I am one freelance writer who tries to avoid scheduling client meetings as much as possible. I don't mind the occasional lunch or meeting with an existing client I know is going to make that time I've set aside worth while. What I hate are those meaningless meetings where I practically rearrange my day (and life) to drive to clear across town and meet with a prospect who doesn't even know if they want to hire me to handle their project. These meetings remind me of the weekly staff meetings at my old job. You had tons of work that needed to be done, yet were literally being held captive to discuss issues that that could have been addressed in a simple email.
Do face-to-face meetings make a difference?
In the course of my somewhat short freelance writing career, I have meet with maybe about seven different prospects to discuss possible projects, and not one of those meetings ever panned out. At the time I was new to freelancing, so I may not have done a great job of prequalifying them before agreeing to a meeting. However, I must say I'm getting much better at figuring out when someone is serious about hiring my services from when someone is just wasting my time.
Charging for your time
One solution a fellow freelance writer suggested was to charge a fee for these meetings. It can be hourly or a flat rate consultation fee, but the fee ensures that you are paid accordingly for your time regardless of what happens in the end. It sounds like a pretty good idea to me, but I wonder if in this economy writers will consider it a risky move. You could always quote a rate and offer to absorb it into the quoted project rate once hired. Still, shouldn't you be compensated for time spent away from work, gas and travel expenses when you meet with prospects and/or clients face-to-face? What do you think?