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The Sounds of Web Working: Do They Hurt or Help You?

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When clients call you and hear a baby cooing or a kitten meowing in the background, they can’t help but remember that you’re human. You’re not just an invisible web working slave that does their bidding. You have a life, a family, and pets. Your clients know this because they can hear voices and home background noise when they call you.

But it’s not always advantageous that your clients hear background noise during calls or voice chat sessions.  Especially if you have a rooster.

Schedule your client calls.

I mentioned my pet rooster again because he produces the loudest noise here at home.  I used to have an absolute look of terror when I’m on Skype with a client and he would start crowing.  I wrote in a previous post here at WWD that I worked around this problem by scheduling my work tasks around the time when my pets are asleep. This allows me to call up clients without worrying about any noises the neighbors or pets might make.

Scheduling is also beneficial if your clients are the ones initiating calls. This tends to make both parties more productive. Clients can batch requests or comments rather than calling you every time they think of something new. You can also spend more time on the work itself, rather than answering the phone all day.

After you’ve determined your schedule, don’t forget to notify the other people in your house. Let them know the hours where interruptions and noises are discouraged. If you have a designated home office space, you can also put up signs outside your door to tell others that you are not to be disturbed.

Minimize calls

Another technique that seems to work is to minimize client calls in the first place. Web workers who have a noisy work environment will benefit from this approach.

Of course, some clients need more ‘phone time’ than others. These are the clients that you should call more often. Those clients who are heavy tech users might prefer daily email reports that they can check and read whenever they want. These people tend to be minimalist in their communication style. I have one client that I’ve worked with for years, and I’ve never had to call him. He sees calls as a waste of time and judges me solely based on the quality of my work. (But this doesn’t excuse him from receiving greeting cards from me once in a while!)

Think outside the office

Just because you have a home office, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. A colleague of mine lived near a construction site, which made it impossible for him to make calls during the day. Since talking to clients at night wasn’t an option for him, he would head to a quiet coffee shop during less busy hours and receive/make client calls from there. If going out isn’t an option either, find another room in the house where you can communicate with your clients without noisy interruptions.

How about creating background noise?

InventorSpot recently reviewed two CDs containing busy office background noise. The idea is that you should play the CDs when you’re on the phone with a client, so that they’ll think you’re working in a busy office rather than a home office.

While the concept behind these CDs is interesting, I feel that they are a bit misleading. First of all, unless I’m communicating with a client on behalf of my content writing team, I make them aware that I am working alone.

Admitting this never seemed detrimental to the client’s perception of me. The benefits of this arrangement must always be mentioned upfront, even indirectly. Don’t say that you are “just” a freelance worker who “only” works at a home office. Using phrasing like this shows the client the low esteem you have for your style of working. Let them know that because you do the work by yourself, you give them the personal, one-on-one customer service they need. This means they don’t waste time being passed around from manager to manager until they get the answers or action they want.

Presenting yourself as a fully staffed company rather than a solo contractor can also raise different expectations. They might demand more work than you can deliver, with a turnaround time that seems impossible. If they absolutely need this type of delivery, you can call or hire other freelancers and work as a team. This is where your network of independent contractors may come in handy.

Is it hard for you to talk to clients over the phone when you’re in your home office? Do you think it makes you seem unprofessional?

4 Responses to “The Sounds of Web Working: Do They Hurt or Help You?”

  1. I recently posted about the lack of background noise for teleworkers who are transitioning from Offices to home offices. In my case, it’s quite quiet, and helped with my adjustment to home working to have certain kinds of background noises.

  2. I like to be very upfront about my solo nature – and about all aspects of my personality. I have no idea how many more clients I’d get if my website was “more professional” in that I said “we” instead of “I” and used professional terms instead of having a more friendly writing style, but I don’t necessarily care either.

    By providing your clients an idea of what you’ll be like to work with from the start, you’ll get more clients who are interested in working with someone like yourself, which will lead to more happiness in the long run, I think.

  3. How about when the Skype call is being recorded for a podcast? How about if in the middle of said call 15 yo and returns from school yelling and running down the hall followed by 8 yo son chasing hid and thumping on the office wall. I thought perhaps that might be a little bit too much authenticity. What do you reckon?