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Meeting Your Client for the First Time

When I first started out as a freelancer and got my first client – the prospect of meeting him was daunting to say the least. Over time, my confidence grew which led me to write a short overview of points related to that first crucial introduction here.

However, meeting a client as I have learned is much more than just remembering to bring a pen and a spare laptop battery! There are many dos, and don’ts as well as pitfalls to avoid.

You are There Link

Business Card

You have both turned up to the meeting for the sole purpose of getting more information about each other. You are there specifically to get more information on the client you’re potentially working for. You are also there to learn more about the specifics of a project that can never be quite deduced from a brief.

The client is there to get more information from you on your proposed approach and also to learn more about you as a person / business.

In order for you to get the proper information from the client and in order for your client to have a good impression of you and your business, you must know that preparation is key!

Your Preparation Link

Freelance Freedom

Preparation for a client meeting is very similar to preparing for an interview. When this interview starts, you are to know everything that you can at that point in time.

Here are a few things that you should do:

  • Google their company.
  • Read through their website if they already have one. This is normally a good place to learn some valid information about the client.
  • Look for competitors. Their competitor’s approach are all snippets of chatter that you will be dropping into the conversation. This just shows that you are on the ball.

Researching them as much as you can prior to the first meeting will appear professional and thorough – qualities any client will want to associate with you.

Going the extra mile is an investment of time,
but it will definitely pay off.

Your Experience / Portfolio / Skills Link

At some point, 9 times out of 10 – conversation will move to previous work that you have done. Cue your portfolio samples and past websites that you have designed in your laptop and take out your beautifully prepared PDF. This part of the meeting is very important.

  1. Don’t see this as an opportunity to talk for a year about each one of your previous projects and how great they are. Short, concise to the point – you can convey your thought process in a straight to the point manner without baffling clients with why you chose one image replacement method over another.
  2. Silence is Awkward

  3. If its paper – try your best to not sit there silently while they flip through your work in an awkward silence that does no one any good. Instead, take the opportunity to lean in and take them on a journey through your work.  Engaging your client is essential. People want to feel involved.

Don’t let this part of the meeting linger and take the foreground. You want to be talking about their project and how you can help them. How you have helped people in the past with their needs is merely a reference point, a star on top of the Christmas tree. You, the designer should be using this meeting to let your client see that you want to take on their project and clinch the deal.

Going Home Link

I have somewhat of a mental script that I follow. I just fill in the blanks to the details at these respective meetings. It includes these cue points:

  1. It was great to meet you and your team…
  2. I really learned a lot about the project and have received plenty of details…
  3. I will shoot you an e-mail summarizing what we spoke about…
  4. *I start packing away my laptop and samples.*
  5. I will give you a ring / email / meet on to discuss moving forward.
  6. Thanks for your time, see you soon…

Those are my rehearsed lines, and it saves me from that awkward ‘should I pack things up yet’ as it seems natural and flows.

Have I thought about the whole affair way too much?  Maybe, but that first client meet for me is often a deal clincher or breaker – so I think it’s good to examine the process to ensure you get these projects!

What’s your experience? Link

What are some of the things that you do when you meet with clients? We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well. Please feel free to leave a comment and share with us your experiences about meeting with clients. I’m sure that we can all learn something from each other that we can apply in our next client meet. Do you have any funny stories or stories that are just weird? Share them in the comments below.

Also, if you liked the post, please help us promote it by retweeting it and stumbling it. We really would appreciate it. Thank you so much for reading this article.

SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

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I am a 23 yr old entrepreneur, designer, blogger, scientist from London, UK. Thanks for reading through whatever I was rambling about this time. I blog about business here, design here, and talk nonsense on just about everything here. Follow me on Twitter. Take care!

  1. 1

    Get your questions sorted – always have a lot of questions to ask.

    You can fill any awkward silence with questions for the customer; everyone loves talking about themselves.

    If your pitching to the client and you’re the last of say three companies lots of questions will be the clincher. It will make the client feel like they’re being interviewed by you (very powerful) and will get the client thinking about the project, hopefully thinking about functionality that they haven’t gone through with the other two companies.

    Once you’ve got those answers you can smash out a proposal that will deliver what they want, while the other companies proposals will seem outdated and off the mark.

    • 2

      I agree with what you are saying, questions are definitely good. I do think however that you must use discretion when asking questions.

      We’ve all heard of this phrase.

      “There are no stupid questions.”

      But I think this is definitely not true when it comes to a client meeting. I think we need to find the right balance between asking legitimate questions that will help us but at the same time not annoy the client. :)

      You are right though, being the last to meet with the client will usually be an advantage in getting the deal, IMO.

  2. 3

    In response to this statement about awkward silence “Instead, take the opportunity to lean in and take them on a journey through your work.”

    With my overall experience with face to face negotiations (in and out of the design field), I view the first meeting with the client as taking the initiative to cementing your terms before they do.

    Leaning in implies neediness and forcing conversation eludes to being not fully in control of your emotions. If an experienced negotiator meets with you and senses you are needy, he or she will gut out your contract and dissect your prices in front of your face. You will compromise once, twice, maybe three or more times. In the end, you end up losing.

    In summary:

    1) Don’t be needy
    2) Don’t be afraid to say no
    3) Don’t force conversation or be wordy
    4) Don’t compromise your sense of self worth
    5) Be in control of your emotions; cool, calm, collected
    6) Watch your body language, there are many ways you maybe signaling nervousness

    And by the way, this does not mean you have to act like the Terminator!

    • 4

      Hello Jae, thanks for sharing your opinion with us. While you do bring up some pertinent points, I would have to disagree. I don’t think leaning in implies neediness. If anything, I think it just makes the client a bit more comfortable as you walk them through your portfolio. I’ve been in some meetings when the client is really timid and shy, and in these cases, leading the conversation is a good thing to do to prevent awkwardness. Don’t get me wrong, there are those meetings that I go to as well where the client loves to talk and when that situation arises, then you don’t have to do much talking through your portfolio as most of the time, they would be the ones asking questions and making comments.

      But anyway, you do have some great points on that list that you made, especially about not being afraid to say NO! Thanks for your input once again. I really enjoy it when the readers add value to the article by chiming in their opinions in the comments.

      • 5

        >>I’ve been in some meetings when the client is really timid and shy, and in these cases, leading the conversation is a good thing to do to prevent awkwardness.

        I agree with this. Most of my clients are cut-throat, surgically precise, negotiators who purposefully are timid/shy or very overt/loud.

        But once in a while, I get the genuinely timid and shy prospects which sometimes throws me off (I let my partner handle those types of clients after the initial meeting).

  3. 6

    Thank you, this information is incredibly valuable! I have to admit that when it comes to meeting clients I often stumble over my words in trying to think how best to phrase things. The most important aspect though is confidence – confidence in your level of expertise, your skills and your work. Without confidence, all of what you have prepared tends to go out the window!

    • 7

      Great point! You definitely want to be confident before you go into a client meeting or you might lose the job and the client might walk all over you. Thanks for adding that!

  4. 8

    Nice article. One thing I’ve done is built my own form for the meeting. It has some general info to fill out (such as contact stuff) and also some prepared questions – Just to make sure I get all the info needed.

    Thanks Mel!

    • 9

      That’s a nice idea Travis. I guess some type of questionnaire would be great. Maybe before the meeting, email it to your client and tell him to email it back to you and then you can go over that for the meeting. That way, the meeting is a bit more structured and you have an outline to follow. Excellent! :D

  5. 10


    Lovely article, I find it really inspiring and as well I would love to share that I started my own Design company with a partner some months ago, we’re both too young around 22 and 20 years and this next december we’ll just finish the GD career.

    We’d the chance to get some costumers right now and they trust us on what they see online at our website, as well they understand they will pay for the work not for the person, and one suggestion is to get an attitude in which you believe in yoruself and what are you selling.

    Most people are afraid to interact and look smart, I mean I’m not out of school yet but I really know what I’m doing and how it’s done. And most of the time our costumers get surprised that at my age we behave in a professional way since we show and we know what we do and that we love to do it.

    So a suggestiong I might add will be believe in yourself and in your work.

    • 11

      Hey mate, age is definitely just a number, especially in freelancing. I started freelancing when I was 19 and I was able to work with lots of clients, and they were actually impressed at the way I carried myself at such a young age. Definitely being confident helps! Also, knowing your stuff and knowing how to explain it is another big plus!

  6. 12

    Haha, I know exactly what you mean about not being too technical. I’ve actually heard of some freelancers who just use technical words too trick the client into choosing them for the project. Anyway, that’s a great point that you bring up! Thanks mate. :D

  7. 13

    Ok in my 1 client meeting I already did most of that, the only thing I couldn’t really show them was past projects since they were my 2nd client. How is this not common sense?

    • 14

      I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to say. If you mean that you are working with your first ever client and you don’t have past work to show, I would show them things that you worked on in school, or maybe side projects. Besides, I don’t think a client would want to work with someone who has no prior work to show. So if you have nothing to show yet, I suggest creating some work on your own and polishing that, maybe even design stuff for your friends and family that you can use for your portfolio. I hope that made sense. :)

  8. 15

    Well, I think it depends on what type of freelancer you are. When I was freelancing, I had a lot of local clients, mostly small businesses, so I was in meetings about 3-4 times a month.

    • 16

      Totally agree! I am in meetings probably twice a week, metting face to face with a client is the most important part of our business!

  9. 17

    Thanks Waheed. I’m glad you enjoyed Mel’s article.

  10. 18

    Definitely! That’s what the meeting is for, to get as much details as possible. I typically find myself being a lot more productive with those jobs that have meetings compared to those jobs that I take on and only get to chat by phone or email.

  11. 19

    I’m glad you learned your lesson Steven. I think we’ve all had to learn our lesson one way or another. :D

  12. 20

    Hey Lee, congratulations on your first client meeting. I hope everything went well. Glad that this post was useful to you. Oh, and thanks for all your support. I really appreciate you reading our articles and leaving relevant comments.

  13. 21

    Yeah, that typically is the hardest part for me. Sometimes, you get clients who are really good talkers and it’s hard to leave those types of meetings.

  14. 22

    I disagree with that. I’ve had some clients that were absolutely a blast to work with. :D

  15. 23

    We all hate that, don’t we? But that’s just the way it will always be and we have to be ready for that.

  16. 24

    Thanks Alex. You are doing an excellent job and I see a bright future ahead of you. Keep up the great work with Blogussion.

  17. 25

    Hi Mark, thanks for the compliments on Mel’s article. He really does have a solid plan of attack when it comes to meeting clients.

  18. 26

    That’s totally right Teylor. That’s why the client hires us because we are experts and if I was a client, I want the designer who I hired to give me ideas and suggestions. I would expect him to know more than I do with design.

    Some freelancers are a little bit intimidated to give suggestions, but as someone stated above, you have to be confident of yourself.

  19. 27

    “I will shoot you an e-mail summarizing what we spoke about…and then draw a (rough) estimate for you”. In my experience, its best the client knows you are not going to put pen on paper before costs are approved. New clients want to see designs even before you are on the project. Sometimes simply because you are ‘new’. Its easy to get all over-enthusiastic about the project at the meeting if the client seems positive (happens to me even after 12 yrs). But never compromise on the worth of your talent.

    • 28

      Nice article Mel:)

      One of the experience we had recently was having a client who can’t trust us fully, even though we had been really professional throughout. What happened was, the project was not awarded to us yet, and they demanded for wireframes and mockups to be shown, without giving a substantial amount of information. To add on, they didn’t know what they wanted. So I think clients have their ways to ‘test’ web designers out. And that’s certainly not treating us professionally!

    • 29

      I’d be very careful with that client Charlotte. Trust is definitely important, especially if you are freelancing.

  20. 30

    great article! Just what I needed, I;m starting to do some freelance projects and that first meeting is kind of scary. Very helpful, thank!

    • 31

      Yes, it can be rather scary if you aren’t prepared, but thanks to Mel for this wonderful article that at least gives us some insight on this issue that I haven’t really seen much people write about.


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