Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Is Meeting with Clients Really Necessary?

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?


Lori said...

Doesn't seem risky. If the client is serious, you'll get the money, which you can then deduct off the total fee, if you want. Sort of like a down payment, but a guarantee that your time won't be wasted. :)

I drove two hours each way to meet with a potential client once. I listened to him going on and on about how much money he's made, how successful his business is, how he has money to burn...then the dork tried bargaining with me on the fee. Uh, no. My fee is my fee, just as your business charges a set fee. It's not as though I didn't allow one counter, which I did. I sent him a package price for more than one project, which indicated a 20 percent savings. It was when he came back with a ridiculously low price that I knew I had a bargain shopper. He wanted me to write three books for half what I'd charge for one. No way.

Kimberly Ben said...

Lori, I met with a similar client last summer. He would go on and on about being a millionaire, and then proceed to nickel and dime me on every project. If you're bragging about how much money your business makes, surely you know that you get what you pay for.

I agree - if you treat the consultation fee as a down payment on the total project rate, it's fair for both the writer and client.

Devon Ellington said...

Meeting time = billable time.

Lawyers charge for meetings and for phone calls. They KNOW how to make sure time is respected. We can learn from them.

Martin Reed @ Female Forum said...

I think it all depends on the value of the potential contract, no?

There isn't really a need to meet a client that wants a couple of articles per month for less than $100. However, if a client is looking for volume that would be worth hundreds each month then it would be worth arranging a meeting.

Why not suggest a telephone consultation first, followed by a physical meeting if you both agree it's necessary?

- Martin

Kimberly Ben said...

I agree with you, Martin. I don't really mind meeting with a client under those circumstances. It's just that getting to, attending and returning from a meeting can take up an entire day billable time if you're not careful. I just want to make sure that a meeting necessary before making that commitment I suppose.

I usually suggest a phone conference first. Many times the client discovers there's no real need for a face-to-face meeting.

I think that some clients prefer a meeting because it puts them at ease somehow before they start working with you.

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