Steps to meeting a prospective client.
The problem with being any sort of independent contractor is the amount of time you waste meeting clients who aren’t worth the air they’re using to speak. I’ve met my fair share of talk-is-cheap “business” people in my day and I can tell you with no uncertainty that you want to try and stay as far away from these people as possible. If they even show up to the meeting in the first place, they do nothing but ask probing questions and try to sucker you in to doing free labour. One client I had recently wanted me to not only network his office but also create a network topology for his product deployed on a nation-wide basis, on speck. I have one word for dealing with this type of people. Run.
First, when you are introduced to a prospective client or when one contacts you and requests a business meeting there are a few things that must be done right away. First, describe to them exactly what you do and what you do not do. This is important for people like myself, most of my clients do not understand the difference between a network engineer and a developer. That way you don’t get halfway through a meeting only to find out that they’re looking for a helicopter pilot and you’re an airplane pilot. However, in my own example, I have a great network of other independents like myself who I sub-contract to on a frequent basis. That way I try to accept new business that I can’t do and contract it out, act as a liaison.
Second, if they still want to meet request from them a quarter to half page itinerary outlining the topics and objectives for the meeting. The good thing about doing this is to foce the client into thinking about what they actually need from you, and to ensure that all their concerns are addressed so that subsequent meetings are not needed. The best part of this though is weeding out the talk-is-cheap people. They usually will not send you an itinerary, but if they do it forces them to stay on topic rather than jumping to different questions and topics trying to pull free info from you.
Third, as previously touched on. When meeting the client you want to stay on topic and what was written down in the meeting itinerary. You want to address all the of clients concerns and questions while staying on topic and at a high level. Remember that the meeting is simply to entice the client to give you the contract, not lay out in every detail the solution to their problem. Once the client is enticed ask for a one page project proposal outlining at a high level what it is that the contract will entail.
Fourth, once you have the project proposal from them you can begin to lay out the approximate cost of the contract and a time budget for when you expect to complete the project, or milestones within the project. This keeps not just you and the client on track, but also sets the expectation of project completion so that 2 weeks in you don’t have the client yelling and demanding it be done immediately. If the goals or tasks of the project change after you have begun work on it, then a new project proposal is to be drawn up and signed off on. I’ve found that some clients will agree to initial cost of the project, change the amount of work needed halfway through, and still demand the same price tag at the end.
Fifth, You have three choices for pricing, either by day, hour, or project. Hour is probably the worst choice as it creates more work and accounting for yourself. By project is a descent choice but only if you are 100% certain that you can complete the project without unforeseen complications. Otherwise you end up working a lot of extra hours or days without any extra compensation. By day is the best choice for me as most of my project take on average 1 – 7 days, and since most of the work is remote I don’t have to be entrusted to track hours. Clients will usually feel more at ease being charged a lump sum for a day rather than wondering if the contractor is actually working the amount of hours he claims.
These simple steps hopefully will help you weed out the talk-is-cheap business people and at the same time seem more professional to legitimite customers.Tweet