As a freelancer, you should always try to have a set schedule of hours for working on your business. This will keep you from burn-out and the feeling of always being in “work mode.” It also gives you the ability to separate personal from professional. Your family will come to understand that a certain time of the day you are not to be interrupted.
When it comes to new clients and phone calls, there are a few ways to handle calls.
First, keep a separate phone line and email for business. The reason this is good is because you can turn the phone off and not log into the email. This gives the best ability to keep strict office hours and not on that time. Voicemail will be there upon your return at your next scheduled work day. You will also need to keep the “itch” at bay to check messages and respond to emails outside of those hours. Touching base with customers will alert them that you are available at any given time.
Second, be available every second of every day. Okay so not exactly but it feels like it. Answer every phone call and always keep your calendar and a notebook nearby to write down any notes about the potential customer. The benefit for this method is your customer knows you are reachable to answer any questions they may have. The downside is if you are not prepared, you can sound like you are caught off guard. I have found most are understandable if you tell the client you are outside your office hours or between appointments right now. I keep a working notebook for just such an occasion for client notes and deadline information. Office hours are great when times are busy and you have the work, but when work is slow and the office may not always be open, it’s good to appear busy and reachable – without looking desperate.
Third, a combination of both options. It’s good to hold regular business hours and portray the image of a busy freelancing professional. However, it is okay to show you are available for new clients instead of appearing so busy you do not have time. the client wants to believe you take time out of your busy day to cater to their needs but also not so much that you are waiting by email and phone itching for them to give you a project. Appearing “on the go” but available for a few moments to chat helps portray that image. Let them know you have taken notes and will get back to them as soon as you get back to the office.