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Working as a freelancer surely isn’t a safe bet. Although you might be admired because you can choose your workload and time management freely, there are many obstacles one has to overcome, one of the biggest being starting a new collaboration. In particular, the very first meeting with a new potential  client.

It doesn’t really matter if you are taking your first steps as a freelancer or if you are already in the business for some time, when it comes to first meeting a potential client doubts and insecurities rise just the same.

That’s why we choose to write down the elementary Do’s & Don’ts for freelancers to help you overcome the first meeting with a potential client successfully. Following we will give you some advice on what should be avoided and how to prepare- and most importantly, present yourself.

Clothes make the man

Appearances can be deceiving, but during your first meeting it should be your goal to convince, persuade and conquer your potential client. In a nutshell your goal is to be able to sell yourself. Therefor the clothes do make the man and yours should look especially good.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you have to change your style completely, but it is important to keep in mind that we tend to judge our counterparts within only seven seconds.

How should you present yourself then, you ask? Useless to say that shorts, sweatpants and slippers are an absolute NO GO. On the other hand being overdressed might also send the wrong message, therefore you should go for something casual but still formal. A pair of blue jeans and a classy button-up-shirt usually is a winning combination, paired with your favorite essential briefcase, containing everything you may need for your meeting (notebook, tablet, notebook, UXGO cards, several pens).

Another crucial aspect is the whereabouts of your meeting. You should avoid cafès, libraries and shared office spaces full of distractions and instead choose a calm and isolated environment. A piece of advice: often hotel lobbies are open to the public. This means you can enter, reside and welcome your potential client freely. He surely will be impressed if you welcome him in the lobby of a five star hotel, before you move on to drinks in the hotel bar. Although the drinks might be a bit more expensive, you will leave a long lasting impression and show class and proficiency (there is also nothing wrong with slightly increasing your estimate in that case) .

Scrutinizing

If you already have an appointment set, this means that there has been some previous contact of some form between you and your new potential client, you therefore have some knowledge of who he is, what his field of expertise exactly is and mostly, what he specifically expects from you.

Unfortunately, that is not enough information to bring to your first meeting. You have to roll up your sleeves and scrutinize all there is to find out about your future client, in order to show up as prepared as possible to your meeting.

You can start by finding out his professional background, his evolution and then go on to looking into the goods and/or services he might provide and how he does so, without leaving out his staff and headquarter.

Once you have collected sufficient information you can start to scrutinize the more specific details, on which you will be working on yourself over the next months.

If, for example, you have to focus on the restyling of his webpage, try to analyze every single aspect, starting from the startpage down to the contact information,- try to capture his graphic style and his modality of communication. Write down what you like and possible improvements. Your potential client will be impressed if you already have some idea to pitch at your first meeting.

But be careful to not reveal too much: a good idea is always the groundwork to a valid project, but only the executor gets the credit for it. Do everything possible to be that executor, but in case things aren’t going as planned, make sure you haven’t given to much away.

Be ready to play

Getting ready for the first meeting with your potential client is kind of getting ready for a chess game. If you can predict your counterparts moves you may be in advantage, but you still have to wait for your turn.

You can scrutinize all you want and pitch all kinds of great ideas but your first meeting will still be exactly like a chess match. Your potential client will be there to retaliate, say his piece, asking for explanations and more specific details. At the end of the day that is more than understandable since he is the one paying you and he wants to know what exactly it is he is paying you for.  That’s why it is crucial for you to be prepared for the mutual “turn taking”. But how?

Speak simply, speak eloquently

SEO, engagement, software, development. The name-dropping could be confusing for your client if he is not directly in the sector. Of course you want to use your know-how to show that you indeed have the necessary knowledge but this could be counterproductive to your cause: If he doesn’t understand a word you’re saying or feels undermined you could seem presumptuous and like a know-it-all. That’s not what you want, is it?

You should therefore try to keep your language simple and understandable, making the potential client feel more at ease.

Plan ahead

You have to create a new website for potential client and he’s already starting to give you confusing directions, preferences and demands? That is because he does not know what exactly it is he wants. Yet. Often this ends in hours of hard work being rejected and thrown out with a simple “This is not what I wanted” .

Here is where you can make your smart move and pull out of your briefcase your set of UXGO cards. They allow you to project a website in only one minute and to fully visualize it on screen. There are several advantages. Mainly, now that the potential client sees how the product could look like you can actually start a conversation on which aspects should be adjusted or modified. Now, once you get home all you have to do is apply said changes, which will save you hours and hours of work.

The art of negotiation

It’s a tale as old as time, that the price you are going to propose to your potential client is not the one he is going to accept. Negotiation is part of the game, also if your price is reasonable and he can afford it.

But one must learn and perfectionate the art of negotiation before meeting his potential client. A very common strategy is to immediately start with a very high contribution, so when he is pushing it downwards you will eventually meet where you intended the price to be anyways. You could also propose “customized” price solutions. Which we will look into next.

The money talk

Money is always a sensitive topic once you meet your potential client. There are numerous reasons why, maybe because money is an off-topic in society, maybe because you might be afraid you and your future client might not see eye to eye on the price range-, there are always some barriers when it comes to talk the money talk.  But it has to be done.

Whatever price you might be asking, you have to be sure your potential client accepts right away. But how?

One of the best advice for freelancers is to propose a modular estimate. Let’s elaborate.

Let’s say you have to restyle a webpage, this would mean deleting and reconstructing from scratch. That has a price. But there are other facts to consider. Would you also have to put in writing the content? Because if so, the price would increase. Would you have to make some more specific adjustments once the work is done and your potential client would like to add some single elements or information? Also in that case, the price would increase. The best thing to do therefore is, not to present one single estimate which could easily scare him, but to divide it in sections, each with its own costs. Doing so, he can compose his own price package, according to his own necessities and budget.

The right mindset

When taking your first steps as a freelancer you will notice the same old voice, you already heard in previous job interviews and other challenging situations,  in your head whispering to you: “ Make them know your worth!” “They have to pick you!” “Show them what you are capable of!”

Don’t you know that voice? Hasn’t it tried to get to you as well? That’s why it is so important to be in the right state of mind: This is not a job interview. You are a professional offering your services to someone in need of it.

It’s not only the client choosing you, it’s you choosing him as well. Try to keep this concept in mind and act consequently. You’ll be more self-assured and conscious of your worth, just like the professional you are.

Furthermore, you’ll be able to distinguish real opportunities from those who are just trying to waste your time.

Following all the previous advice and keeping your right mindset, you’ll surely be able to turn your next potential customer into your actual new customer!

Clara Cosenza

Author Clara Cosenza

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