So you landed a potential new freelance client. Good job! Now it is time for that first meeting with your new client. This is the most important meeting you will have with all your clients because it is the right time to establish your relationship with the client, the specific project requirements, the proper communication channels for both sides and discover potential issues and problems that you may come across.
Because this is extremely important it can become pretty stressful. The methods and steps you will take compose your professional profile, establish your expertise and prototype accepted patterns of communication with the client. Pretty much you have to set the tone of the whole project!
First of all, you need to understand, I mean deeply, truly understand the moto “the client is always right”. You won’t really understand what your client needs are, how they expect your solution will service them and it is almost certain they won’t understand the technicalities involved. And guess what? They don’t have to. Your job as a freelancer is to listen carefully to what the clients are saying, decrypt their words into bullet point tasks covering the client needs and explaining the process as simply as they need to come to a good level of understanding why the solution you offer is the solution that fits best to their needs.
Pretty heavy stuff right? Hopefully there is the “magic wand” that makes all these easy. Humanity has evolved tremendously during the centuries and we possess one powerful skill: Communication. Humans have communication abilities that other animals do not. We communicate to request help, to inform others, and to share attitudes as a way of bonding. To put it simple, we share our thoughts and needs by talking to one another. As a freelancer your first and most important job is to ask the right questions that will guide your client to share their needs.
A checklist of questions beforehand a client consultation, will make the meeting more efficient. Furthermore, it places value on your time, both for the actual meeting and also for the potential project ahead. Personally I estimate about one hour as enough time to get things thoroughly discussed. You can either charge a fee or offer this one hour as a promoting consultation, your choice.
Before actually going to the meeting you have to keep in mind and better in writing, what are the goals you have for the upcoming meeting.
Set a professional tone of the meeting, be on time and properly dressed.
Estimate the scope of the project.
Educate the client about web development and clarify your methods to include the client in the process.
Gather all the information and material you need to get started.
Suggest features and procedures your client hasn’t thought of or does not know of.
Listen to what your client talks about and keep notes of the things that they talk passionately.
Agree on budgets and timelines before you write a single code line.
Agree on future communication patterns (email support, phone calls, skype calls, whatever you believe suits you).
Keep all this well-structured and documented and after the meeting is completed, display your professionalism by writing a briefing report about all the matters discussed in the meeting and email it to the client asking feedback. This is your “safety net”, to have in writing and agreed by your client what you have talked about their project and how you will proceed.
Coming up in part 2 the actual list of questions you should ask your client in the meeting