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“But wait, there’s just one more thing I have to tell you…”


August 6, 2015

This was frequently my line when I first started working from home, following my weary husband about the house unloading every minor detail of the day. A slightly rude email, a misinterpreted cover brief, a loss of wifi connection – nothing was too minor to be described in excruciating detail.

Working alone is hard. Like many freelancers, I had gone from spending my days in the warm hug of a shared office, to sitting at my kitchen table refreshing my inbox every five minutes in the hope of something akin to company. The good news is that there is a very simple solution: talking on the phone. Systematically building the phone into my workstyle transformed my experience of working remotely. Here are some tips to making the phone work for you when working out of the office…

Do consider starting the day with a phone call. Rather than getting bogged down with emails, a quick check-in-chat, or a creative call is a great way to start the day motivated and feeling connected – being proactive rather than reactive is key.

Do take the time to be pleasant. Even just a minute of pleasantry can make an enormous difference to a working relationship and is never a waste of time.

Don’t phone busy people for no reason. It’s always best to schedule a chat unless it is really very urgent. And make sure you have have a list to hand if there are specific things you want to cover.

Do take notes. I never make a work call without a notepad beside me as it always amazes me just how much we manage to achieve. And always follow a call up with an email to leave a paper trail so that you aren’t wracking your brains for the details 6 months later.

Don’t phone people when you know they aren’t working. There is nothing more frustrating than getting non-urgent phone calls while at the park with my kids, or on holiday. It’s so important to respect people’s individual workstyle and their time off!

Do get to the point. It’s great to have a little small talk but for freelancers every minute matters so make sure you get to the purpose of your call as soon as you can.

Do be creative. My most successful recurring talk was with a colleague who had moved to San Francisco. Both working remotely and struggling to find our feet, we made a plan that every Friday we would have a ‘menting’ session. We would write a list of everything we hoped to achieve the following week, any problems we were having or projects we were stuck on, and two or three longer term goals we wanted to bear in mind. Then we would simply hash them out over a Skype call. It sounds so simple but the act of being accountable to someone had a huge impact on my working life.

Still not convinced? Try booking in a phone call with a key Associate first thing and see if it spurs you on.

Emma Hutchinson is an Associate at The Hoxby Collective and a freelance writer, editor, translator and soon-to-be life coach. She previously worked remotely for ten years as the Senior Commissioning Editor in philosophy at Polity Press, and is mum to two hectic but very lovely boys, ages one and four.

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