Seven Reasons Not to Meet with Prospective Clients

handshakeShould you meet a prospective client face-to-face?

There’s an ongoing debate about whether or not having a face-to-face meeting with a client is beneficial. Many freelancers believe that a face-to-face meeting is crucial to landing new clients. Other freelancers choose to work virtually, never meeting their clients in person.

Which is better?

From my perspective, the answer is: it depends. While there are definitely some instances when a meeting may be what clinches the deal with a prospect, there are other times when a face-to-face meeting is not wise.

Here are some instances when a personal meeting with the client just isn’t worth it.

1. Excessive Commute Time

Freelancers who live and work in or near major metropolitan areas may find many potential clients within a short distance. Most metropolitan areas are teeming with businesses, and these make excellent prospects for the freelancer.

However, freelancers who are located outside of an urban area may find that meeting with a prospect face-to-face requires a drive of several hours. Since preliminary meetings are often unbillable, the freelancer will have to absorb both the cost of travel and the time spent traveling.

One idea for a remotely located freelancer is to schedule a prospecting trip to a nearby city that includes meeting with several possible clients. If you carefully screen your prospects, batching meetings so that one trip allows you to meet several prospects can be effective. However, many clients are just too far away for a face-to-face meeting to really be practical.

2. Tire Kickers

Freelancers encounter many prospective clients who may have an obvious need for their services and who may even seem interested, but who will never commit to engaging them. It is often difficult to tell these prospects from those who will genuinely become clients. They often know how to answer screening questions to make it appear that they are serious.

If you are not careful, these so-called prospects can take a lot of your time. Let’s be honest, if you let them, they will take all of your time. The BANT method proposed by Ed Gandia is one excellent way to screen out tire kickers, but some tire kickers may still slip through the cracks.

Before you agree to a face-to-face meeting, do your homework. Screen the prospect well to make sure that they are a good fit for your services.

3. Time Spent in the Meeting

Like time spent traveling, time spent in a preliminary meeting with a client is often not billable. Depending on the personalities involved, face-to-face time can expand to fill an entire morning, or even an entire day. What could have been communicated in less than ten minutes in an e-mail sometimes takes nearly an hour to cover in a face-to-face meeting.

Plus, some people just love to chit chat. If it’s not their own business, the problem is even worse. They’re getting a salary regardless of how long their meeting with you takes. They’re in no hurry to get it over with.

4. Physical Impressions

This is a difficult topic that no one really likes to talk about, but it has to be addressed. How successful you are in a face-to-face meeting is directly related to how personable you are. If you have that business-like look that many companies love, that’s great for you. A face-to-face meeting will probably increase your chances of getting additional business.

For many others, however, who might not quite fit as neatly into the corporate mold, a face-to-face meeting could make things worse. While a prospect can’t see that severe acne problem, the tattoo on your neck, or that you are too tall (or too short) through the computer or over the phone–when you meet with them face-to-face these things will quickly become evident.

While no one should ever be hired for a project based on physical appearance, the sad truth is that many business people make decisions based on physical impressions without even realizing it. To a certain extent, the Internet levels the playing field. In face-to-face meetings, however, those physical differences are emphasized.

5. Shyness

Many extremely gifted and talented freelancers are shy. They may excel in their given field, but when face-to-face with another person they are tongue-tied and nervous. For these folks, face-to-face meetings are extremely stressful and ineffective.

I certainly agree that a freelancer should do their best to meet a client’s needs. But, they also need to take into consideration their own schedule and limitations. If a freelancer knows that a face-to-face meeting will be unduly stressful, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to suggest an Internet alternative such as Go To Meeting or even request a phone call instead.

6. Scope Creep

We freelancers work hard to be efficient and effective at what we do. Usually, the more efficient and effective we are the more profitable our freelance business is. Scope creep, however, is the enemy of profitability.

Scope creep occurs when the client asks the freelancer to do “just one more thing” after the terms have been agreed upon. Unchecked, scope creep can build up and soon the freelancer is doing much more than he or she originally agreed to do with no increase in pay.

In my experience, scope creep is much more likely to occur in a meeting with a client than through e-mail. It can be hard to say “no” when directly faced with a client. (Sadly, a few clients know this and will take advantage of it.) If verbal agreements are made in a meeting, they should always be followed up with a written agreement.

7. Small Jobs

Some jobs are just too small to justify going to the trouble of a face-to-face meeting with a client. In general, I’d say that if the job will take less than a day to complete, then a face-to-face meeting makes little sense unless you believe that there may be additional work afterwards.

Do You Meet with Prospective Clients?

For those who excel at face-to-face meetings, meetings are an excellent opportunity to go “the extra mile” and grow your business. By all means, meet with as many qualified prospects as you can find. You need to use every asset at your disposal to stay competitive. It is true that some people are just more comfortable working with freelancers that they can see.

Fortunately for those freelancers who are more comfortable not meeting their clients face-to-face, there are also plenty of opportunities for those who choose to work virtually. Many companies who are experienced in hiring freelance workers realize that meetings are not always possible. They are more than willing to accommodate a remote worker by telephone or PC.

I’ve been freelancing over seven years and I’ve never had to meet a client face-to-face. Surprisingly, only a few potential clients have even asked for such a meeting. Today, not only do I have clients all over the United States, but I have international clients as well.

In contrast, when I worked primarily as a contractor and an employee in corporations I always had to meet face-to-face with the companies that I ended up working for. Who your prospects are does determine, to some degree, whether a meeting is needed.

What Do You Think?

Do any of these reasons for not meeting with clients apply to you? Do you always meet with clients when they request it?

Share your experiences in the comments

Image by slava

Comments

  1. says

    I meet with potential clients probably 60% of the time. I get about 80% of those jobs. I would prefer to not meet. Nothing like getting to a meeting only to find out when it’s too late that your screening process failed and they are looking for a freebie or trade or just kicking the tires. Plus, #4 concerns me as I am not the corporate/business looking type. People still tend to judge a book by it’s cover.

  2. says

    Meet with prospective clients is a one step for sucess….
    In my job as a financial, face to face is crucial for close a big business plan…
    People seems to beleive more in what they see, and feel more security if the first impression is the best…
    Regards…

  3. says

    I agree with the fact that it “depends”. Careful screening, as mentioned in the post, is highly recommended and for myself, in some cases I will meet simply due to the closeness of the meeting location.

    I have found that meeting in person for certain jobs would be more beneficial as sometimes the client may go more on the personality rather than the skill. I’m a freelance designer and photographer, so most of my photography gigs are met face-to-face beforehand whereas most of my design work is done virtually.

  4. says

    I would prefer not to have to meet with prospective clients, but a couple so far have requested to do so. It becomes obvious that they just need to see who they’re entrusting their money to which I can fully understand if they have no experience in this field before, or if they’ve had bad experiences in the past with a web designer.
    Anyway I never request it myself as it generally means 2 hours out of the day gone with not a great deal to justified it.

  5. says

    There’s a good point about the “small jobs” bit. A few months ago I had a week where the work that resulted from two potential client meetings just paid the expenses of the babysitter I had to get in order to attend the meetings!

  6. Alex says

    I tend to find that client relationships stay stronger when I don’t meet them. The air of mystery seems to create a stronger bond between client and designer. The major upsides to never meeting a client are of course the time savings, and the negated need need to have to dress smart.

    If a client wants to meet then I will assess whether it is worth my time or not. I will always meet a client if they insist and I believe that they aren’t just meeting me to kick some tyres. Tyre kickers are the bain of any designers life.

  7. says

    I’m ambivalent about this – read your other post on the BANT method and that sounds great as a means of pre-screening. But managed effectively I think there’s always value in meeting new clients.

    Couple ways to better manage first meetings include:
    1. Set an intended duration up front – you can even market your preliminary meeting as something like a ‘one-hour consultation’.
    2. Prepare an agenda that you want to cover and take control of the meeting. It’s easy to just let a new prospect start rambling on about her business, that’s where serious time can get eaten up.

    Remember, even if that new prospect doesn’t work out, impress them enough and they could still become a potential new business referrer.

  8. says

    LOVE this guidance. I do find that folks who have seen me speak are more likely to hire me–and I did a video blog series in the Fall–oddly not on my work, but a personal process, that folks really dug. It gave them an opportunity to see me push myself (much the way I push them). Clients really are hiring US as people and one way to convey who we are is in person–but “in person” now takes many forms. Play with it–how can you show more of who you are (even while you are doing what you do)?

    I also HIGHLY recommend recording a video intro on your website–puts a human face on your service prowess.

    I’ll close with this idea: follow what really, really turns you on–big or small (project wise). When I’m really hot for an idea–I’ll make the commute to learn more!

    Dy

  9. Deb says

    I never meet my clients. I don’t want to either. And in this day and age I don’t have to. I even turned down a job where they required me to attend a series of live web lectures to get the contract. I don’t do “live”. Admittedly, I have phobias that keep me inside, with doors locked and shutters closed, and it would probably be a good thing for me to overcome that. But after having spent basically 3 years incapacitated in a psych facility, just the fact that I can have my own apartment and hold down a job is a frigging victory for me. My friends with “real” jobs (??) think it’s insane, never to see the face of those you work with/for, they talk about the trust issues and all that, but I’ve had very little problem with that, and I’m booked full weeks in advance, so apparently my clients don’t think it’s a problem either. Freelancing from home, without ever seeing anyone, is the only way I can make a living and have an independent life.

  10. says

    I think that a phone call introduction, along with an initial e-mail exchange, is a good way to “break the ice.” That is usually enough for prospective clients to feel comfortable that they are working with a real live person, and feel more of a connection with me.

  11. says

    This is an awesome discussion! Thanks to everyone for being so open about your experiences.

    I think that it is important for every freelancer to discover what works best in their situation. It is clear to me that sometimes, particularly for large projects, meetings are expected. On the other hand, it is quite possible to run a successful freelancing business without ever meeting your clients.

    Keep sharing your experiences and ideas on this topic…

  12. says

    I’ve never had to have face to face meetings with my clients since most lie overseas. I do, however, have some meetings here locally in Spain but they aren’t the typical formal types. They are usually long, over a glass of wine or a beer and are general time wasters. I don’t mind them, though, since they break the monotony of a normal work day.

  13. says

    Amazingly well written article.

    I agree with you Laura. From my personal experience a face to face meeting is very crucial, It will help us to understand this idea, what he actually needs and the ROI.

  14. says

    My freelance writing, blogging and (now) social media consulting business didn’t really take off until I started networking in person. Because I was able to land clients that I met at random business events, I suspected that I should start meeting with them in person, too. While I think I would have landed each gig without the meeting, I really believe that face-to-face meetings are all about putting the client at ease with you. After all, they are trusting you with a project that is important to them and will cost them quite a bit of money. I can’t blame them for wanting to see the face and hear the voice behind the website.

    I’ve also noticed that the people who want face-to-face meetings are usually corporate types. Other web workers, probably because they know the deal, are generally fine with having a web-only relationship.

  15. says

    As a software developer, 95% of my clients are a long flight away. So meeting face-to-face is not really an option. After doing work for many of them, they have invited me to the exotic places they live. Would be nice to visit some of them some day.

    I also try to avoid the phone call unless they are an established client. I have yet to have a phone call that is productive with a prospective client. Not to mention email has a much better memory then myself for those nitty gritty details.

  16. says

    I’m one of the shy ones. Actually, I have mild tourettes where my facial muscles will twitch in between conversations—which is pretty awkward at most times. lol

    It’s only recently when I met up with 2, only for casual meetup where questions on the project work’s very subtly asked.

    The rest would be through email conversations, as most of the ideas, wants, and desires are already brought up on the meetup.

    Let’s say that small jobs don’t require physical meetups. :)

  17. says

    Interesting article.

    I find that when I meet in person with potential clients, my conversion rate goes up to almost 100%. I don’t necessarily enjoy the whole process of the commute, the long chit-chat etc… of it, but I’m lucky that I am able to be personable and build that comfort level with the potential client right away. I also have that “business” look and I think that helps with my sales a lot also.

    I used to make the mistake of only having one meeting a day, so if I had 5 potential clients wanting to meet in person, I would spread them out over 5 days, thinking that I would make sure that I would have time during each day to still get my work done. Doing this, you end up getting very little done, and spending all of your time getting clothes ready, ironing them, making yourself presentable, the commute, the meeting etc.. :)

    Your 1st point in the post is wise and something I wish I was doing a long time ago. Scheduling meetings all for the same day if possible greatly cuts down on the overall time taken for the meetings…and lets you concentrate on your other work the rest of the week.

    Thanks for the post!

  18. says

    I never meet with my clients face-to-face. Most of these tend to be tire kickers (in my experience). Luckily most of my clients are all over the place and not local, so I don’t have to worry about it too much :)

  19. says

    There is no reason to meet with your clients face to face. As someone to hires many freelancers, I hate meeting my freelancers to talk business. Once we have a good business relationship I do like to take them out for a beer just to get to know them personally.

    This day in age if you can not enter into a business relationship and maintain it 100% digitally you are doing something wrong.

  20. says

    We used to meet with clients but now we don’t. We have found it to be, for the most part, a waste of our time. We’ll meet with someone if it comes from a referral, and it seems like it’s in the bag. Otherwise, 98% of the time, our time is wasted.

    It takes up nearly the whole day to meet for 1 hour with someone because you have plan the meeting, dress, put off other work, get direction, gas, eat on time, etc.

    We’ll also meet, of course, once a project is going if need be.

    There are certain kinds of websites that are worth meeting for, like low functionality, high look-and-feel brochure type sites that always tend to be profitable. If we think we might have one of those, we’ll do a meeting.

    But in general, no…

  21. says

    Interesting responses!

    It seems that this is truly one of those things that varies widely among freelancers.

    I wonder if your freelancing specialty makes any difference?

    Keep the conversation going! :-)

  22. says

    After over 22 years in sales, I can tell you that these are great reasons! I have no problem with #4 or #5 and, in fact, enjoy in-person meeting. However, all the other reasons are oh so valid.

    I have wasted more time and expense over small jobs, tire kickers, meetings that go nowhere, and scope creep (which usually ends up in MORE meetings) than I care to think about. And with today’s emphasis on being green which seeks to decrease the amount of fuel we use, reducing the amount of unnecessary in person meetings is an ecofriendly choice, too.

    I geographically cluster my calls and let clients know when I’m in their area. If they’re not available, I’ll stop the next time around. When I started doing this about 12 years ago or so, I was able to free up about a week’s worth of time.

    Alternatively, I let people know if I’ll be at certain events and tell them that we can catch up there.

    An in-person meeting is an earned privilege on both sides of the desk.

  23. says

    Very interesting article, thanks!

    I think it’s mostly a matter of the freelancer’s personality. All bad experiences I had was with clients who knew me face-to-face. Because I’m female, small in physique and just an overall nice person. Unfortunately there are a lot of not-so-nice people in the business world and thus they tend to see me as an easy target of exploitation. I have much stronger bonds with the clients who’ve never met me, they’re more loyal for some strange reason (some even come back after years of silence), they never tricked me, never refused to pay bills.

    And it’s odd, but clients who insist on having a face-to-face meeting before placing an order tend to be less serious (at least in the webdesign field, I know a lot of collegues who experience the same thing). Because they’re companies / business people who, well, rather spend they’re time having meetings than getting things done effectively and thus their projects never materialize or they end up with underwhelming results.

  24. Mike Dexter says

    I’ve never met a client face-to-face in my life. If necessary, I’ll have a Skype video call or an “old-school” phone call, but most project related discussions are done via email. It’s just easier to keep a record and minimize confusion or disagreements that way, as both sides can go back to the record, rather than having to rely on “I thought I said” and “that’s not what I heard” nonsense.

  25. says

    Brilliant post! What a great discussion. I reckon there cases when meeting is just not worth the trouble, just out of common sense as you put it.
    But I do like to meet clients face-to-face, talk a little and let them talk. It’s worked for me most of the time.
    However, I usually have them come to my home office. This way they feel more confident because they know there’s a place where they can find me whenever. And not having to commute anywhere kind of works for me.

    Thanks for sharing

  26. says

    I like to have an initial meeting with a new client in person if they are local.

    Like Brian mentioned above, my conversion rate is close to 100% when I do so. And for me, it really helps establish a solid relationship from the very beginning and build trust. Plus, I gain so much better sense about who they are and key clues to their style and expectations that can be harder to pick up on when working remotely. Especially if we meet at their office or business. Lots of important subtle details I learn from that.

    Now I will say, I try to avoid ongoing meetings if they are simply for things that can be easily discussed over the phone or via email. We’ve probably all met people who love to meet just to hear themselves talk. That’s a waste of time for everyone.

    But if it’s a case where I haven’t met with a client lately and they ask me to stop by to go over some details of a new project, I’ll gladly work that in and it helps continue a long-term business and lead to more referrals!

  27. Jenn says

    I personally connect better with people in person and can therefore get a clearer idea of what someone is looking for if I meet them face to face, at least initially. However, I like to have things in writing, so emailing is often useful from that perspective.

    This is a topic I’m sure people will differ on greatly based on preference.

    Similar questions are raised in this blog post:

    http://wewritethings.blogspot.com/2009/11/online-dating-online-shoppingonline.html

  28. Adi says

    I meet with clients if they request it and it’s not a ridiculous amount of trouble for me. However, I’ve managed just fine with clients I’ve never met. A couple reasons that I, personally, prefer not to meet them: 1) I’m not shy, but introverted. I’m not the type who can’t make eye contact or small talk, and I can pretend to be a good conversationalist if I have to. However, socializing annoys me, and if I can avoid it at all, I will. 2) I have an easier time grasping the project via written words rather than verbal explanation. It’s my learning style, I guess.

  29. says

    I try to avoid the meeting at all costs, its time out of the office and when you are a freelancer time is money! The issue also arises that if the prospective client is unable to get there ideas down digitally you will struggle with them throughout the project… I tend to frighten them off with a meeting fee!

  30. says

    Here in my country every cliente want a face to face meeting first and if you got the job they want meeting along the way, like almost every latin country clients are a bit informal always a meeting with a cup of coffe (mostly when is with coffe growers) some chit chat and everything for that reason I always leave the meetings for late afternoon, I try to make my clients to have more electronic comunication instead of physical meetings, but the most time consuming of working in El Salvador is the time spend for getting paid, because of tax regulations you must meet the clients to give the physical invoice and later grab your money, nobody make electronic payments since here people take it as a risk.

    But in the other hand when you grow a good face to face relationship with the clients you can archive bonuses, if you don’t meet the client most of the time they take it personal, as I was writing this one of my clients call me to notice me that she has recomended me with a potential client, since she cosider I’m the most friendly of her providers and I never let them hanging in the wind with their projects.

  31. says

    Great discussion! I want to thank everyone for weighing in on this matter.

    My take is that there isn’t a right or wrong answer, although if you have never tried meeting (or not meeting), it might be worthwhile to try what you are not currently doing to see if it makes a difference.

  32. says

    Great article! I’ve had some situations where it worked out great to meet a prospective client in person and other times when it was not so great. I do agree that it depends on the situation. If the client is relatively close to where I am, then I am more likely to take the time to meet. The one time I regretted driving over was during traffic hour in the city especially since the client didn’t even have the decency to let me know I didn’t get the job.

  33. says

    Most of my clients I did not meet face-to-face for the initial consultation. I rather not have to take the time out of my day to commute to where they are in the hopes of closing on a deal. I have found it very beneficial and efficient to deal with the majority of my potential clients through phone and email. I even had one client that I only recently actually spoke to over the phone after dealing with them for 3 years.
    I will not initiate the idea of meeting face-to-face but if the client seems to prefer it I will accommodate as long as it is within the local area.

  34. says

    Thanks to everyone who commented. The feedback has been very interesting.

    I can see that there are two types of clients: those who are used to dealing face to face (often corporates) and those who deal virtually.

  35. says

    In my opinion, if you’re worried about physical impressions, shyness, commute times and meeting times, you’re in the wrong field. Personal contact with clients is getting lost, and while you won’t be able to meet everyone, the that are ones within reach, or that are willing to pay for your travel should get your presence.

    A huge part of web design are client planning meetings where you can conduct KJ sessions, building mood boards, get a feel of the business and clients, etc. This is part of the information architecture stage.

    Web design isn’t only about pushing PSD’s to the client, but giving them a proper experience as a customer, just as you would give the user the appropriate experience. And let’s not forget, clients DO PAY for meetings, travel, lodging, etc., so don’t think this is an out-of-pocket expense. All of these costs come after you’ve won a project.

    A freelancer that sticks to virtual meetings will remain a freelancer. A freelancer that takes time to give to clients will always have more possibilities offered to them for the mere fact that they do real networking.

  36. says

    Thanks for sharing your opinion Glenn!

    I think it’s a little harsh to say that freelancers who don’t meet with clients shouldn’t be in business and/or can’t expand their business. I know plenty of freelancers who actually have grown their business without conducting face-to-face meetings. Some of them actually went on to become agencies.

    However, you are right about one thing. Any time you limit what you will do you are placing a limitation on your business and narrowing your prospective clients. This is true if you refuse to meet clients face to face. It’s just as true if you refuse to work for less than what you’re worth.

    The other thought that I had on the matter is that many freelancers are happy operating solo. They are into freelancing for the freedom of the lifestyle and not to grow a huge business. I think it’s fine if someone wants to expand their business. I also think it’s fine if they do not.

  37. says

    I offer a phone consultation that is free followed by a questionnaire and a quote. If they agree with my terms then I am happy to meet with them in person, of course with local clients, if not there is always skype, phone and email to communicate. Most of my clients I have never meet in person and still were able to communicate well with.

  38. says

    I used to meet with all prospective clients. But then I learned that some people were just kicking my tires, weren’t that serious about it, or didn’t actually want a designer, just someone to operate the software.

    Now I get a better feel of who I’m dealing with. I would agree that it all depends, but generally speaking, if the client is really interested in you, they don’t need to meet. How many business do we work with, or buy from, that we’ve met? I’ve never met my insurance rep, phone company, car manufacturer, etc.

  39. Gary McMahon says

    I’m a freelance ecologist/consultant that does surveys for rare plants and animals etc. I’ve been solo for 5 years now and find that if I meet potential clients beforehand, I have always (yes 100%) received the business. There’s always someone cheaper than me and the services I provide are easily commodified (if thats a word?? – meaning the outcome is a survey, the things are either there or not, there’s not much disucssion on quality[though it’s important to me!}) so its easy for a client to go with price. I am pretty personabley and like meeting people and I think its important in my business model for my clients to like me. If they do, they tend to contract me. Because of my specialty most of my clients dont discuss the quality of my reports, generally because they have employed me to do things that they dont know. I think they contract me in the following priority order: 1- they find out about me from past clients or word of mouth 2- they like and trust me and then 3) they think I have the necessary skills or knowledge to undertake their projects. therefore, for me, the meeting with them is vital in my obtaining business – this works for private clients as well as State and Federal Governmenta agencies and NGO’s.
    Cheers
    Gary

  40. says

    Thanks to one client, I avoid face to face meeting like the plague. Scope creep was a huge issue, and I was unable to bill for meetings, which he liked to schedule for once a week that took and hour – two hours of my time. One meeting he sat there for 30 minutes looking at stock photos, until I excused myself. While face to face is crucial for some things, email is much more effective and less time consuming.

    Thanks for the great article, it just re-enforced my mindset for this issue.

  41. Amanda says

    I’d be interested in seeing an article that gives some insight into how to explain to your client that a face to face is not necessary. I know when a potential client contacts me and they are a tire kicker.. or, and most recently in my case, a small project. Of course I welcome quick money small projects, but what do I say so the potential client?

  42. says

    I agree with your comment…because we can make confidence through the indirect communication with the customers…for their better hope on us..even if it is less chance they will co operate with us.. we can make them satisfy with but if they get the appearance of the communication failure once..after that Its toooo difficult to change the image on their mind.

  43. says

    Coming from a sales environment, I would highly recommend freelance designers learn how to sale there work in person. Running a good meeting is crucial and very similar to interviewing for a company. You have to be able to sale yourself and your clients will trust you to babysit there kids.

  44. says

    Great discussion.

    I agree with Gary and others that meeting in person — as I finally did last week with someone for whom I’d been blogging for three months, weekly — can really push your relationship to a totally new level.

    If you hit it off! If you’re funny and charming and present yourself well, I think a face to face meeting can change the game. If you’re not, remaining more hidden is probably wise.

    I’m better face to face than through email and I dislike the phone; only over a meeting face to face, when practical, can you get a true feeling for the person you are working with. But I agree that it can backfire; my meeting was with someone half my age and I had dressed quite formally, which I thought might be too much — but he was very well dressed so this likely put him at ease. I really enjoy meeting new people and that energy infuses my meetings.

  45. says

    The truth is landing a client is based on how comfortable they are with you personally and professionally. And with the explosion of the web, people are more psychologically connected online than ever before.

    Talk to people in forums, youtube, social media, e-mail…if they know you, they’ll come to you first since there is a connection. My area is low in businesses, so that’s not an option for me. But I know how to build a relationship and how to please a client that’s worth my time, so I can make social media and forums work for me. Essentially just get to know people….ask them what they do for a living and learn who they are. Once they find out who you are, they won’t hesitate to hire you.

  46. says

    This article came in my search to get tips for a prospective client meeting tomorrow. I’m surprised that many people eschew meetings. In my line of work, grant writing and consulting, I would be crazy not to accept a meeting. Grant opportunities are never-ending and they have tight deadlines. If someone is in need for a grant consultant, the work begins right away. And often comes with repeat work and long-term contracts. My city is like a small town and, the more people see me, the more they’ll be inclined to hire me.

    I do have clients on the West Coast and we had lengthy phone calls to build trust. If they hire the wrong person, they can lose as much as millions of dollars. Therefore, I’ve got to personalize the contracting process as much as possible.

  47. says

    To be totally honest, I’ve only met with a few potential clients in person. Of those, two turned to be low-baller/tire-kicker types trying to pick my brain for free information, and the other one was actually worth meeting up with, as he had paper documents to pass along for editing. Come to think of it, the legit client had already agreed to a price for work before we met up, so the meeting was really just to hand off the work to be done, so based on that, I definitely prefer NOT meeting with clients if at all possible!

  48. says

    @Laura Roberts I totally agree with you. I am too not meeting until they agreed on a price, still they would have to sign my agreement on the spot or before the meeting.

  49. says

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  50. Sarah says

    This is a great post! Does anyone have advice for asking a *potential* client to cover travel costs? A prospective client is requesting that I visit their facilities for a tour and to meet in person with their staff. However, this would be a 3-hour trek each way–which means I will not be able to earn any other money that day. The potential contract is substantial so I am willing to make the trip. But is it possible for me to ask them for some kind of travel compensation? And if so, what? Thank you!

    • Ryan Domm-Thomas says

      Hey Sarah!

      I can completely understand the struggle with the best way to approach this situation! I think any way you decide to handle it, ultimately comes down to what you’re comfortable with.

      If you wanted to, you could say that this visit will be at no charge but any future trips would incur a fee. This might be the riskiest of all choices because they might be seeking free advice and there is the chance that they won’t end up as a client – which obviously costs you the most in the end.

      You could be a little more upfront about the cost. Let your potentials know that there would be a fee to travel that far due to the distance and the time commitment. Suggest a Skype meeting as an alternative and see where they go from there.

      The bottom line is that you are running a business – anyone else doing the same should understand the cost involved in a trip like that and the risk you’d be taking (to not gain a client and losing income).

      Don’t be afraid to ask for the money. As freelancers, every hour is precious and you want your clients to value your time just as much as you value their business. Let us know how it goes & if you have any other questions!

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