Communication with boss: Clients needs


I started a remote, very part time job with a small ad agency back in November. Nice guy, very flexible hours but not a set schedule at all. I’ve repeatedly try to get him to set a schedule, days, hour time frame but instead I get emailed assignments any time of day, weekend, evenings. It’s very difficult to calculate my time and know when I can walk away from the office as I wait for his replies.

The assignment emails are lacking in vital info of just what the task involves as far as content, edits. Usually a few words in the subject line with a question mark?, that I have to “fill in the blanks”. I’ve sent a list of usual info I would need. I tell him phone calls are helpful as opposed to multiple emails I have to sort through threads from his clients!

I’m ready to send him ANOTHER check list of what info I need from him or have ANOTHER conversation about this, with him. Until then I waste a lot time just deciphering his instructions. Or I do what I THINK he wants, knowing I’m missing something in the equation.

There could be better working situations out there, but I NEVER find remote ones like this. So from that stand point, it works. Also, being older, my hiring options seem limited. I don’t really NEED the work but it keeps my skills up. I still want to do the best I can under the circumstances. Suggestions please…thank you.

I have clients like this. They’re great people, but they don’t communicate well. They skim over my emails, and if I write more than two or three sentences, they seemingly never read past it. When I ask them questions, they typically only answer part of the first question or two. They set deadlines, then disappear for days on end, then seemingly reappear with new deadlines. They seem to dash off most of their responses while stopped at traffic lights — often in the form of text messages. It’s maddening.

I’ve found no way to fix these people, but I have learned a few things to mitigate the problem (depending on the person). For example, I’ve learned to write very short and to-the-point emails. “Hi Bob. I’m waiting for the photo you said you’d send. Can’t proceed any further without it. Thanks.”

When I have a series of questions, I’ve learned to summarize each in the form of a short numbered list (I learned this trick here on this forum when I asked a similar question). This tricks them into answering the questions in a step-by-step sort of way. For example:

"Hi Bob. I need the following answered today. Can’t meet the Friday deadline unless I get your answers this afternoon.

  1. What is Becky’s phone number?
  2. You had reservations about including the trim–trimming story. I need a decision.
  3. Has Kevin signed off on the cover headline?
  4. As explained earlier, we can’t have a 29-page booklet. It has to be either 28 pages or 32. If the budget doesn’t allow for 32 pages, we need to cut back to 28. If so, what do you want to remove?

As mentioned, I can’t meet the Friday deadline without answers to all questions by 2 pm today."

When these approaches don’t work I call, and leave voicemail messages. When I finally talk to them, ironically, they’ll usually spend half an hour talking to me but can’t spare two minutes to write a reply.

I always try to communicate in nearly all my interactions with them that my time is scheduled and that keeping their costs down and meeting their deadlines depend on how efficient I can be with their time. Wasted time costs them money and meeting their deadlines depends on them. When they do something that does waste my time or threatens to meet their deadlines, I politely and proactively point it out to them in a positive way.

Ok. But you’re hourly, right? He’s burning his own money because of his own inefficient management style. His problem, not yours. You’re not getting paid to teach him how to be a good supervisor.

Are you expected to be available 24/7? That should have been discussed during hiring. Usually employers should expect to pay more for that kind of access to your personal time. If you don’t take your personal time seriously, neither will they.

If it’s not something he wants to discuss, just give him your hours of availability, and stick to it, don’t budge. Tell him you have other part time commitments in your schedule. If you set your availability as 8am-noon on Mondays, then that’s the only time you open the company emails and work on company projects. Don’t give them too much flexibility. Set boundaries and stick to them. You have to train people in how you want to be treated.

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