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To my dear audience, I know that this website has been not updated in a while and I sincerely apologize. I am here to announce that certain parts and graphics on this website may look "broken" or "out of place", but rest assured there are good reasons for that, as I am slowly but surely moving to re-design "Dream Infinity" as a whole from the ground up. Everything is being re-invented, new establishment of brand identity and design is being re-imagined. I have been working on a new version of this site for quite sometime, but there has been several set backs due to commercial projects taking up almost all of my working time. But please note that this website is far from dead and a lot of new changes are planned. Although I cannot promise any date in regards to when these changes will surface, you will start seeing additions of new content (primarily tutorial posts!) being added here slowly and I invite you to read them in advance before the new re-structuring takes place. In addition to content changes being made here, I invite you to always check up on my official Facebook page for up to date information on what I am up to, newest work, and the new design. I am excited to present the new changes to the world and I whole heartedly thank you for your patience.

- Chris Takakura

Client contact, meeting, and finalization

Date December 18, 2009 | Published by |

Dealing with clients as a freelance designer or a side project for yourself is a very important task that will make a difference between you getting that contract or not. There is no middle ground for it. The first few initial contact with clients and the conversations you have is the most important time of your career as a designer.

phone

1. First contact (e-mail, phone, or in person)

You know that phrase “1st impression is everything?” Well it’s true. Whether you don’t hold true to that belief or not, or whether you are the nice guy/gal that don’t judge people on 1st impression, most human psychology is hard wired to judge and feel the new person they meet the very 1st time. If you do not believe this, you are in absolute denial. This is just the nature of who we are as human beings. With that said, it is very important to reflect professionalism to the fullest the 1st time you get in touch with a client. First off, the most important thing is to greet them with a nice hello. If your contact is over the phone, make sure you are in an environment that is quiet, where you sit and talk by yourself. Do not have music playing in the background, do not have people chatting in the back. If you do happen to pick up your phone in a noisy area, tell them that it is not a good time to talk and you will call them back as soon as possible. DO NOT try to listen to what they say over a noisy environment. If the first contact is over e-mail, be polite and professional over text. ALWAYS use spell check before sending out an e-mail and ALWAYS make sure that your grammar and sentence structure is correct. Read your e-mail response over to make sure of this. If the contact is in person, make sure you greet them with a hand shake. Make sure your hands are free to do this. Make eye contact, hand shake, smile, and start your conversation in a professional manner.

2. Meeting

After your brief conversation about a possible project from the clients end, sometimes a meeting happens where they want to meet with you in person. Although we are in an electronic age where telecommuting and long distance clients happen all the time, you will eventually get meetings with people in your local area. This is a very good thing and if you never had a local client, you might want to think about marketing yourself locally. The reason this is a good thing is because it helps you build your social skills in a professional manner. Don’t be afraid. There is no reason to be afraid or nervous because honestly the worst thing that can happen is you not getting the contract. Obviously you want that contract to make some money, but the truth is, you will always not land the contract and it’s about the experience and social practice that still comes in hand.

clock

The first rule with client meetings in person is NEVER be late. When I say never, I mean NEVER. Mapquest, Expedia, or Google Earth your destination and see how long it will take you to get there. If you are meeting the client on a rush hour time zone, seriously leave an hour or so early PLUS the time driving direction websites tells you. So if it will take you 40 minutes to get there, Leave 90 minutes early or even more if you can.

Calculate your travel distance and time and be there 15 minutes or 30 minutes ahead of the planned time. You will be surprised at how long it may take to find parking in certain businesses or area’s. After you find parking, go grab a coffee, a drink, prepare yourself, make sure your suit (or dress for you ladies) is at it’s best. Fix your hair, make sure you don’t have anything in your teeth. Even practice what you are going to say, or how you are going to present your portfolio. You can do all this in your car or a public restroom. 30 minutes or more is a good time to do this.

hand shake

3. During the meeting

When you are finally in the meeting, be straight forward and to the point. Be confident and know that the client is looking for someone who has a “can do” attitude. Now there are points in our freelance lives when a client asks us if we can do something we really do not know how to do. This is a very difficult thing to answer because in reality, we really can’t do it (i.e they ask if we know how to program a language we don’t know). There is a difference between having a “can do” attitude and being honest. This is where you really gauge yourself really fast and think if you can do it or not. We all know that learning a programming language is very difficult and time consuming. Of course when you come to this point in the meeting, you tell the client that you do not have the experience. Do not lie about it. If there are alternative solutions that you can think of right away, propose that and maybe the client will go for that route. It is a good practice to network yourself with programmers and other creative individuals to sub-contract, where they can do things you cannot do. On your spare time, try posting an ad for a freelance programmer for possible works in the future. A lot of the times, people who are looking for jobs will take that opportunity, regardless of there being a working relationship in the future or not. You will always get someone that will respond to your inquiry because they too have a pro-active, can do attitude.

During the meeting, make sure to keep eye contact and stick to the subject most of the time. If the client goes off about their pets, house, wife, children, let them. But you, the designer, should never ramble off into something that has nothing to do with the meeting subject. Of course if the client asks “do you have children?” or “do you have any pets” you can answer them and keep the conversation to a minimum. Do not ever go off into tangents. You widely express that you do not have focus by doing this.

As designers, we are the experts with what we do, not them. But do not ever shoot down your clients idea’s even if its not possible to do so. Do not criticize them for their lack of knowledge or bad taste in design. Keep all conversations to a systematic default of facts. Do not bring your opinions into certain matters if it arises. If the client asks you for your opinion, give them a friendly critique without making them feel stupid. Do not express your opinions that relate to religion, politics, philosophy, etc… If you ever get a client that asks you what you believe in, or what political party you belong to, it’s almost best to say that you do not belong to any social group. This is the best approach, although awkward of a question. If the client has requirements of who they hire based on their desire to work with someone in the same belief group, you probably do not want to work with them. I’ve had a client turn me down long ago after viewing one of my motion graphics video’s that had an anti-president bush message written all over it. I honestly didn’t lose much, if at all.

MAKE SURE to ask questions. There rarely is ever a time that a meeting covers all grounds. Even if its as simple as “do you have a deadline?” or “how long have you been in this business” will do. It shows the client that you have been paying attention and that you are interested in their business or project that they propose to you.

Let’s not forget that we are freelance designers looking to get paid in the end. But do not talk about money, your rates, and your payment plan till the very end of the meeting. It is important to get to this subject, but the first thing you want to talk about with your client is the project itself and the scope of it. I promise you that you will give a really bad impression if the first thing you say is “well, I am a designer, and I work at so and so dollars an hour.”

All the rules I mentioned above applies for phone meetings. Although you cannot keep eye contact with someone over the phone, it is very important to pay attention to every word he says.

contract

4. Finalization

During the finalization process, or when the meeting is coming to a close, most of the time the client will ask you for your rates if he or she didn’t already. This is where you discuss your payment plan, hourly rate, and how your production system works. This is also a great time where you bring out your contract (that you better have), and have them fill it out in front of you if they desire. If they desire to fill it out later and mail it to you, tell them that it’s okay and give them your mailing address (although your mailing address should be on the contract). Do not shove a contract into their face and tell them that they need to fill it out. You can say “You can fill this out now if you’d like and I will wait and explain in detail if you have concerns with the contract. Or you can just read it over, and mail it to me or call me for any concerns.” Now if this meeting happened over the phone, you have no choice but to have them mail it out to you. Make sure to send the contract over e-mail or (regular mail if you must for some reason) that SAME DAY. Do not procrastinate with this.

After you get through that process, make sure to let them know when you will be able to deliver your first rough concepts and idea’s. Make sure to let them know about your 1st deposit plan during this process. I require a 25% security deposit after my 1st cycle of rough idea’s for that clients project. When you tell them the time frame of the 1st delivery, make sure it’s realistic and not screwing yourself at the end just to impress your clients. Going back to the “Before the meeting” process, scope your schedule out and see how many clients you have besides them. Be realistic about your skills, production speed and when you can actually roll out your work. If you are sending out a rough idea for a website, think about how long it took you in the past. If it took you 3 days to roll out a rough idea for a website in the past, give yourself 5 days. It is better to be on time then not be on time to deadlines. Be realistic with the time you give yourself. Do not tell them it will take you more than 20 days just for a prototype. Be reasonable for your clients while you are being reasonable for yourself.

After the meeting is complete, shake hands again, and make eye contact with a good smile. After this is complete, MAKE SURE to follow up with them with a thank you e-mail and how delighted you were to meet with this client. In the e-mail, again, remind them of when you will deliver your 1st prototype and that you will look forward to the partnership of the project. Again, spell check, grammar check, and sound polite and professional.

Of course over time, if you keep working with this client, your relationship will go from business to casual in some cases. This all depends on the client and you have to follow your best judgment to see how far you can be casual with your client, make jokes, strike a conversation about their family and their life and how they are doing.

5. Extra

While you work for this client, it is important to keep constant communication with them and where you are in the project. No communication is not a good sign and it shows that either you are lazy and have nothing done or you are not taking the project seriously.

Another important thing to note in this digital age. A lot of my clients for some reason look me up to see if they can find me through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Be careful about how you approach this. It is probably at your best interest to add them as a friend or accept their friend request AFTER the project or contract has been fulfilled. Believe it or not, people out there in the world are not open to your opinions or your personal life without judgment. Again, impression is everything, and the last thing you want is your client to see your bar hopping pictures on Facebook.

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