If you read our homepage, contact us page and our Elance profile, you’ll notice that we charge a prepaid $50 phone call fee. Over the years since we’ve had to enact this fee, we’ve gained a few clients and we’ve lost a few potential clients, however we continue to charge this fee. Many people don’t understand why we charge a fee to consult with potential or existing clients, so I thought that I would write this post to explain it, as there are several reasons behind it.
Do note that this decision was not an easy one to arrive at, as we consider ourselves to be very customer service oriented, but the nature of the industry that we are in has landed us in this decision and this post explains why.
Popularity = A Lot of Calls
The majority of our clients find us via Elance. We’re the top writing company on Elance and when people look for writers, we’re the first writing company they see. We also have excellent feedback and have completed over 1000 projects, so the request for phone calls is abundant. If we were to take every phone call that is requested, we could easily spend hours on the phone each and every day. It’s not that we don’t want to talk to potential clients and existing clients, but we’re writers and when you’re a writer, you only make money when you’re writing. When you’re a writer…
Time is Money
We’re paid by the word. If we’re not writing, we’re not making money. We book up a week to two weeks in advance at times and each and everyday is planned out precisely. A certain number of words have to be written everyday to keep our schedule intact. In the past, we had an open phone call policy but this resulted in several issues including quality and potential deadline issues.
The open phone call policy also created a few issues and a few horror stories.
1. Clients that constantly change their project scope and details. We wrote an eBook once for a client, but the problem was that as soon as we were about to start writing the book, he would call and change his mind on what he wanted the topic to be. As you can imagine, you can’t get very far into a project if the topic is being changed every other hour (I kid you not). You also can’t get any work done when someone is calling every other hour to change the topic and spend another hour discussing potential topics. This went on for several days before I had to be rude about it and I don’t like being rude to anyone. I don’t like being put in that position.
2. Free consultations that don’t produce any projects – because the person took everything I told them and instead of hiring us for their project, they turned around and hired someone from India and provided them all of the details that I had provided to them in the phone call consultation. There’s nothing worse than spending an hour on the phone telling someone how they should do their project to see them turn around and send that exact same information to a foreign writer so they could have it done cheaper.
3. Being put on the spot for discounted rates. I have had more people get me on the phone simply so that they could try and negotiate my rate. My rate is not negotiable and it doesn’t matter if I’m talking to you or emailing you, my response is going to be the same. Our rates have been the same for 6 years and we don’t plan to change them anytime soon. We’re very competitive for US native writers and we simply can’t afford to compete with foreign writers.
Elance Terms of Service Requirements
We do a large amount of work on Elance and part of their terms of service is that all communication be posted on the message board. Elance has a dispute system that is utilized in the event that there is some sort of disagreement between providers and clients. However, in order for communications to be considered part of the project, it has to be in the message board. This means that phone calls have to be transcribed. So, what might be considered an easy 10-minute phone call is actually a very time consuming process on our end. The phone call must be recorded and then transcribed so that it can be placed in the PMB. This is time that we aren’t working on current client work and is therefore lost in our workday and has to be accounted for and the transcriptionist has to be paid!
We’ve had issues in the past on Elance that were very minor issues, but cost the company valuable time and a substantial amount of money. We’ve been suspended for having our website link on the last page of a 60 page sample ebook for example. The result was 3 days of not being able to bid or set up new projects with existing clients. We follow the Elance Terms of Service very strictly and therefore are not willing to forego any protection that may be available to us via the Elance dispute system.
A Way of Vetting Clients
We’re somewhat picky about what clients we work with. Sometimes there are clients that we just get a bad vibe about and it doesn’t take a phone call to get those gut feelings. We can get that bad vibe through an email easily. Saying that, we don’t want to turn down work. We don’t want to cancel projects. What we have learned though is that those who do pay the fee are serious about working with us. They aren’t treating us as some individual starving writer, but they are treating us as a professional organization and they respect our fees and the reasons for those fees. We know that when someone pays the fee that they are serious about working with us.
As a writing company, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard “we’re looking for a long term relationship” or “we’ll have lots of work for you” and “we’ll keep you really busy” and then they order 5 articles, pay and we never hear from them again. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending an hour on the phone with someone, doing 5 articles and then never hearing from them again. It’s not because they weren’t happy with the work, most everyone is, but their idea of “keeping us busy” is a lot different than ours. Unfortunately, this business is full of a lot of empty promises and often times, new writers find this out the hard way. We’ve been in business for going on seven years now and we know what to expect and not to get our hopes up.
Why Email Makes Everything Easier
As stated on our website, we are a 100% online business. Communicating via email allows us to provide the best service possible to our clients to ensure quality is met and deadlines are kept. Working primarily online allows us to respond to everyone in an expeditious manner.
Emails also allow us to document all project details. When all project details are in an email, we can copy and paste that information into our project details that we create for each project. This also allows us to look up emails in our archives should we need to verify a detail or something that was said in the past.
We are actually able to respond to everyone much more quickly via email than we would through phone calls. No matter where we are, traveling, out of the office, out to lunch, etc., we have a laptop, an iPhone, and a Blackberry to ensure that an email is not missed. This allows us to respond no matter where we are. We use Dropbox for our project management to allow us to access our documents and archives, so that we can access that information from wherever we are as well.
We also have clients that we’ve worked with exclusively over the past 3 years via emails only. They spend thousands per month on our services and we’ve never even spoken on the phone, yet we have an excellent working relationship and communicate via email regularly. In today’s society and working environment, this type of working relationship is not unheard of and one could say that doing business over the phone is becoming a thing of the past quickly.
We do offer the option of text chat via Skype. This is the best alternative we have to those who want to have “live communication” with us. This does not include Skype calls, but chat only. We also use MSN Messenger and Google Talk as well. However, like phone calls, these chats are by appointment only as well. We have to schedule time to ensure we are in the office to chat with you, but we’re more than happy to do it.
If we’re chatting about an Elance project, that chat will then be copied and pasted into the PMB as well. Again, this is to ensure that those details are documented in Elance for the protection of both parties.