Once upon a time, I was a freelancer. I came from the corporate world, and thought I had a great exposure to all things business. Then at the tender age of 22, I went out on my own and realised I knew very little when I didn’t have the support of a senior, experienced team behind me.
So, I attended every Business Gateway event, set myself up with a mentor and gradually grew to have the confidence to attend meetings with new clients without shaking, put together proposals without needing four people to proof them, and publish articles in Journals I never dreamed would give me the time of day.
Now I have the privilege of working with freelancers and start-ups, passing on the knowledge I fought hard to gain, and I love it. I think that a lot of the teams who offer help to these groups have been doing it for so long that they assume that some things are general knowledge, or common sense, forgetting that they had to learn it the hard way too! So this is based on a training session I gave recently. I hope it helps, even if it just serves as a checklist for you before meetings.
How to prepare for meeting a client for the first time.
1. Learn about who you’re meeting
Give them a Google. In business in the UK there is a really high chance they’ll have a LinkedIn profile, and if you’re lucky they’ll have a photo (so you don’t end up introducing yourself to a random bloke as I have done countless times over the years). Find out what they do at the company, where they worked before, and if possible, what they like doing. Do they follow any golf groups? Do they belong to any charity organisations? Anything that can help you with small talk is invaluable in early meetings.
2. Find out about the company
Please never go to a meeting without first finding out what the company does. You don’t need an indepth knowledge of their last five years’ published accounts – but an elevator pitch worth of understanding is essential. Treat it like a job interview, don’t walk in without preparation.
3. Imagine what they want to know about you
If you were them, what would you want to know? For instance, would they ask for examples of your work? Or pricing? Have the answers prepared as much as you can in advance.
4. Think about the goals of the meeting
Why are you having this meeting? What do you want to get out of it? Write it down in your notebook before you go and don’t leave without answering it.
5. Have a follow-up plan
You’ve gone through all the effort of having a meeting, so make the most of it and follow up afterwards. Know what your next steps are and have a plan of action.