Freelance Web Design: The First Meeting with Potential Clients

Posted by Libby Fisher on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 in Freelancing, Web Design

Welcome to the first post in a new series on Freelance Web Design! This series is going to cover a few of the important things to be prepared for as a freelance web designer, how to handle different types of clients, projects, and situations, how to be successful as a freelancer, and much more. If you have suggestions for an article that you would like to see here, please let me know!

Today I am talking about something that is an essential step in becoming a successful freelance web designer – and that is knowing how to conduct a successful first-time meeting with a potential client. This is a very important phase of each freelance project you take on – this meeting or consultation can either start the project off on the right foot, or help you to avoid taking on a client or project that is not a good fit for you. There are several questions that must be asked and issues that must be discussed in this important first meeting. Let’s talk about a few of them.

First, let’s address what the overall point of this meeting is. Yes, a few of the obvious answers to that question might be: to discuss the project at hand, to get to know your potential client, etc. – but I think that the most important goal of this first meeting is to determine whether you and the potential client and project will be a good fit or not. In previous posts, we have talked about Two Types of Clients You Deal With as A Freelance Web Designer and When to Turn a Web Design Project or Client Down and How To Do It. There are always going to be certain people that you do not work well with for whatever reason, and certain projects that would be better handled by another designer, for whatever reason. Knowing this, one of your goals when you first sit down with a client is to try to determine to the best of your ability whether you and they will be able to work together successfully and whether their project is one that you will be able to handle successfully. It is in both your best interest and your client’s best interest to turn down the project if you can tell from the first meeting that you are either not qualified, not interested, or not willing to take on their project and handle it successfully.

Ok, so let’s outline a few of the big questions that need to be talked about to determine what the client is looking for and whether that is something you will be able to provide for them.

Ask what the client’s goals for the website are

The first thing you need to know is what the client is hoping or planning to accomplish with their new website. Is their goal to increase sales online? If so, then you need to assess whether that is something you will be able to help them accomplish. Is their goal to increase web traffic? Then you need to determine whether your SEO skills are up to that task. Is their goal to make an existing site more visually appealing? Then you need to make sure that your graphic design skills are going to be able to accomplish this. I think you can see the pattern here – one of the biggest things that you need to be paying attention to is whether or not you are the right man (or in my case, woman) for this job. If you aren’t, then the best thing for both you and for the client is to help them find another designer who is better suited to the project.

Who is the target audience?

This is another important question. The biggest reason to know the answer to this question is because you will need to have at least some understanding of the target audience to know if and how you are going to be able to design a site that appeals to them. If the site is geared towards a group that you know nothing about, then you will probably have to do a lot of research as you go along. I’ve done this before – taking on a project that is aimed towards a very targeted group of people, one that I know nothing about, and trying to design a site that they will appreciate and use. It can most certainly be done, but it’s tough! So, if by talking with the client about this project, you already feel in over your head and overwhelmed by the prospect of creating a website for a very specific audience, it is probably safest to not take it on. Again – it is better for you and the client if they can find a designer more familiar with their type of project.

What is the client’s desired time frame for completion of the website?

This is a big one too – because if you are already fairly heavily booked and don’t have the time to get the project done within the time frame that the client needs, then you should obviously not agree to take it on! It’s not worth the lack of sleep and the stress to try and get more projects done than you have time for.

What is the client’s budget for this project?

This can be a tough thing to bring up, but it’s necessary. You need to know whether the client is going to be able to and be willing to afford you. If the client’s budget will not cover the cost of you doing the project for them, then you can either 1) adjust your price (NOT recommended!), 2) try to convince the client that it is worth paying more than they planned to have YOU do the project (probably not a good idea, but maybe worth a shot if you really believe you are the best person for the job), or 3) refer the client to someone who can take on the project at a price closer to what they have in mind if possible. Unless you are certain that both you and the client will be happy with the amount of work done for the amount of money available, it is best to not take on the project.

Ok, now we got some of the big questions out of the way. If this client and this project still seem like a good fit for you as a designer, it is time to ask some more specific questions. Read the next post in this series, which covers Important Questions To Ask Potential Clients!