The Writer Face-to-face Guide

What’s on the iPod: Relax My Beloved by Alex Clare

This week, my projects are wrapped up and I’m marketing like mad. I want to sew up a few project commitments for January, and I have a few clients who have promised to come back in a week or two with some other needs. I’ve already billed at my target earnings for the month, but that’s November work that finished later than expected. I won’t hit the goal this month, but I’ll do okay.

Last week, a new friend asked for an introduction to one of my connections. I was happy to do so as she’d be a huge asset to their company. I realized it was not the same as an in-person interaction, but it was good.

Then it hit me — both my friend and the connection I’d met in person. The power of face-to-face.

It’s true you and I don’t often get to meet our clients in person, nor would we want to meet a few of them (if we’re being totally honest). Still, the power of a more personal connection is undeniable. Each time I go to a trade show, I end up with new clients. They want to meet you. They want to make that connection and know they’re trusting their project outcome to someone who’s worthy of that trust.

That doesn’t mean a freelance writer can just show up and get the job. Once you get in front of the potential client, you have to make it count.

What if you don’t have the chance to meet clients in person? There are other ways to get more personal without the in-person meeting.

Here’s how I’ve done it. Feel free to adapt it to fit your needs:

Have a pitch. The first conversation you’ll have is “Tell me about yourself.” They’re not asking for your family background, your hobbies, or your peeves. They want to know your work background. You should know in about four sentences how you’ll start the conversation. Just remember to adapt it to the person in front of you. You don’t want to tell them all about your consumer writing background when the client is in technology. Unless it relates, of course.

Have samples. I take along either a presentation book with my resume and sample projects or a tablet with a PowerPoint presentation of my portfolio. If you’re using the phone, you can say “What’s your email? I’ll send you some links right now.” If you decide to mail something (and yes, you should no matter how you start the conversation), you can print out a few relevant clips and send them along with a thank-you letter, or with your introductory note if you choose to keep it in snail mail.

Have a strategy. Mine is always to listen and take notes. I may not be looking right at the client every minute, but I’m showing that what they’re saying is important. Or I’ll ask to use my recorder so I can stay fully engaged in the conversation. But I have questions I ask that get them talking. Depending on the client, you can tailor questions to show you’ve done your homework.

Have a conversation. I’ve rarely used the face-to-face meeting to sell someone on hiring me right there. It’s a courtship. It’s a getting-to-know-you conversation. Listen, interject questions as they arise, and don’t be so concerned with solving their problem right there. If you don’t know, you say something like “Let me think about it and come up with some ideas for you.” Once I’m done talking, I find something not related to business to talk about. People really appreciate feeling a connection beyond business.

Have more to say later. Follow-up conversations, email, snail mail or otherwise, are great for keeping your connection fresh in their minds and in yours. I like to send out thank-you notes, then send occasional emails with news they can use, or “do you need anything” notes.

Have no agenda. There are people whom I know will never hire me (there’s no need or no match). but I stay in touch. Why? Because I like them. It can’t be just about getting the job–not for me. And who knows? Someday they may hire me, or they may refer me.

Writers, have you had face-to-face conversations with clients? Phone conversations?
What’s your strategy for creating a connection with potential clients?

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  • Paula December 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I think your last three points are things a lot of us forget about – at least "Have a Conversation" and "Have No Agenda." Following those tips should remove a lot of anxiety about in-person meetings.

    I've only had a couple in-person meetings. One led to my first regular client – a locally-produced, national, bi-monthly business magazine I contributed to for about seven years. I averaged between 3-5 articles per issue, so the meeting paid off. The other was for a start-up magazine that didn't pan out.