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What to do when you get nervous before every client call

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It’s one thing to be nervous before you call a new client to talk about all of zeroes on the end of your quote. Or to be nervous when you’ve got a call lined up with the big cheese you ran into at the conference last weekend.

But what about when you’re anxiety-ridden with a pounding heart rate before the call with a client you’ve had for several months who loves your work?

Yes, unfortunately, it happens to a lot of freelancers.

For those of us with weird phone phobias or a generally introverted nature, it takes very little to get us worked up.

(For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a new client or a tried-and-true source of referrals. If I’m making face-to-face or voice-to-voice connection, 9 out of 10 times I’m nervous about it.)

But if there’s one thing introverted people know how to do, it’s research. And so today we’re going to look at four strategically-nerdy ways to alleviate your nervousness before any kind of client call:

1. Reframe the upcoming interaction

Insecurity is a big deal for freelancers, as we’ve all struggled with the imposter syndrome at some point in our career.

But when your body freaks out regularly because of something you know to be untrue (AKA “I know this client likes me, but I am nervous anyway”), it’s time to reset that stress response.

The first step is to understand that having real-time interaction is not a challenge to who you are, what you think, or what you’ve done. In reality, you’re speaking to a client who values your advice and perspective so much that they’re paying you for it. And since people rarely go out of their way to pay people they don’t like, it’s fair to say they’re looking forward to speaking with you.

(Of course, if you are working with a client who frequently challenges you in a non-constructive way, it’s worth reading up on how to fire a client.)

You may or may not know where this default reaction comes from, but it’s entirely within your power to intentionally reframe the interaction in your mind and alleviate the nervousness you feel.

Here’s a great script to practice: far from challenging you, your client is simply curious about your opinion and wants to get to know you better.

If anything, this is more like a celebrity radio or TV interview than an inquisition; all you need to do is respond politely to questions and, in general, share your opinion about what the two of you should do to achieve their goals.

2. Read positive testimonials

Everyone loves a compliment, but it goes much deeper than flattery for freelancers.

When we’re stressed, nervous, or anxious, our bodies display those emotions physically with increased heart rate and blood pressure and decreased immune function. Reflecting on the positive relationship you have with the client you’re going to speak with can counteract these effects, lowering blood pressure and helping your body function normally.

The fastest and most specific way to encourage positive thoughts is to review positive testimonials, compliments, or referrals you’ve received from this or other clients.

(I reread formal feedback as well as short, one-off emails such as “Great job on this!” and “You’re the best!”)

Reviewing these tangible examples helps to humanize the client so you’re not speaking to a disembodied, confrontational voice on the phone.

3. Set boundaries and create “call times”

The freedom to create your own work schedule is particularly handy for downplaying your nervousness with client calls, but only if you harness that freedom.

I’ve learned from experience that if you don’t take control of how often and when clients can call you, you’ll feel more like a deer waiting for the shotgun blast than a seasoned freelancer doing great work.

(Fellow introverts unite: is there anything worse than an impromptu client call when you’re deep in a work session?)

To feel more in control of how clients contact you, batch your calls into specific days of the week or specific times of the day so that you feel mentally and emotionally prepared for how your day will play out. Then make it a part of your proposals or onboarding process to let clients know that while you work a standard office schedule, calls must be scheduled 24 hours in advance and you only schedule calls for Mondays, or Monday-Thursday from 1pm to 3pm.

Not only does batching encourage a productive flow state for making the calls (which means you’ll be warmed up and less nervous as you go along), but you can also quarantine the anxiety damage to certain days or times.

Pro tip! Use Calendly or a similar service for a simple, user-friendly solution for training clients into scheduled calls.

4. Adopt a pre-call body language ritual

The research coming out about the connection between charisma, confidence, and body language is absolutely inspiring.

The short version?

Hunching over your desk and wrapping your arms around yourself (which is super attractive, right?) is making you even more nervous before the calls you take.

Even if you have better posture than me on a day to day basis, experts recommend doing specific power poses for 2 minutes before you give a speech (or, in this case, make a call). These poses trigger different hormones like testosterone and cortisol in your brain, giving you an endorphin rush that will make you less nervous and more confident.

My favorite position is the “The Winner” position, where you stand tall, engage your core, and spread your arms high and wide like an attacking bear.

Even still…

I’ll be honest with you; after deploying all of these tips, I still get nervous about client calls sometimes.

For many of us, it simply comes with the territory as self-employed and hard-working yet introverted freelancers.

But as we all know, what separates us from freelancers who aren’t successful is the willingness to embrace these weaknesses and adopt health habits that allow us to overcome them over time.

Are you an introverted freelancer? Do you struggle with “phone phobias?”

What works for you? How do you handle phone call stress?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Written by Sarah Greesonbach

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Sarah Greesonbach is a copywriter and freelance writing advocate. She shares way too many details about how she made her first $59K as a freelance writer on her website, Five Figure Writer.

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  1. Surdeep Sukudevan says:

    Thank you so much Sarah! all the tips that you’ve mentioned above it all worked for me. Very much fascinated to learn from your sharing. waiting for more.

  2. The Bearded Monkey says:

    Soooo glad to hear that I’m not alone with this dilemma! I’ve had this regular client for almost two years now, but still whenever she asks to discuss something on Skype, I freak out — even if I know it’s just about some new plan she needs help executing.

    I have a call with a new client this week (who I know is probably just going to discuss the tasks I’ll be doing for her) and I’m freaking out just thinking about it. Can’t wait to try out these tips to alleviate my jitters!

  3. Ian Paget says:

    Hey Sarah. This was great! Being an introvert myself (I suffer from social anxiety) I can totally relate. I personally find that deep breaths help – 6 seconds breathing in through the nose, and 4 seconds out through your mouth. After that just go for it! It does get easier the more you do, but I think it will always be a challenge for some. I try to see the each call, interview, talk etc as a victory!! If it was easy everyone would do it 🙂

  4. Sana Tayeb says:

    Loved reading your article, Sarah! I’m an introvert and I strongly relate to a lot of the things you mentioned. I do most of my communication via email and project management tools with designated slots for client review calls (two days a week). I usually find myself anxious before a call (even though I am more prepared than any other person on the call, most of the times). As Frank pointed out, I have learned to embrace my personality over the years. I personally find that setting the right tone (i.e. your availability, work ethics, what’s acceptable/what’s not, etc) early on makes communication a lot smoother as I work through the projects.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Thank you for your comment Sana! It’s amazing what we can do when we accept ourselves where we are and set those boundaries :-).

  5. Tim Dietrich says:

    Awesome article, Sarah! As a fellow introvert, I can relate to the anxiety of communicating by phone And like you, I would much rather communicate by email. Unfortunately, it seems that some calls cannot be avoided (and some people are just “phone people”).

    One of the things that I’ve been doing that helps reduce my stress and makes calls more successful is to plan ahead. I create a note (in Evernote) with all of the information about the call, including the agenda, goals, details that I want to be sure to mention, etc. I’ve found that being prepared like this really does help, and my clients / prospects seem to appreciate it as well.

    Also, during the call, I update the note with action items, follow-ups, and so on. It’s a great record of the call, and something I can refer back to in the future.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Hi Tim — Great tip! Preparation always helps drain nervousness. Then it feels like you’re running through a script/to-do list and it’s not so much about you or what you’re saying.

  6. Arin Fishkin says:

    Very interesting – I thought I was pretty much alone in the phone phobia thing. Is that a typical introvert symptom? I try to avoid answering unscheduled calls, and my voicemail points people to email as the best way to reach me

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Yes! I decided to stop feeling guilty about not picking up for unscheduled calls. It’s hard because it feels like a lost opportunity, but then I had to remind myself that the whole point of working for yourself is having power over how you work… so if we don’t want to talk on the phone unscheduled, let’s not do it! 🙂

  7. Frank Lopresti says:

    One other thing to think about: EMBRACE THE NERVOUSNESS. Nervousness stems from fear, and fear is healthy instinct that warned us of coming danger and saved our lives back when we were still living in caves. It wakes us up. Next time you have a nervous call, pay attention to your reaction after the call is over. You probably feel relieved, but there are probably a lot of other positive things going on as well. In many cases, you probably got more work…GREAT! Or you’re wrapping up the project and are going to get paid…AWESOME! In almost any case, you might notice that you’re feeling more charged up and alive after a call than before you went into it. Even if you got fired and are pissed off, you’re probably fired up about that too.

    I think sometimes we misinterpret nervousness for excitement. Maybe, if you reexamine your approach to nervousness, and embrace it instead of trying to hide from it, you’ll gradually come to see the scary calls as something to look forward to, something to learn and grow from.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Great addition, Frank! Healthy fear can definitely be used to make your life better as a business-owner, and associating the “scary” call with a huge benefit (new work, new client, etc) could go a long way to making the call more fun than scary in the future.

  8. Sharon Pettis McElwee says:

    Great tips, Sarah. Because I run a very tight schedule, I find that scheduling calls works well for me. I’ll definitely give the power poses a try, too!

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Thank you Sharon! I just recently set up Calendly to make it so I only schedule calls Tues/Wed/Thurs between 1 and 3pm. So far I love it! I feel like the rest of my time is protected for getting work done, so I know what to expect from each week.

  9. Gail Maynard says:

    Hello! I am not an introvert, but the client I am dreading calling is the one who never calls me and answers emails in very vague ways. Overall this husband and wife team are terrible communicators, who don’t agree on things and seem like they don’t even communicate with each other about what they have told me, but they are my most steady client. If I send a detailed email with questions they seem to just say “nevermind” to a new project, but I can’t get them both on the phone. If I just wing it and take a stab at creating what they want and they love it – all is good. If they don’t I get a snippy email usually or we end up “settling” on a less than great idea. I wish I could get the nerve to insist on a meeting with both of them (which has to be online as they are out of state), but I don’t want to be perceived as difficult.

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      That sounds tough Gail, and I hope it works out for you! If I were in your shoes, though, I would work on replacing that income with people who treat you with more respect. I think Preston would agree, too! Though I completely understand keeping a steady client around for the income.

  10. This is awesome Sarah! I’m an extreme Introvert (an INFJ in fact), and I find phone calls THE WORST. I’m far better at communicating through written word by email etc. and I find talking face-to-face, networking or phone conversations very difficult, and I often get a stutter if I’m nervous.
    I like the idea of reading positive testimonials to reassure yourself that yes, you are in fact awesome and these people want your help! Haha 🙂

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Thank you Anna! Yes, I think that as introverts we feel more empowered when we think of it as helping people rather than “making a speech” or “selling someone” on something. Oddly enough though I’m only an introvert on the phone — I prefer in-person or video Skype over phone any day!

  11. Brent Galloway says:

    Great article, Sarah! I can totally relate to this being an introvert myself. I do 99% of my communication through email, and it’s much easier for me to express my thoughts through writing. I’ll even get a little nervous when I step in front of a camera for one of my videos. Like anything, getting comfortable only happens by doing it consistently. But tips like these will certainly help along the way! 🙂

    1. Sarah Greesonbach says:

      Thank you Brent! That’s the tough part — I know that practice on the phone will make me better, but I want to avoid the phone in the first place so practicing is hard to prioritize! I also run my business 99% by email, so that’s a blessing!