to their site but the site itself is driving me away!

  17. WMM*

    Sounds like OP could use a voicemail to text service. It is free through google voice, and most phone companies offer it for a fee. Well worth it if OP is calling to check messages when this guy leaves a voicemail only to find the effort wasted with his lack of content.

  18. AGeekNamedBob*

    My last job at Teapot Auto Insurance had people like this. I worked claims; for explanation I worked where there was any sort of complication – coverage issues, liability investigations, and the like.
    Most people were fine with just contact when needed to move their claim forward. But there were some people who would call multiple times a day to see if there was any update, no matter how many times they were told it takes time. We need to hear back from the other company, people within our own, or from other people involved with the accident. I feel bad as often they’d be needing that contact to help them in some way but there is only so much I can do every day and I have many, many claims. I don’t have the time to call the other people multiple times a day.

    It was double annoying when it was a trivial thing, but then again the worst people I dealt with were in trivial accidents (people will argue so intensely over parking lot bumps). The last of these people before I left was okay, his car was fine, but his neighbor’s boat and trailer have some damages. As he refuses to get them repaired through his own policy, we need the at-fault insurance to send out someone/do estimate/repair, etc. But they are slower than we were. so he’d call me twice a day and see if they called me. They wont’ call me, our part together is done. But he’d go throug the WHOLE CLAIM with me each time. these are 30 min calls. I’d try to steer him of th ephone but no, wouldn’t go.

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