How to win at meetings as a freelancer
Winning business on your own can be daunting - here's how to take control.
When you switch from full-time work to full-time freelancing you say goodbye to some of the constants of office life, like the stressful commute, the need to wear pants, and the calendar full of meetings. But while you may be glad to kiss the crowded commute goodbye, a meeting-free calendar might not necessarily be a good thing.
If you’re smart about initiating and attending face-to-face meetings as a freelancer, you’ll soon find they’re instrumental in building rapport with your clients, finding fresh work opportunities, and broadening your network. So, how do you hold successful meetings as a freelancer? We’ve put together a few quick tips:
Whether someone’s invited you to meet, or you’re the one thinking about setting up a meeting, before you add it to your calendar ask yourself if it’s a good use of your time. After all, when you’re a freelancer, every hour that you’re in a meeting is an hour you’re not working on another project and, once travel time is factored in, face to face meetings can become especially time-consuming. On the other hand, a face to face kick-off meeting with a new client is a great way to establish a strong rapport from the get-go. And you don’t need us to tell you that good rapport can lead to more work, and great word-of-mouth about you and your services! What’s more, face to face meetings at key points in your working relationship – when you initiate a big new project, for example, or when a project shifts in scope or direction – can help ensure that you and your client are on the same page. Regular check-ins are great, too, but we think you can get away with holding this type of meeting over the phone. And don’t forget to streamline all that pre-meeting admin, too: whether you’re meeting online, over the phone, or in person, don’t get bogged down in endless email threads trying to pin down a time: use Doodle 1:1 to set meetings with clients seamlessly.
Location is Everything
When you’re working as a freelancer, finding a meeting location isn’t as simple as logging into the company calendar and reserving Meeting Room 3: sometimes you’ll need to be creative when it comes to finding a good place to meet. If a client suggests meeting at their offices, take them up on the offer! This can be a good chance to get a read on your client’s company culture and tailor your work for them accordingly. Cafes and co-working spaces can be good options, too, but don’t forget to scope them out first. Make sure they’re not too noisy or crowded and, if you’ll need internet, check that the wifi is fast and reliable. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either! If you’re meeting to brainstorm ideas, try going for a walk or sitting in a park: you might find the creative ideas flow more freely than they do in an uninspiring meeting space.
You might be living the free, flexible life of a freelancer but the principles of good meetings still apply. Be prepared: whatever the meeting topic, make sure you’ve done your research. If you’re meeting a prospective client, familiarise yourself with their work. If you’re off to a pitch meeting, make sure you have plenty of pitches up your sleeve. Set an agenda: if you’ve asked for a face-to-face meeting, send your client a brief agenda beforehand. If your client’s set the meeting but there’s no clear agenda, politely request they share one with you. Clarify action items: leave the meeting with a clear idea of what your next steps are, who is responsible for carrying them out, and a rough time-frame. Follow up afterwards: a quick email with a summary of the key points and your plan going forward should do the trick.
When you’re a freelancer, meetings are work! All the preparation, admin, and follow-up is on you. And, unlike the Monday morning stand-up at a firm with hundreds of employees, you can’t get away with scrolling through your phone in a corner instead of participating. So set smart boundaries – and if a client insists on regular face-to-face meetings or meetings that involve intense preparation, charge them for your time.
Scheduling meetings as a freelancer is a key way to stay in touch with clients and stay on top of their needs; going the extra mile and holding judicious face-to-face meetings creates opportunities to build rapport, generate new ideas, and avoid time-consuming miscommunications. And hey, once the meeting’s over, you can go back to working in bed – you are a freelancer, after all!