8

I run a website, and I work with multiple advertisers. I run the business alone, and it's meant to be a lifestyle business, so I am very protective of my time. Calls and in-person meetings are a nuisance for me. I prefer to work on other things, such as improving the website or answering reader mail. Sometimes I prefer to not work at all.

How can I tactfully decline calls and meetings? Or how can I encourage people to just write an email instead?

Some examples:

  • An advertiser hires a new marketing person, and they want to get to know me, get feedback about our collaboration, etc. I rarely have feedback, or it fits in an email.
  • People like the work I do and want to grab a coffee. I enjoy this sometimes, but I want to make time for people I already know first.
  • Businesses propose a collaboration, but I'm not interested, or the offer is too vague to commit to a phone call.
4
  • My favorite way is to simply not post your phone number, why is that not an option for you? Or otherwise explain that you cannot accept unscheduled calls etc.
    – Aida Paul
    Jul 12, 2023 at 15:33
  • I do not post my phone number. I usually get emails inviting me to schedule a phone call or zoom call later in the day. The calls are always scheduled.
    – nicbou
    Jul 12, 2023 at 15:35
  • 1
    "No thanks" is concise and tactful. Jul 13, 2023 at 23:15
  • @LaconicDroid: I wish that or "I don't want to" would be the normal ways of communication. When you hear all the answers below you instantly know they're are cheap lies.
    – red-shield
    Aug 13, 2023 at 8:22

7 Answers 7

3

Specific examples

An advertiser hires a new marketing person, and they want to get to know me, get feedback about our collaboration, etc. I rarely have feedback, or it fits in an email.

"Hope you're settling well into your new role, I've had a good relationship with your firm for some time now. I'm sorry I don't have time for a general call, but if you have a written query then I'll do my best to answer."


People like the work I do and want to grab a coffee. I enjoy this sometimes, but I want to make time for people I already know first.

"I appreciate you reaching out to me, but I'm sorry I'm too busy for new business contacts at the moment."

Or

"I'm struggling to find time for face-to-face meetings at the moment. Is there something you were looking to discuss in particular?"


Businesses propose a collaboration, but I'm not interested, or the offer is too vague to commit to a phone call.

"Thanks for getting in touch. I'm sorry but the proposal is not for me at the moment."

Or

"Thanks for getting in touch. I'd like to understand more before deciding whether to proceed to a call. Could you forward some further details?"

16

How can I tactfully decline calls and meetings? Or how can I encourage people to just write an email instead?

It needs not to be more complicated than a response in form similar to:

Hey, I cannot really make the time for a call/meeting, but if you will email me your question, I will try to get back to you.

You are turning down the opportunity but also present them an avenue to continue the conversation in a way that works for you.

6

I avoid frivolous meetings in a couple of ways when self-employed.

Mostly I just decline with a generic 'too busy excuse' which is fine,

Other times I make it clear an hour of my time is charged whether it's constructive work or not. Along the lines of 'Sure, lets schedule an hour for tomorrow and I'll add it to my bill (I do this via email so I have a paper trail). Usually they either don't have the authority to get billed extra or if they do, they soon see it's better spent on something constructive.

Or in some cases I've sat through 3 hour meetings listening to how cool and powerful everyone is and how lucky I am to be involved and handed them an invoice on the way out. They're a bit more careful after that with my time.

1
  • Billing them is a great answer, very effective in getting rid of time wasters.
    – deep64blue
    Jul 18, 2023 at 20:43
3

Simply decline meeting requests and offer that the person should send you their proposal in an email, as you are fully booked.

Coffee, & other in-person requests, can be declined with no reason given. "No, thank you, but thanks for asking."

1

I would offer a point that not responding directly to requests which you did not directly solicit is appropriate and should be understood (as in, not come across as offensive/disrespectful).

Unless you explicitly state somewhere on your site that others are welcome to reach out to you, or proactively seek out such connections, then you don't have to be proactive about declining them, and inaction/nonresponse should 'send a message' (without having to actually send one).

If, on the other hand, you signal through your site that you welcome contacts, that's a different issue and responses that suggest proactive declinations should do. Good luck!

1

My solution to this problem was to prefer remote clients to local ones. Local ones always wanted to meet. It was easy for them and they were used to it. They often saw it as a treat, offering me the gift of having lunch or coffee. I value relationships tremendously in my business, but I prefer to build those relationships asynchronously, which is the default interaction with remote clients.

I just stopped bidding on and trying for local jobs. I put my effort into clients from a nearby big city, and was willing to travel there once or twice to get the work. Then I settled back to do a good job and communicate in the way that worked best for me. I didn't try to change the local people into folks who didn't like having meetings: they could keep right on doing that with vendors who enjoyed that as part of their "lifestyle businesses".

A nice side effect is that in the bigger city, there were people who needed more expensive services that no-one in the small town needed -- it really was a win-win. It also gives you a great response when the local paper/arena/service-club wants you to buy ads: "sorry but I am trying not to attract customers from OurTown, I prefer remote clients to bring money into our area from outside." People are surprised, but they don't argue :-)

1

My favorite answer, for many kinds of interruptions, is "Sure, I can do that, but an hour spent on that is an hour not spent working on the project. If this is something I need to be involved in, sure, that's part of what you're paying for and I'll be there. If it isn't, you might want to think about whether it's a good use of my time and your money."

Note that this applies whether you're paid by hour, by salary, or by task. In the latter case it may not cost them more cash right now, but it does mean they need to accept that schedule may slip as this time adds up.

It may also be worth mentioning that an hour meeting, if it knocks you out of "the zone", may take two hours to catch up from.

In other words, keep it positive but gently remind them that your meter is still running.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .