A good initial client meeting can get things moving very quickly. If you’re prepared, it lets your client know that you mean business and you’re ready to work hard. It’s also a win win; you want to get paid faster and they want their new shiny design faster. Having a good initial meeting can setup the whole project for success. Below are some tips to make sure that first meeting is a success.
1. Picking a time
It’s always helpful to find a good time to meet and you can use this to your advantage. I’ve found that 2:00 is a great time of the day since most office employees have just finished their lunch break so the roads should be pretty clear. This makes getting to and from your meeting a piece of cake. Keep in mind your commute time and your schedule. There’s nothing worse than having a bad time that leads you to feeling rushed and anxious. Find a time that you know you’ll be at a good break spot in your schedule
2. Picking a place
Try to pick something that works in your favor. Often, if you’re working for a company, meeting in their office is great since it lets you peek into their day-to-day operations and can give you a feel of what it will be like to work with them. I recommend having your meetings not in your own personal office. It lets you keep your workspace just for work and it also allows you to break free from the office for some fresh air.
3. Work before you’re paid
I wonder if a lot of designers try to avoid working hard before the initial paycheck. It’s understandable, if they haven’t paid you yet, you shouldn’t have to work. Not quite. From the moment of initial contact, you’re on the job. When you’ve done the work before the first meeting and paycheck, just add that to the project cost and hours. You’ve done the work, there’s no reason you shouldn’t charge for that.
Look at their website, get an understanding of who they are as a company. Try to pick out their vision, target audience, and competitors. This will help you better understand who they are as a company before your meeting. And if you can’t easily understand their vision, you already know exactly where to start.
5. Have questions ready
As you research, you will definitely have some questions arise. Make sure to write all of these down. One, it will show the client that you’ve already been working upfront and two, it’ll give you some solid momentum as you move forward.
6. Know roughly how much you’re going to charge
Without a doubt, they’re going to ask you how much your services will cost. Even if you don’t know exactly what you should charge, a ballpark range can help get past the initial sticker shock and start that conversation soon. Which means you can get paid sooner.
7. How to dress
I think you should have a dress code for meetings. A lot of this will depend on your client. For example, when I’m meeting with clients who wear business professional, I don the suit and tie. For other companies I try to get a feel for what their dress code is regularly. If you’re meeting in a neutral place (Strabucks, Panera, etc.) then you can usually get away with what you normally wear. You want to look professional, but you want to still be comfortable. If getting dressed up in the suit and tie isn’t your thing, just find what works for you.
8. Location Information
Get as much information about where you’re meeting. If you can get a feel for the place you’ll be meeting you can mentally prepare for what the meeting will be like. I also find it incredibly helpful to get any and all information about parking and getting to the destination. You can be right on time, but if you spend 15 minutes trying to get parking you’re gonna walk into that meeting late and flustered (and maybe even sweaty).
9. Record expenses
Be ready to write and track your mileage and food/drink costs from the meeting. This is your business so every penny you spend is a business expense. Track those miles! (Also, make sure to write your odometer readings and not just your mileage counts, some people need the specifics.)
10. Be ready to take notes
Whether it be an iPad, a laptop, or old school with paper, make sure you’ve got your note taking device and make sure it’s charged! Be ready to write meeting notes, to-do items, and follow up questions.
11. Have fun
All of these tips are here so that you can get past the business side of things so you can focus on doing what you love. Work hard upfront and then you can start to enjoy this new project you have.
Go forth and have great meetings! Feel free to add your own tips in the comments.