Never Give Out Your Personal Number to Clients

Tlholohelo Makatu
8 min readMay 7, 2019


Gif of Adele snapping a flip phone shut, derived from the music video for her song “Hello” (2015)

Spare me the “I told you so” if it’s bubbling in your spirit.

I want to go back to simpler times when the only times my phone rang were my mother asking when I’m coming home or the bank asking for their money. Now, I have all sorts of characters, strange digits I don’t recognise and people I’d rather not speak to blowing me up.

It all started with something so little. I had no clue what I got myself into.

On my email signature, I entered a new line for my mobile number. The number of the only phone I have. Such a dummy.

My rationale was “wEll, IF a cLiENt nEEdS 2 gEt HoLD of ME an IM Not in da OfFice, thERez Mai Celly”.

As a result, I would receive calls or messages from clients and suppliers. A lot of the time, I’d get these when I’m on my way to work, considerably before 8 AM. The earliest call once came in at quarter to 7. Fam…

I’m a strict proponent of keeping work at work and not getting down to business until after 8 o’clock — I’m too young and still getting started in my career to put more than the mandated 45 hours a week, especially for what I get paid.

After 2 years, my experience has shown me that, though my work brings value, these people will really let me go on toiling without reward or recognition. So, doing more than I’m required to only serves to burn me out.

I tolerated business calls on my personal number for a while because I was still at the point of wanting to please and make sure that clients and suppliers knew that I was on top of my shit. However, over time, it began to feel like I made a colossal mistake.

Whenever I’m on the phone with someone on a professional basis, it is always a whole adult — someone definitely older than me. I do not make clear how old I am as it’s always irrelevant but I know that when some of them find out they’re talking to an intern, it’s surprising. As anyone who has held down a job for longer than a year would know, there’s a certain way you have to present yourself when you’re communicating with a stakeholder. It’s always about business and not once — unless there’s a gap in the conversation where things are going there — do you let professionalism falter.

Leave Me Alone on The Weekends

A coordinator for a programme which my employer funded messaged me via WhatsApp over the weekend — AT NIGHT — to ask how I was. We met once, didn’t even have a conversation though, but we spoke over the phone, and now he had my number and felt that it was acceptable to contact me not only on the weekend when I am reasonably allowed to not engage with anybody about work, but at quarter to nine ebusuku*!

I told him that it’s late, he apologised and said that he would contact me the next day, which was a Sunday. That was still unacceptable because … Sunday is a day of rest. For my phone, too: the only it should be doing is emitting music and podcast episodes.

He has contacted me on other occasions after that, to appeal to me on behalf of the programme we had sponsored to be continued. The way the WhatsApp conversation went bordered on emotional blackmail and like he was going around the organization he worked for.

Recounting this has made me think that perhaps I should put on my status: If it’s about work, contact me Monday-Friday 8:00–16:00. You’ve been given 45 full hours, now let me have the 128 others of the week I use to sleep, eat, parent and contemplate my to-date life choices.

One Way Street

Clients can get mad entitled to your time when they have something pressing on their balls which only you can address or solve. It’s funny that they feel they can contact you whenever they please but when it’s time for you to get hold of them (for business), it’s straight to voicemail tings.

An external stakeholder of mine is notorious for this and it’s gotten to the point that I don’t feel like trying to call him anymore because, why bother?

For the top guy of an educational institution, man is very difficult to get hold of. There have been days when it was urgent that I speak to him. I exceeded the number of calls a reasonable person would make. He wouldn’t pick up once. The same man often calls me out of the blue, with a question I cannot answer on my own. Worse, I might not even be at work yet. Attempts to call him back not even an hour later are met with the voicemail message.

Yes, we had a Supplier relationship, but is there room for a Personal one?

As I’ve gotten older, making friends seems so taxing to me. I see the workplace as an environment I enter to do work and earn a living. I have things to do and sometimes I have to talk to people and that’s fine. I’m not too jazzed about making friends at the office but if I happen to without expending so much energy, then it’s great.

I know that knowing the right person could open doors but I’m not arsed. When I speak to someone over the phone at work, it’s for business purposes only. We may joke and laugh and wish each other well, but trust I find it inappropriate to make contact at another time, for personal reasons.

A man, who had been a part of a meeting which I arranged between him, his boss and mine, contacted me to ask how I was doing, admitted that he was interested in me and wanted to know if we could hang out. I was weirded out because about 6 months ago, we met at my employer’s office and hadn’t said much to each other but “hello”. This I remembered after he reminded me who he was because I mistook him for someone else of the same name. He felt that it was okay to make contact because both our organizations never ended up getting into a business relationship so it wouldn’t seem weird, right?

I suppose, but…

Is this normal? Is there no way of meeting women outside business spaces? Am I just a prude? Whatever the case is, I started thinking that keeping the number on my email signature would open me up to serious nonsense. The man and I are on good terms, though. We have met but we don’t talk much anymore, he has drifted down the queue of my WhatsApp chats and life goes on.

However, what if I crossed paths with someone more aggressive and uncaring of the implications of mixing business and pleasure? A company our team collaborated with for a project had an event two weeks ago. I attended and there, I met one of the directors and he made me mad uncomfortable. He made comments about my body, saying that I like to keep my figure ‘right’ and succeeding after I declined to have some food from the platters available.

Do men, like, know how to speak to women?

He gave me his business card and it still remains at the bottom of my bag because I know if there’s anything concerning that company, I already have a contact person who I’ve known for almost 2 years. Maybe I’ll use the card to draw a straight line if there’s no ruler around…

Imagine if he had gotten my number, the only number I have to give? Who’s to say I wouldn’t be getting some suggestive WhatsApp messages that would compel me to not only block him but bring it up with his colleagues?

Electrician by Day, Spammer by Night

A supplier who our team called on to do some work for us sent me what looked like, at first glance, one of those annoying long-ass messages that are meant to be copied and sent on to 12 other people. I didn’t bother reading it, but I did notice he sent a human message after it, apologising for sending it. I was stunned because no one ever apologises for doing that. Then I wondered why he did, then made a decision to waste my time and read the whole broadcast message.

I can’t be arsed to summarise what fuck-all story was being told but at some point, the N-word was implied but not written clearly. This was supposed to be a joke. This was from an old white man.


I’m only part of 2 group chats and luckily they are very inactive during most of the time, so I am spared from enduring nonsense memes and pointless prayer chain texts (As if Jesus monitors the dissemination of these typo-ridden fables to see who He should bestow blessings upon.). I have a zero tolerance policy towards them. I can cut people off just for that.

I Now Know The Error Of My Ways

I might have to see if I can get Google Voice or something because my personal number has become more precious since frequent unknown numbers have been dialling and getting me roped into conversations I should not be having on my off days. Worse, I now have to see these people in a different light because I might be exposed to a trait of theirs I was better off being oblivious to.

Maybe I’m not being fair, because people are just flawed. Businesspeople are not robots and who am I to be put off when they show the human yet annoying side of themselves? In another universe, there’s a me who’s that type of client, who insists on attempting friendships wherever I can. Imagine: It’s been two months since girl pulled up the mirror so I could survey her work on my head, but I continue to pester her and ask how she is, for the hell of it. I can’t.

Nothing can be done about establishing boundaries with stakeholders because many of them do not understand what boundaries are or they call out of desperation because someone (as people do) did not deliver on something and I’m one of only a few people who they know might have a solution.

I’ll have to find some intricate ways of informing people who try to get hold of me outside working hours that they just won’t, while I solemnly swear to never give out my personal number to anyone else.

Except for a recruiter.

Just So You Know…

  • ‘ebusuku’ is the word for ‘night’ in isiZulu.



Tlholohelo Makatu

Baby writer — gravitates towards words — likes music too — thoughts are all over the place — still trying to make sense of them all.