When you have kids around and need to take a client call.

Our very first episode! Wahooo!

This week Frankie and Steve have a chat in response to a question from Jessie Healy. Jessie is a digital marketing strategist, she says:

“If you have a client call and your kid is awake, do you try to hide it, move the call, or just be honest about the crazy kid noises?”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:29] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie, and this is Steve.

[00:00:39] – Steve
Hello. You did that really well.

[00:00:42] – Frankie
Did I?

[00:00:44] – Steve
Yeah. That’s really good.

[00:00:45] – Steve
Yes. Hello. Welcome. Each week we’re going to be having a chat in response to a question or conundrum sent in to us by one of you, our fellow freelance parents. That’s basically the way it works, right?

[00:00:57] – Frankie
Yeah. We’re like your audio based colleagues, your imaginary water cooler mates. But then… do offices even have water coolers anymore? I don’t know.

[00:01:06] – Steve
I don’t. It’s been a while since I’ve been in one!

[00:01:09] – Frankie
It’s environmentally friendly.

[00:01:11] – Steve
Yes, those massive drums of water. Actually, I had a client recently where they did have one of those, but you filled up your water bottles from them.

[00:01:19] – Frankie

[00:01:20] – Steve
There is something really satisfying — I’d forgotten — about the way those big bubbles float up through a water cooler thing.

[00:01:26] – Frankie
Yes. Nice.

[00:01:28] – Steve
Yeah. Oh, man.

[00:01:30] – Frankie
I had a baby recently and they’ve got a water cooler on the maternity ward. That’s bringing back very visceral feelings.

[00:01:36] – Steve

[00:01:36] – Frankie
No, not bad feelings. Just like being pregnant in a heatwave and drinking a lot of water from a water cooler.

Yes. So the podcast is finally happening after a few people (mainly Penny) has been bugging me to do it for, like, two years. So — it’s happening!

And as much as I like listening to my own voice, I figured it would be good to do it with somebody else, have a bit of a chat, because Doing It For The Kids is all about everybody. It’s all about conversation, getting loads of people together. So me, like, broadcasting to all of you doesn’t make much sense.

So, yeah, I thought I’d get a co-host on board. And then I’ve been slowly stalking Steve Folland on the internet for some time, to the point where we’re now doing, like, a co-mentoring thing. And I’d like to say we’re friends. Are we friends, Steve?

[00:02:19] – Steve
Yeah. I invited you to my birthday party, that’s friends.

[00:02:21] – Frankie
There we go. Yeah, we’re on it.

[00:02:23] – Steve
Also, I don’t know that many people anymore because I’ve neglected them through ten years of having children. So you were making up the numbers and I knew you would eat the cake.

[00:02:33 – Frankie
That is true.

Yeah, so I asked Steve do it. Also, because I’m obviously a woman, mother and I have two pre-school kids and Steve’s a dad and he has two school-aged kids. He’s also a limited company and I’m a sole trader, so there’s, like, a good balance of experiences basically between us.

[00:02:50] – Steve
So yeah, that’s why you wanted me to do it.

I’m a video and audio producer type person. I used to work in radio for years and then I gave up in order to look after the kids. And now I create video and audio and write scripts and do stuff like that and do a podcast and things. And you’re a graphic magician, right?

[00:03:10] – Frankie
A wizard.

Yeah, so I’m a graphic designer and I went freelance about two years before my son was born, vaguely with the intention of being able to work around my kids, which I then discovered was more difficult than I had anticipated.

Yeah, so I do that. I make visual things, I make things look pretty.

[00:03:32] – Steve
Well, thank you for inviting me. Anyway, I think it’s going to be fun.

So you put a call out for questions, we’re going to answer the question, and then at the end… Here’s the thing, we know that it makes more sense to record a load of episodes at once.

That’s what proper, sensible podcasters do. However, we want your feedback. So instead we’re going to record them each week. Which means that after we’ve discussed the question, you can then give us your comments via the DIFTK community or on Twitter or on Instagram or whatever, and then we can mention those comments in next week’s episode. So it’s like we’re all coming together.

[00:04:08] – Frankie
Yes. My baby… I don’t know what to do about my baby. Shall I just get her and hope for the best?

[00:04:13] – Steve
Are you like watching her on a screen?

[00:04:15] – Frankie
Yeah, she’s currently rolling around and going *makes baby noise*

[00:04:19] – Steve
In that case, why don’t you just leave her rolling around going *makes baby noise*?

[00:04:23] – Frankie
Let’s give her until she starts going *makes really loud baby noise*

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:04:29] – Steve
Let’s kick it off with the first question, which was from Jessie, right? Jessie Healy?

[00:04:36] – Frankie
Yes. Hi, Jessie.

[00:04:37] – Steve
So Jessie is a digital marketing strategist and she says:

“If you have a client call and your kid is awake — do you try to hide it? Move the call? Or just be honest about the crazy kid noises?”

[00:04:55] – Frankie
Yeah, I think we’ve all been there. I’ve definitely been there a lot recently, to the point where I try and avoid phone calls. Is that bad? That is bad, isn’t it? If we can do it on email, I can then pick it up around the kids, which is so much easier.

But I appreciate that sometimes you need to have a conversation. It’s just life, isn’t it? And sometimes a conversation can take two minutes, whereas pinging emails to each other can take two days.

[00:05:20] – Steve
When I first went like full-time freelance, it was when our daughter was six months old. My wife went back to work and I looked after her, took her to nursery, but she was barely there. You know what it’s like!

So that meant that I did have moments like this and I did what you just said though, I think I tried to minimise the occasions when I would have to have a call to begin with. Try and restrict the need to have a call.

[00:05:48] – Frankie
Yeah, totally. And it depends on the age of your kids as well. So, like now, my son is nearly four. Basically, if I give him the iPad, he’ll be quiet for the whole day. So I give him the iPad — it’s all good!

Whereas my six month old daughter obviously is slightly different. She will scream that place down if she’s not happy. But equally, I can just whack her in the pram or the sling and go out and walk and take the call that way and she might be quiet.

It’s the in-between bit when they’re like toddlers and just don’t understand. They won’t just sleep on demand if you push them in a buggy. But equally, they can’t be entertained for long periods of time on their own, so they’re in that difficult in between-y bit. I don’t know about your kids, will they just crack on?

[00:06:30] – Steve
They’ve now got to that point where they understand. But you’re right, it is that in-between bit. It’s that thing where, annoyingly, they learn to talk. It’s even that thing of like, learning when you’re on the phone!

[00:06:41] – Frankie
Yeah, what is it? What is this magical piece of plastic?

[00:06:45] – Steve
Especially if you’ve got earphones in so it doesn’t even look like you’re on the phone.

I think in the main, if you have to take a phone call, then being honest is good.

[00:06:56] – Frankie
I agree. Honesty is my best policy full stop with all this stuff.

[00:06:59] – Steve
But the fact is, it can be really hard to have a conversation if there is a kid in the background. Like it’s hard for you and on top of that, it’s stressful for you because you’re feeling bad about the child and about the client, but it’s also hard for the other person. It’s a bit like if you’re on the phone to a friend or a family member and the kids are kicking off, you’d be like, “oh, I tell you what, I’ll just ring you back.”

[00:07:21] – Frankie
Like right now. She’s definitely crying!

[00:07:23] – Steve
Try to minimise when that can happen. So, like, try to organise phone calls when you think your child might be asleep or when your child is in the care of somebody else, those sort of situations. Because I think sometimes a client will suggest when a call should happen and you feel obliged to say yes.

[00:07:41.570] – Frankie
Totally, yes. It’s on their terms, sometimes.

[00:07:44] – Steve
Unless they’re really planning a phone call a week in advance and it’s a meeting.

Yeah, I think sometimes we jump to whatever time they suggest, but actually that’s not the way they work with other people. They will suggest a time to somebody. Somebody else will say, “oh no, I’m in a meeting. Back to back meetings. Sorry”. And you can do that too!

It’s just that your meeting is with your child, your commitment is something else. And even then it’s okay, I think, to say, “oh actually Wednesdays I’ve got the children with me all day, but on Thursday we can chat between blah, blah blah”.

It’s up to you how honest you want to be then but I think it’s okay just to say, “oh, I can’t do Wednesday. How about Thursday at 11am?” The reason we’re talking at 10am is because we thought that baby was going to be asleep, right?

[00:08:28] – Frankie
Yeah, exactly.

[00:08:29] – Steve
If you hadn’t mucked around making a cup of tea for so long, maybe she would have been!

[00:08:34] – Frankie
That is true. Lesson learnt.

But I’ve also got some clients where they just want to speak on the phone, from my perspective… for no particular reason! That’s just how they like to operate, which again, if you push back on, they don’t necessarily need to speak to you on the phone sometimes. Again, don’t feel obliged that you have to take that phone call or have that conversation on the phone if it isn’t actually necessary.

I’ve got some clients that basically can’t be bothered to write a long email and would rather call you because it’s easier for them, but sometimes that’s not easy for you. So it’s about finding that compromise, isn’t it?

There is a mentality as a freelancer to be like, “oh, I must abide by what my client says all the time, I must be your obedient servant”, or whatever. But actually, people respect you more when they realise you’re a human and have your own priorities and your own way of working. And also it depends on the conversation, but it’s often good to get something in writing anyway, even if you have a phone conversation to follow it up with an email or whatever.

[00:09:26] – Steve

… Do you need to go get her?

[00:09:30] – Frankie
Probably. I’m going to hope she’ll be quiet on my lap. Shall we see?

[00:09:34] – Steve
Go on, why not?

[00:09:54] – Frankie
I feel like I should maybe get a toy.

[00:09:58] – Steve
Yeah, a really noisy one.

[00:10:04] – Steve
Yeah. I think I also have different levels of clients that I would speak to in that way. For example, I do quite a lot of work with an agency, like with a learning and development company. But actually the end client is like a big global company. People go and wear suits to go and talk to them and stuff.

Like, I don’t get invited to those meetings. I remember them once inviting me and pointing out very clearly in an email, I’d have to wear a suit with me saying, “oh my God, maybe I can’t come anywa”’. So the people that I work with at the agency know the deal. They know that I’m working from home and that I would have children around, particularly at that time. Now it’s generally within the school holidays.

But their client, the big client, sometimes I would be on a call with them and they wouldn’t know. But in that case, I either wouldn’t take the call or I would be really good with the mute if it was like a conference call.

Mute buttons!

[00:11:03] – Frankie
Hit the mute button on the kid!

[00:11:05] – Steve
Yes, sadly still to be invented…

I would be honest, because the fact is, even within a big organisation, they still have people who work from home sometimes, or all the time, or remote work, or had to work from home that day.

[00:11:20] – Frankie
And increasingly so, to be honest. Yeah, we’ve all seen the video with the guy on BBC News with the kids in the background!
[00:11:30] – Steve
I think it’s good to be honest. But equally, I know that we all want to be professional, and so that’s why it’s good to find that balance when it works for you to take that call. And if there’s something urgent that has come up, which means you have to take that call, then they know that they’re encroaching upon your time and that child could kick off, but you’re doing them a favour sort of thing. So that’s a different scenario.

[00:11:51] – Frankie
But this definitely feeds into, like a bigger question about whether you tell your clients you have kids at all. Because I know when I first had my son, I had a proper chat with my husband about it. It was like, “do I tell people that I work part-time and do I explain why I work part-time? Do I explain that sometimes my kids are around? How do I navigate that? Does that impact my relationship with my clients?”

And I know a lot of people feel like that. And some people are quite actively secretive about it, basically because they’re afraid that potentially people they work for think they’re going to be flakier or distracted and not able to meet deadlines as efficiently or ever, which we all know is crap. But that’s not the point.

It’s like people are afraid that their clients are going to feel like that even if they don’t necessarily know that’s the case.

[00:12:38] – Steve
So what did you decide?

[00:12:40] – Frankie
Well, I was quite cautious to begin with after my first kid was born. My second kid, I was telling everybody I was pregnant when I was like four weeks pregnant pretty much. I was like, “yeah, going to go on maternity leave for a bit, blah, blah, blah”. Even with clients that I’d never worked with before, I was just brazen, basically.

But the first time I was a bit more cautious, but within about, I’d say, six months of him being born, I was very upfront. So I was like, “I work these days because I’ve got a six month old. These are the hours and days that I operate.” Being transparent, being honest. And if that was a problem for them, maybe we’re not going to work together, basically.

And then there were some clients who I also discovered had kids of a very similar age and I didn’t know, and they were like, “oh, that’s cool, I have the same!”, and I had no idea, and turned out to be really flexible about it.

I had a really big quarterly gig doing a magazine, which felt really scary and a bit corporate, and I was a bit intimidated by it. But then I discovered that he had small kids, too, and I was like, “oh” and then we had quite open chats about what was possible, whether we could reach the deadlines we’d set, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:13:38] – Steve
And actually that brings you closer together in a client relationship.

[00:13:42] – Frankie
Totally, yes. We had some good chats, exchanged some good kid-related anecdotes on Skype during quite stressful deadline moments. So that’s nice.

[00:13:52] – Steve
Yeah. I find some clients really respect it as well, even if they don’t have children, they’re like, “I wish I had that flexibility”. I had a lot of phone calls while they would be in the park, for example, because actually, to be fair, in the park most of the time — again, at a certain age — you’re not involved that much. And frankly, as a bloke, you start to feel like the bloke just loitering in a park.

[00:14:29] – Frankie
Not on a Saturday though or Sunday morning. Oh my word! I’m the only mum in the park on a Sunday morning.

[00:14:33] – Steve
If I take the kids swimming during the week, only dad.

[00:14:36] – Frankie

[00:14:37] – Steve
Take them on a weekend. It’s like standing room only in the male changing rooms.

[00:14:43] – Frankie
Yeah, I can imagine!

[00:14:44] – Steve
So, yeah, I think be honest, be selective and protective of your time.

[00:14:49] – Frankie
Don’t be afraid to push back a little bit, obviously don’t take the piss.

[00:14:53] – Steve
And avoid calls if you can, if that suits you. I have actually had numerous clients where I barely speak to them. It’s all done over email.

[00:15:04] – Frankie

[00:15:04] – Steve
Some I’ve never spoken to.

[00:15:06] – Frankie
Yes, absolutely. I’d say, something crazy like 80% of probably my clients I never have spoken to on the phone.

[00:15:14] – Steve
Yes. And it also is a lot more efficient than phone calls.

[00:15:20] – Frankie

[00:15:22] – Steve
There is a role for calls and building relationships of course.

[00:15:24] – Frankie
It depends on what you do. Sometimes a call is just the way that industry operates.

What would your advice be?

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