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If you work from home as a a freelancer, you will almost certainly have some client meetings. These phone or video call meetings allow you to touch base with clients, gather information more quickly than you can through email, and ensure you and your client are on the same page.
As an introvert, client meetings aren’t my favorite part of my job. I’m definitely not a phone person.
But, I do see the importance of occasional meetings, especially with my VA clients. When they’re necessary, I must be able to take calls.
The only problem? There are a ton of people living in this house. Most of them are small children, which means it tends to be noisy at my house!
While my friends and family expect to hear my darling children in the background, it’s not professional to take a client call with lots of noise in the background.
Note: This is especially true for a first-time call. I have clients who wouldn’t be bothered by a little noise, and I am super thankful for them!
To keep the background noise to a minimum, it’s important to make a plan for client calls. Here’s what I do.
1. Ensure Portability
Being tied to a specific spot to take a phone call is so 1990s. 😀 Make sure your phone is wireless, so you can move around. I actually use my cell phone. That way I can continue the conversation outside without worrying about getting out of range if I need to make a quick escape.
To keep my cell number private, I signed up for a Google Voice number. It took a long time for one to become available in the closest metropolis to me. But, I’m glad I kept trying.
I actually enjoy taking my client calls while I’m walking. It gets me some exercise while working, and the fresh air helps me stay focused.
Of course this doesn’t work if I need to refer to the computer, but otherwise it’s my first plan.
2. Don’t Take Unscheduled Calls
My life is too crazy to take unscheduled calls. All of my client paperwork is very clear – I need to have 24 hours notice to take a phone call.
Since most of my clients are other busy moms, they totally understand. They also appreciate the advance notice, so we can both be sure we have a plan for the kids while we chat.
Insisting on scheduled calls put you in control of the situation. You can prepare the rest of your house ahead of time, and gather all the data you need for the call. That way you don’t have to call each other again once you find what you were looking for.
A couple of pointers for scheduling calls:
- Don’t schedule during meal times, or right before them. Hungry kids whine a lot more than full ones.
- Don’t schedule calls when it’s right before nap time. Tired kids whine more than normal too.
- Scheduling during nap times, quiet time, or free time work well. Think of when your house is at a lull in it’s need for you, and go with that time.
A little snack before your call helps too!
3. Know How Long the Call Will Take
I don’t like taking open ended phone calls. It’s much easier to take phone calls as a WAHM if you have an agenda, and a rough idea of how long it’ll take.
If you aren’t sure, take time to ask your client before hand. This way you both can help keep the call on track. I prefer meetings to last thirty minutes or less. It’s about how long I know my younger kids can last at an activity before they get bored and start acting out.
Knowing how long you’ll be busy will help with the next step.
4. Make a Plan and Work then Your Plan
In order to minimize the distractions, I always make a plan for what my family will be doing during client calls. Otherwise I’m shouting out orders right before the call comes in, and I’m left feeling frantic instead of relaxed.
I also make sure to go over the plan during our morning meeting. By sharing the plan with everyone, there are no surprises. I don’t have to hear, “But Mom, you didn’t tell me this was an IMPORTANT phone call.”
Everyone knows. And the older kids can help ensure the plan gets followed.
I actually prefer to schedule phone calls during quiet time. That’s because we just work the normal quiet time plan.
But since many of my clients are on the east coast, that time doesn’t always work. So my second plan is to schedule a phone call during free time. If that’s the case, this is my current plan:
- My son with Angelman Syndrome gets to watch a movie on his iPad in his room.
- The baby gets to practice putting cookie cutters into a bowl or empty oatmeal container with a big sister. Or they play with a container of water on towels on the kitchen floor.
- The toddler girl and the other big sister take a bubble bath (they love this!)
- The toddler boy and the big brother play with train tracks or the car rug.
- My oldest oversees everything and tackles any trouble that arises.
You’ll have to figure out what to do with your children. Here are my guidelines:
- Everyone needs to be accounted for with an engaging activity
- I pair younger and older kids together to help ensure safety (and lack of mess!)
- I alternate activities to keep them from becoming bored.
When the call is over, I check in with everyone. I ask about behavior and listen to any problems. If everything went well, we typically have a small piece of candy as a reward.
The kids know this, and they are very motivated to be good. The older kids help remind the little ones to be good.
5. Know Where You’ll Start the Call
I always have a starting place in mind for my call. If I don’t need my computer, I typically walk, as mentioned above. But, before I start walking I start off in one of our outbuildings, the LEGO Shack. This lets me ensure I don’t miss the call because I’m too busy walking or something.
Then, once the call gets underway, I start walking down the road towards the creek. I typically walk back and forth between the creek and the driveway. That way I’m in full sight of the house and the kids can get my attention if they need me.
If I need my computer, my plan is different. I take my portable internet device, my laptop, mouse, and phone out to our family school bus. I pick a seat, and set up my laptop on the seat across from me.
Then I make sure the internet connection is working, and have a notepad and pen handy for taking notes of the client meeting.
Being inside the bus works better than being in the house for me. It’s close enough that I’m available if needed, but it’s quiet. And the walls of the bus help drown out the crowing roosters who like to interrupt my calls too.
You will have to find a place that works for you. Here’s what I look for:
- Secluded – either out of the house or in a quiet corner of the house away from where the kids are playing
- Closable – when the kids have to open a door to get to me, I hear them coming and have a bit of a warning to ask for my client to excuse me for a minute
- Comfortable – you don’t want to have to squeeze into a tight place or not have a way to sit down for your call. Make yourself comfortable
- Supplies accessible – know what supplies you’ll need for your call, and have everything with you
You should also have a backup location, in case you need to move partway through the call.
6. Practice the Plan
Occasionally, throw a pretend client call into your day. This will allow you to see how the plan works, without worrying about having crazy noise going on in the background during a real call.
Even if I don’t have any calls scheduled, I try to work the plan every couple of months. That way I can see where the rough spots are. I can look for problems and I can fix them before I need them to work for real.
The activities I have planned don’t hold the kids’ interests forever. The kids grow and outgrow activities frequently. By walking through the motions, you can see if you need to update your list. Or mix up which kids are playing together.
While the kids are busy practicing their end of the plan, I get a couple of minutes of quiet time in the bus. It gives me time to knock out some emails, or create some content. Or, I use this time to take a quick walk.
Be Prepared for Client Meetings
Taking time to be prepared for client meetings means you’ll be ready when the phone rings. It’ll help relieve your anxiety about the call, and will teach the kids what you expect from them.
Do you have any other tips for taking client calls when you have a houseful of kids? Please share in the comments.
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Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.