A client of mine recently asked to meet me for a brainstorming session on the latest project they were kicking around - sounds innocent enough doesn't?
The client's a nice woman that I've known for a while, I enjoy working with her but the challenge is that often her projects don’t get off the ground for one reason or another. They may decide the project isn't warranted, perhaps they underestimated the funding necessary to make it happen or they just flat out changed their mind. If you're a freelancer that wasted a load of time without any hope of being paid, it really doesn't matter, does it?
In defensive of the client: hey, I know things can happen in business - change is always constant and sometimes things just happen, but in talking with freelancers over the last 10 years I've found this can be a big problem that costs freelancers thousands of dollars every year.
Here's what happens: the freelancer invests time up front with a client or potential client hoping to earn the job/project - the client decides not to move forward with the project leaving the freelancer with little than a tough lesson.
Most freelancers (particularly in this downturn economy) aren't charging clients for initial meetings/brainstorming sessions, so they become venerable to this problem even though the freelancer might not be convinced that the client will move forward. Freelancers feel they don't have much of a choice - they have to gamble. You might feel that way as well, but you don't have to gamble.
Think about it, if you meet with 2 potential clients for 2 hours a month that don't decide to move forward on a project you're looking at 4 hours a month. If you were charging $75 an hour you'd be losing out on $300/month or $3,600 a year - ouch!
I have a solution.
Now you wouldn't dive into the pool unless you knew how deep the water was, and you wouldn't drive on tires that you haven't checked the air pressure on (at least I hope not), the same idea can be applied in this situation. You'll want to find out how serious the client is up front before diving in and investing a lot of time with them. By asking them specific questions about their budget, their time line and the results they're expecting you can get a good idea of whether they are serious about moving forward or just window shopping. Develop your list of questions today so the next time this situation comes up you'll be ready!
- If you could use some expert advice on what questions to ask, how and when to
ask them - you're not alone, you'll want to check out Verbal Kung Fu for Freelancers - Master the Art of
Defense against Difficult Clients...clients don't rule, freelancers do.
PPS - Thanks to my friend Brian over at Elite by Design for his review of Being a Starving Artist, check it out now...as well as the load of other free goodies that he has available - the 75 Insane Hi Res Photoshop Brushes were sweet!