Good Morning Data #2 | The Client Always Rings Twice

Digital cover image for 'Good Morning Data' column #2, featuring the title 'The client always rings twice.' The design includes a vintage black and white portrait of a woman holding a red telephone, set against a bright pink background with red grid lines. The text on the right reads 'A new column by Datacitron in Nightingale!' in bold, black font.

The Client Always Rings Twice or “Was there life before zoom calls?”

The smiling face was now facing downward. Soon, all emoji would be gone and with them, any attempt to make the coercion less pressuring.

“By the way, Julie, you still haven’t given us your phone number 🙃“

It was only the third reminder in the client’s mails. I usually ignore them until the tone would go from lightly inquisitive to pushy, all the way up to clearly threatening. Eventually, I would give up and reluctantly provide the precious information, not without a strong warning about using it only for serious emergencies. By that, I mean something like a nuclear blast, but which traditionally translates in the clients’ mind to a typo in one of the charts from the annexe. 

Because the fact is: I hate when clients call me. There, I said it.

I’m a millennial and my fear of phone calls in professional settings has been well documented. I also feel a strong need as a freelancer to be in control of my daily schedule. I want to be able to follow my own personal workflow without being violently interrupted by the ringing of my phone. After all, I’m generally working on several projects at the same time, in three different time zones (european, east coast and west coast of the US), talking to clients in three different languages (french, english and emoji). If on top of that, I was to commit myself to answering service, I believe my head will simply explode.

And while I find email notifications easy to ignore if I’m deep into working on a project (or a nap), phone calls from clients have something intrusive and imperative that I can’t help but feel ambushed. 

Maybe as a designer, I’m repulsed by phone calls because it revolves only around hearing. If your work is by definition visual, what are you supposed to do with an only-sound-based machine? Could we agree that talking about current work with clients on the phone is like playing pictionary blindfolded and just stop that nonsense? 

I know, I know, you’re gonna tell me that this is why we need “real life meetings”, to see and share discussions with clients on projects. I know those. I did attend real life meetings at my former creative agency, when I was an art director. First, they’re not so practical when your client is on some other continent. Second and foremost, they’re awful. I still wake up in the middle of the night, panting and sweating, reminiscing about them. I remember finding them long and stiff, after running through multiple metros, breaking triathlon records, to get there on time. I remember being painfully aware of every move, every gesture I would clutter the room with. I felt like I was there too much, while the work I wanted to present, not enough.

May my songs of praise reach the inventor of Zoom calls, because god, I love being no more than a tiny window on the side, while the work I’m showcasing takes up all the space, the whole screen. I love that I become some kind of sports commentator in the background, unrolling the thread of the game, commenting on the players and comparing their performance, from a safe distance. I also like the idea of my audience being in front of their screen from the comfort of their own chair, in their own secure space but yet connected, all looking in the same direction. You can’t deny the peculiar magic of a couple of persons, scattered around the globe, dispersed in place and time, and yet, all gazing at the same landscape, listening to the same sound. 

Call me several times in a row and I will ghost you for a week but send me a zoom link and I will twist my ankle running to the digital meeting room. And while some (I guess the word I’m avoiding here is “boomers”—as all this seems to come down to a generational dispute) may defend the simplicity and spontaneity of a phone call, or the authenticity of real life meetings, the fact remains that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can beat doing a presentation wearing a nice only top ironed shirt with Hello Kitty sweatpants and one sock.  

My point is, call me a post-pandemic millennial child freelancer if you want, but don’t call me. 

Thus, feigning an oh-so-innocent omission, I answered thoroughly my client’s mail on all points except the one phone number, and jumped on my next Zoom call with another client. After a few words of greetings and updates, the big time arrived. All eyes on the screen, it’s showtime ! And like always for the past several years now, I struggled for a good five minutes to locate the “share your screen” button in a frozen silence only prolonged by the usual internet connection issues.

Loved this column? Rendez-vous here on Nightingale every 15th of the month for a new one!

A promotional graphic for a column titled "Good morning data," focusing on the day-to-day work life of a data designer by datacitron. It features a manipulated version of the Mona Lisa painting with a magenta-colored abstract shape overlaying part of it and data visualization graphics integrated. The background is a vibrant olive green, and the text is primarily in white, highlighting the title and the release schedule of the column, which is every 15th of the month. The website nightingaledvs.com is also mentioned at the bottom.

Datacitron (aka Julie Brunet) is an independent data & information designer as well as the Creative Director of Nightingale, the journal of Datavisualization Society. She believes in the accessibility of information through design and storytelling, and the virtuous role data designers can play in our society