I recently met with a new client and it got me thinking about how to best handle first time clients. There are a lot of elements at play and a good first impression goes a long way to turning them into repeat customers (the ideal). I wrote a bit about this in a post about how to handle your first shoot, but this is more about the clients overall experience of working with you from start to finish.
Meet in Person: If possible meet the client in person, this creates a real connection that is more akin to friendship and puts a face to the email address. It also gives you a better feel for the type of person they are and what to expect when dealing with them in the future.
Explain the Process: Everyone works differently so it’s important to go through the entire process of a job so that they know what to expect. This will also minimize confusion as things move forward, resulting in less back and forth over minutiae.
Agree On a Timeline: Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding how long things will take to complete and when certain stages will happen. This will result in less nagging and give everyone realistic expectations.
Layout All the Options: Make sure the client knows all of the options available to them, this refers to all aspects of the job. It’s not good if you get half way through something and they find out other options were available to them that you didn’t present.
Respond Quickly: As you are in the early stages of building trust, make sure to stay on top of all your communications. Long term clients might know that you’re in and out of town (or whatever the case may be) and that you’ll soon answer, but not getting replies quickly will make a new client nervous.
Dress Well: You want to be taken seriously (especially if you’re charging them a lot of money), it’s important to look trustworthy. Don’t come dressed up in a full suit, but make sure you’re dressed well.
Ask Them For Questions: Most first time meetings will involve a lot of questions from the client but occasionally you’ll get someone who hasn’t had a lot of experience with your field or is just nervous. Make sure you check at the end if they have any questions or concerns they want to raise.
Figure Out Their Goal: A client can have many different reasons for hiring you, some are on a deadline and value speed, some have small budgets, others just care about about the final product. Try to get a sense of what is important to them and focus your energy on that.
Research the Company: It’s important to get some background info on the company and person your meeting. This not only shows them them that you are taking them seriously but is also good for you. You might find out something about the business that will make you not work with them and it’s best to sever that relationship before either of you get heavily invested into it.
Illustration by Dean Cornwell