“A pleasure to meet you…” Taking the pain out of client meetings – a guide for creative freelancers.

As a freelance creative type we may sometimes be unsure how to carry ourselves professionally in the corporate world. Part of the job means we have to meet with new and existing clients from time to time. So, how can we ensure when we meet in person with our clients that we come across as credible and professional?

 

Don’t play into the stereotype that all creatives are ‘flakes’. Be confident, be gracious, be friendly. You’re a professional who’s worth every penny of your client’s money. You just need to convince them of this in person – the quality of your work may not be enough to carry you. If you’re nervous around ‘suits’ (lots of creatives are) remember this – a lot of corporate types are equally as nervous of meeting you. Believe it or not, some ‘suits’ struggle with creativity, so meeting a person who does it for a living can be pretty intimidating for them. They’re hiring you because they CAN’T do it themselves. Take confidence from this.

Here are a few more things to remember and use when meeting new or existing clients.

Be prepared
If you’re dealing with a new client, find out a bit about their business before you meet – look at their website – follow them on twitter etc. Remember to bring your CV or portfolio and business cards if you have them. And bring a pen and note pad – it’s not professional looking for you to write down notes on the back of a receipt or the dry corner of a handkerchief.

Dress professionally
You don’t need to dress in a suit, but similarly, don’t turn up in a tracksuit and flip-flops. You want to be taken seriously, remember. You’re creative – dress casually in something that is presentable, but also comfortable – leave the suits for the suits.

Be on time
It matters – it really does. If you are going to be late – don’t be.

Switch on silent
Turn off your phone before getting into the meeting. It’s rude to even look at your phone in a meeting.

Be friendly
Being shy, sullen or arrogant creative type just plays into every stereotype or pre conceived idea they may already have. It’s not appealing in anyone’s eyes. If you’re confident and easy to deal with, the chances are you’ll keep them as a client in the future. Have fun, make a few jokes where you can, but be careful not to appear flippant or like you’re not taking the meeting seriously.

Be clear, concise and confident
Answer any questions as best you can, if you don’t know the answer – say so. But always follow with “…but I’ll look into that for you…” It IS actually possible to NOT answer a question with confidence.

Ask questions
This why you’re having the meeting. It’s your time to ask questions to ensure you’re sure about what you’re doing. Client’s love to talk about their businesses – they’ll respect that you’re being thorough. If you come away with gaping holes in knowing what the client is after then chances are the work you’ll produce will be all wrong, and the client might well think you’re a bit of an idiot. Make sure you both understand what you’ve been asked to do.

Don’t be put on the spot
Clients will often want to know there and then what something is going to cost. My advice would be to have rough ‘guesstimate’ in your head, but if asked for an on-the-spot price, explain that you’d like to go away and put together a formal estimate after considering all parts of the job. This is normally enough to buy you time. If the client presses you (they are often number oriented and need that ‘box-ticked’) politely try and deflect. Ask them if THEY have a budget in mind – this will often put the pressure back on them. Like a game of poker, nobody wants to reveal their hand. The client doesn’t want to come in too high, If you sense their unease, follow with a polite reiteration of “I’ll go away and put a formal estimate together…”

Only if really necessary should you give the client your guesstimate. And be sure to caveat it to the n’th degree. Never leave the meeting with this being your official agreement – always follow up with a formal estimate that they APPROVE before you start work. Don’t get hustled into a price you’re not happy with in a meeting. You’re a professional – don’t be forced into a corner. Stay calm and negotiate until you’re happy and most importantly don’t feel apologetic for asking a fair price for a service they NEED.

Follow up quickly
After your meeting, follow up as quickly as you promised by email or telephone with an email reiterating the job as you understand it along with a formal estimate. Always start with “It was great meeting with you…” (even if it was the most miserable hour of your life) – it works. If you have any new questions – now’s your time to ask.

…and relax
Now that the corporate unease is out of the way, it’s time to change back into your tracksuit and flip-flops – and time to dazzle them with your creative genius.

© heymrleej.com 2012.
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