Back in January, I shared with you my thoughts on consultations with clients. I’m sure there are plenty of freelancers out there who may disagree with “giving away their time”, and that’s fine … to each their own … but I do hope I shed some light on the fact that as a service-oriented provider, we need to bring value to the client.

Now I had teased, that there would be a Part Deux to that post … and here it is – the “how-to” when meeting with a client. Of course, my advice leans toward working with brides, but I am sure some of the suggestions can translate into other fields.

Meet when and where convenient for the both of you : I knew someone who would pretend they couldn’t meet on the client’s first and second date options to give the illusion that they didn’t have time to meet and were too busy fielding other clients, even though option one and/or two made more sense when it came to their schedule and whereabouts. Listen to how stupid that sounds. You rather disrupt your own schedule and inconvenience yourself to “impress”  a  potential client. The client already knows your good – that’s why they came to you in the first place.  Let your work ethic and achievements impress the client – not fake “busy-ness”. In addition, meet at the place or venue accessible to both. If they want to come to your office, then let them, that’s what you have an office for right? If they were hoping you can meet them in their home, and really, its no skin off your back – don’t say no! Starbucks near their workplace works best for all, go for it … and get yourself a brownie while you’re there. Yum!

Be prepared : The client wants to learn more about you, your style, your work … and ensure you’re not some crazy (fair enough!). Be prepared to list off your top achievements, to show your best work, and to answer why you are the right choice for them. I created both a bridal and editorial album in iPhoto that I keep on my trusty iPad and update  it regularly. If the client wants to see more of my work then what I have previously sent to them, it’s right there. I have a mental rolodex of where I’ve been published that I can recite to the bride if she asks. Same with the names of my favourite vendors should the bride ask if I “know anyone …” or who I have worked with previously. If you’re pulled together during the consultation, you’re letting the client know you’ll be on your A-game come the big day.

Listen, discuss, and suggest : This might be your 100th bridal client, but this will be your client’s first wedding (in most cases). You are definitely allowed to provide your knowledge and expertise, but the key is too listen to what they want and need – not to impart all of your judgment and call it a day. For example, I have a binder filled with magazine covers, specifically from Allure (great close-ups!!). When a client tells me they want smokey dramatic eyes, I don’t automatically register what I think smokey, dramatic eyes are. Instead, we start flipping through the binder and I point out what I’m thinking she means while asking her what SHE thinks it is. Depending on her choices, we can discuss what will work and not work, and I can suggest what we might need to add or subtract from the look based on my knowledge and experience. I also help the client to imagine the flow of her day – outlining a possible schedule, what to prepare, and most importantly I bring to mind potential obstacles (like the four aunties from out of town who all of a sudden want makeup and hair too) and how my team and I can help her resolve them.

Provide options and finish with the possibility to discuss more : Answer this – you hate the hard sale and pressure tactics for big purchases, right? What makes you think your client loves it and can’t wait for you to do it to them? Never insist that a client leaves your consultation with a firm booking or be in a huff if they don’t sign on the dotted line. Let everything you discussed sink in, give your clients time to think more, and let them breathe. Give them the option to call or email back with more questions. Chances are, the less you push the more likely they are to come back and book you in. Don’t be a stage five clinger. Or a stalker. It’s okay to send a follow-up email a few days later, but don’t hover. And here’s a final thought : if you conducted your initial communications and consultation properly, chances are they won’t leave your meeting without wanting to book your services anyway …

Again, the above is probably common sense to most and basic for the most part … but I hope it still helps.

Happy Monday people! Enjoy the rest of your week!