#30: Design Process: The Client Meeting

One of my students asked me if sharing my process, and what I give out to my clients is kind of insider information. Like I told him, I felt like it was for awhile. Because it was almost my “secret sauce” of what made my work so successful. However, as I became more committed to this blog and to my audience, I realized that if I was really going to help designers that sharing a well-tested design process would be key. This is the first in what will be a multi part series on the design process. It will likely last through a number of weeks but I want to give you an in depth look at each step. I hope that you will get value out of them and let me know if you do.

A design process is a lot like cooking. There are certain steps you have to follow and certain core ingredients you need to include in order to have a successful recipe. You can always add your own bit of flair or secret ingredients, but without the core steps and ingredients, you could end up with something truly awful. The same goes for a design process.

A successful design (and client relationships) starts with knowing and following a process.

I shared my quick overview of my design process some weeks back and now I want to expand on each step a bit more so you can see the importance of the whole “recipe”. This week I will be talking about meeting the client.

Meeting the Client 

Meeting your potential clients can be an intimidating ordeal if you are not prepared. An initial client meeting can happen anywhere from an email to a phone or Skype call, to an actual sit down at a coffee shop.

If at all possible, I try to get a face to face with a brand new client. This allows for a firm handshake and eye contact to take place.

It gives you a chance to show your confidence in your demeanor.
When I approach a client meeting, I try to have answers prepared for the most common questions I get. Questions like, “how much do you charge hourly?”, or “how do we get started?”. And I always have a “list” of general questions that I will need answered. I usually don’t bring a creative brief with me since I usually reserve it for after the first meeting, when they need an actual quote from me to see if they are serious and committed.

The first client meeting for me is professional but casual. This is an opportunity for me to get to know the client.

You want to visit with them, figure out their personality, talk about their project, their business, ask about their family, even hobbies if the opportunity presents itself.

I always keep it professional but the goal of the first client meeting for me is get to know the client and their business, whatever that may be, and to make them comfortable with me.

Making that client comfortable with you also involves telling about yourself. Before the first meeting I make sure to ask potential clients to take a thorough look through my portfolio (website). During the meeting I ask them what their thoughts were on my work and if any pieces stuck out to them. This gives you an opportunity to speak to your experience and tell about why you do what you do. You can also let them know why what you are good at can help them with their project.

By the end of the meeting I let them know that I will be sending them a creative brief and after the creative brief is completed by them that they can expect a quote. After which we can meet again to discuss any further details.

Make sure to follow up on anything and everything you say you will do.

Whether that is a phone call or an email or a combination of any number of things.

The most important thing to remember about the client meeting is that you want to get to know them.

Whether the project is something that will work is less important than whether you feel like they are someone you would like to have a [working] relationship with. Do they value your work? Do they understand the value of design? Are they someone you feel like you can trust? Do they seem trustworthy? Who you work with can make or break a project, so choose wisely. A good first meeting can help you choose.

Next week we will talk about the creative brief. It is the most important piece of starting a project once you’ve committed to a client and the work they would have you do. Come back next week for step two in the process. Until then, remember, design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here, because design matters.


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