I was at a local coffee shop recently and noticed two people sitting at a table close to me. One was dressed in a t-shirt, baggy pants and looked like he needed to wash his hair. The other was well-dressed and professional looking. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation. Turns out that the guy who looked like a hot mess was a graphic designer and the other guy was meeting him to discuss a logo he needed to have created. No really, the designer had shown up to a client meeting and looked like he had just crawled out of bed. I also think he may have been stoned.
This is the kind of representation that gives us professional freelancers a bad name. So I thought that I would give those that need it some tips on how to present yourself to a client in person.
- Let’s begin by stating that a client meeting is nothing more than a job interview. Treat it like one.
- Dress appropriately. If you look professional the client will get the impression that you may know what you are talking about. No pajama bottoms, baggy pants, sloppy t-shirts, etc.
- Know what you are talking about. If your client has a website check it out and get an understanding of what their mission is and what they offer. If you have not done work for a similar client in the past, research, research, research. Go in to the meeting with your guns loaded, so to speak.
- Prepare a presentation. I am not kidding. If you take the time to lay out what you are going to say and how you are going to say it you will feel more comfortable and your client will get the information they need. This can be a list of bullet points or an actual presentation that you created that can play on your laptop or iPad. Make sure that if it requires and internet connection that you have tested it in the place that you are meeting beforehand.
- Make sure that you have all the tools you need with you such as, your business card, laptop or iPad if needed, your portfolio, a pad of paper, pen, etc.
- Take notes. You will not remember everything your client said and you may miss some vital information.
- Stay on topic. Do not become distracted by your surroundings. Your client is a paying customer and deserves all of your attention.
- Freelancing is a business. Act like a businessperson. If you don’t you will not be taken seriously.
- Make sure that your portfolio is designed to attract business. Do not use art projects from school or personal projects. Fill your portfolio with projects that will attract business to you, even if that means making up a few companies and developing an imaginary brand and then creating all of their marketing materials and or website. You may be awesome at fantasy at but unless you are trying to get a job doing character creation for a gaming company it is probably not relevant to the project you are pitching.
- This is very important. DO NOT arrive stoned. Seems like a no-brainer but it happens.
This all seems like common sense to me but like the late, great Will Rogers said, “Common sense ain’t so common”. You never know what importance that interview may have for your future. You may pick up a job for a logo design but then it turns out that the fledgling business becomes very successful and they are so thrilled with you and your work that they want to give you all their design jobs and now you can pay your bills.
The interview between the graphic designer and the potential client mentioned above did not go well. The client left saying he would think about it and give him a call. I could tell that was just a polite way to blow the guy off. I was hoping that the designer would be the first to leave so that I could walk over and give the potential client one of my cards, but alas he was not hanging around one minute more than he had to.