In this article, I’m going to outline the intial stages of the web development process. This includes the client questionaire, preparing for the first meeting, the actual meeting itself and how to prequalify the client. These are all fundamentals areas of the process, that are crucial in order to secure any web project.
Send off the client questionnaire, either by fax, email or regular post. This will play an important part of your first meeting. Be sure to send this over ahead of the meeting – the sooner the better. Explain to the client the purpose and benefits of having them complete this questionnaire.
Don’t make it too complicated – keep it simple. You don’t want to lose the client even before you have met with them. Get to the most important questions first, then elaborate later at the meeting itself.
As already mentioned – be prepared! Have everything including any documentation, pens, business cards, client details and checklists ready to go – in a briefcase or binded folder. Always take your mobile phone in case you need to call the client if delayed in any way.
The Initial Contact – Keep it Simple
Many freelancers may disagree with this strategy, but the first meeting with a potential client should be fast and efficient. Of course be professional, polite and make your client feel comfortable, but don’t mess about. Get straight to business as quickly as possible.
There’s no point spending 5 hours with a client only to find that they weren’t serious about doing business with you in the first place, or they have no budget. For whatever the reason, whether its sourcing quotes, comparing you against competitors, or perhaps just tyre kicking, its essential that you move quickly through this process without fuss.
If they are serious – then they’ll see that you’re not their to waste their time, and that’s a good thing. I’m certainly not suggesting that you shortcut the process though. Absolutely not. Treat each client with the same level of professionalism from the outset, but don’t waste anyones time.
Always establish whats required in order to pre-qualify the client, and compile a thorough needs analysis. I’ll touch more on pre-qualifying the client in a moment, but at this stage its about trying to get the information and moving forward.
This means, going over your client questionnaire, asking specific questions and taking notes based on project requirements. Quite honestly, I would only take the essentials when meeting with clients and jot down important notes and general information during the first meeting. Don’t take a laptop unless absolutely necessary. Pay attention to your client, and what they are saying – keep it personal. Don’t have your nose pressed against a laptop screen the whole time as this can be perceived as impersonal and distracting.
Once you have enough information in order to put together your proposal and quote, then thank the client for their time, give them an indication of when they’ll be hearing back from you, and be on your way. A good time saver may be a note taker. Ive found its easier to simply record the meeting then play it back later, upon returning to the office. Note takers are relatively cheap, in and around $100.
PreQualify the Client
This is something you need to do using your gut instincts. During the meeting ask certain questions, clarify project requirements, and definitely ask about allocated budgets. Then use your instincts.
Does this client appear to be serious?
Are they really prepared?
Do they have a clear goal?
Are they prepared to invest and dedicate time and effort into this project?
Do they have an adequate budget?
Have they performed enough research?
Use your gut instincts. If you feel that the client isn’t really serious, or that this project could potentially lead to a disaster, reject the offer for work.
On the other hand, if they tick all the boxes – they could be perfect clients — go for it!