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Call me – maybe

In this post, John Espirian discusses the difficult decision of whether to display your telephone number on your website.

Call me – maybe

For prospective clients

I really do prefer email, so drop me a line at support *at* espirian.co.uk and we’ll go from there.

If you really need my phone number, look at the grid image below.

When I first set up my website in late 2009, I used an 0845 (lo-call rate) number that would redirect to my mobile. Great, I thought. All those lovely new customers interested in hiring me as a freelance technical writer would soon get in touch.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, I received a rather different sort of call. The people on the other end of the line would want me to:

Well, I didn’t have an SEO masterplan. And I didn’t have insurance either. And, come to think of it, I must have stubbed my toe somewhere or other. Perhaps these people might do me a favour!

Matters didn’t improve and I reached the point where it was clear that displaying a phone number was counterproductive. The unwanted calls were a distraction that stopped me from getting on with building my business.

Enough was enough. I updated my site and the phone number was gone.

What happened next?

Once the telephone route was shut off, I started to get my act together. I spent time improving my website, started building connections with clients, and generally moved my business forward.

Now that I’ve added an active blog to my site, traffic has increased and more prospective clients have been getting in touch. Perhaps removing my phone number from the site was the catalyst I needed.

So why bother with a phone number?

Putting myself in the shoes of someone looking for a service provider, I’d like to see a phone number somewhere on that provider’s website. When I don’t see one, I wonder what the provider might be trying to hide. Have they cobbled together a website but have no back-end customer service to support their business?

Looking at my own website, I don’t see a telephone number. What impression is that giving to my potential clients? Are those people not getting in touch because they think I might be hiding something? Perhaps I’ve programmed everything so that my robots do the work and there’s no realistic chance of receiving a human response?

I’m probably worrying too much here, but I do think a grown-up, respectable business ought to indicate its readiness to receive phone calls if and when necessary. So, that’s what I’m doing.

OK, where’s your number?

I’ve created a simple graphic to avoid writing out my phone number. This helps to protect it from being harvested by the spam bots that constantly scour the web. Just read the numbers inside the blue squares from left to right. Here we go:

Read the blue boxes from left to right

Fine, but we still don’t know your address

I can’t be quite so protective about my postal address, as it’s easy for anyone to look up. Still, I’ll leave you the challenge of finding out about whois – and then you can see it for yourself.

Let me know your thoughts

What do you think about displaying a phone number on your website? If you already do it, what proportion of callers are actually interested in your services? I’d love to hear the views of other freelance professionals. Leave me a comment below or catch up with me on Twitter.

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Who wrote this?

I'm John Espirian, the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. I've written about IT and the web since 1998, and I'm a former Microsoft MVP. If you need B2B web content that explains how your products, services and processes work, I'm your guy.

The Espirian blog provides writing tips and how-to guides on improving your online presence and marketing your business.

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