When you first meet a potential client, it is preferable to have some idea of the company background prior to the meeting. This can be as simple as reading through their ‘about’ page on their website and familiarizing yourself with the key staff members. Make sure you know about the person you will be meeting.
If the project was by word of mouth ask the person, who referred you something about the company and their interactions with them.
Once you are in the meeting, stay relaxed and mention something you found interesting on their website – this will show you are prepared and have investigated the company prior to the meeting. This is a rather easier introduction than asking a ream of questions at the start of the meeting that takes up time, when it is the project they are more interested in discussing.
Keep your questions project specific – the more information you gather now the better it will be in enabling you to make an informed proposal. Try not to bombard the client with too many questions all at once. However, questions should include:
How do they envision the ‘finished’ project? If you have completed a similar project mention it to show your understanding and expertise. If you have concerns or questions state them now.
Are there specific project instructions? Ensure you completely understand what they are asking for. If you can see any obstacles then advise them but offer solutions. This may not be possible there and then but note them to investigate later ans report back as soon as you can.
Who is the target audience? Is the project for internal or external use? Is it aimed at a specific demographic? What is the purpose of the project?
What is the tone of the writing they require? Conversational, business formal or brand specific?
How often do they require meetings and/or email communications? Keeping in touch with a client ensures they are not only updated but it also shows you are working towards the deadline. If at any time you need more time tell your client immediately – they will be more understanding than if you ‘hide’.
What is the deadline for the project? Before committing to the deadline research the entire project and ‘add’ time for problems, revisions etc. This ensures you have enough time to complete the project without putting unnecessary demands on yourself. If you finish earlier than expected that will be a bonus.
Will payment be in installments or a lump sum? Asking what method of payments are offered is not a taboo subject. Don’t be shy to state what payment schedule you prefer but be flexible.
Is there potential for future projects? Maybe you feel it is too early to ask this question but it will show your keenness to work with the company.
What specific questions do you feel need to be asked at the first meeting?