Episode #41:

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Respond to Clients Right Away

Responding to clients

Is your MO to respond immediately to calls, e-mails and texts from clients? Stop! You’re not helping yourself or your client by being so fast to reply. In this Creative Brief episode, I cover 5 reasons you shouldn’t respond to clients right away.


Now, I just want to be clear. It is very important to respond to clients in a timely manner. But it doesn’t need to be immediate. So by “right away,” I’m talking like within a few minutes to less than an hour.

As always, I speak from experience. Been there, done that!

Problems

1. It sets expectations.

It sets the expectation that you will always respond within that timeframe. If you ever can’t or don’t, the client might start calling, e-mailing or texting, asking if you got their original message. That is super annoying! And, trust me, this is very difficult behavior to un-train.

2. It makes it seem like you have no other work or clients.

Don’t be too eager. Play it cool. If you are always ready at their beck and call, the client may think you have nothing else going on. Whether you do or don’t doesn’t matter. If they think that, it might make them wonder why you don’t seem to have anything else going on.

3. You are not on call.

Unless you’re being paid for overtime or rush work or a day rate to be available during a project, you are not on call, waiting to be paged like a doctor. Our work isn’t heart surgery, folks. What so-called “design emergency” could they possibly have that it cannot wait until business hours to take care of? If you’re working on a print job with a last-minute edit, is the client also going to call the printer in the middle of the night and ask them to re-open just for them? Of course not!

4. It distracts you from your work.

If you stop in the midst of design genius mode, or layout mode, or whatever it is you’re doing, switching gears to go respond to an e-mail is distracting and unproductive.

5. It doesn’t give you time to provide a thoughtful response.

By that, I mean when we’re in a hurry, we are likely to respond abruptly in tone or in words (like incoherent sentence fragments, misspelled words). Even though that may not be the intention, it’s not professional.

Say the client asks you something, you send them an answer quickly, thinking, “Oh, they’ll appreciate my fast response,” then later re-read the message and think, “Hey, I should have also said this.” Because you didn’t take the time to spend a few minutes reading and rereading and understanding their message, you’ve now sent three piecemeal e-mails instead of one proper one.

Or you could have addressed their needs more quickly. Let’s say the client asks you for an estimate for an upcoming project. You quickly respond with, “It will cost x.” Usually what happens next is they ask how soon you can get it done. You respond to that, then they send question in an e-mail.

Folks, just give them all the information up front. You will seal the deal faster, and it’s less annoying than all the back and forth. Be the expert. Anticipate those questions and address them before they can even ask them.

Solutions

So once you’ve gotten into this mess, how do you fix it?

1. Reset expectations and enforce boundaries.

Don’t let client requests dictate your day. If they are, then set and enforce boundaries. Let clients know:

  • your business hours.
  • how quickly they should expect to hear back from you.
  • if they call while you are in the middle of a project, you may not pick up the phone, and that they should appreciate that you would do the same when working on their project.

And then you need to stick to your rules!

2. Change your habits.

Get your finger off the trigger. Schedule any responses that you draft outside of your business hours. You can do this in Gmail and Thunderbird and many other mail programs. This more automated approach will also help you not forget to respond to a client if you happen to read their message at night or on the weekend.

Remember: you’re in charge and you set the tone and the terms for your freelancing business.

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