Strangers to Collaborators: How to Nail Intro Meetings
Intro meetings are absolutely essential if you want to be a successful freelancer. To get a client, you need to convince people to become your client.
An intro meeting is where that magic happens. Sure, you’ll negotiate the project details, price and the contract over time, but that first meeting is the most important. It’s like a job interview, except as a freelancer, you have to interview for a new “job” to get each and every new client.
Throughout the last nine years of working as a freelance publicist, I have probably had hundreds of intro meetings with potential clients. Of those, I have convinced a good amount of people to hire me. After all, I’ve made a living out of this. At this point, I have worked with more than 50 PR firms all over the country and countless small businesses with my DIY PR workshops.
If I am being honest, intro meetings are my favorite part of running my own business. I really do love meeting new people, learning about what they do, telling them about what I’m good and how it can help them.
I don’t think intro meetings are hard, but there are a few lessons I’ve learned over nearly a decade of practice that can make it easier to land your next client.
Here are six tips to help you go from strangers to collaborators.
Be on time
I know this should go without saying, but you need to be on time. Even better, be a few minutes early.
One of the first examples of your professionalism is simply this: can you show up when you say you will show up?
Being on time makes a good first impression while being late might indicate that you don’t respect their time, that you won’t deliver the project on time or worse. You don’t know how a potential client will interpret your tardiness and it’s not worth the risk.
Know who you are talking to
It’s always a good idea to do a little research about the client before the intro meeting.
If you’re new to freelancing and haven’t found your niche or ideal client, it is especially important to do this research.
Once you figure out what your best type of clients are, it makes it a lot easier to anticipate what information they will want to know about you. I recommend sticking to no more than three ideal clients or audiences so you can really hone in on what they need.
For me, I have two: PR firm owners and small business owners. For both groups, I already have set things that I know I want to talk about.
In an intro meeting with a PR firm owner, I’m going to emphasize that I am flexible and how I can fit in with their team. I’m likely to explain that I work with each firm differently to match their processes and that I work month-to-month depending on the amount of work they want to outsource. And I know that they typically care a lot about confidentiality, so I always reassure them I know how important it is to keep their client info confidential.
Speaking with a small business owner, the content is totally different. I’m selling a DIY PR Workshop rather than my own PR services, so my role is to encourage and help them gain confidence in their own ability to pitch their business.
Speak to their industry
Picture this example: PR work for a doctor is totally different than PR work for an author. I’ve worked with both and can tell you that knowing this difference is helpful every time I need to do an intro meeting with a new doctor or author looking for a freelance publicist.
And that’s just one example of a major difference, I’m sure you can guess some others.
I’m still working on it, but overall, I have become really good at narrowing down the kind of clients that I work with. It sets me up for success because I know I have the skills to do good work for them and have a proven track record I can show the potential client.
When it is possible, I draw on past experiences from the industry they are in. I try to keep the conversation and examples specific to what they do so they know I know what I’m talking about.
Be honest about what you can (and can’t) do
Don’t be tempted to sell the moon. Most of the time, a client’s satisfaction with your work will depend on you exceeding their expectations.
When I am in an intro meeting, I always under promise and try my best to over deliver. For example, I never promise media placements because I can’t guarantee that. Instead, I focus on what I can control like timeline, story ideas, and who I can pitch.
It is just way better in the long run for everyone involved if you over deliver rather than over promise.
Don’t talk about money on the spot
I have learned the hard way that you shouldn’t talk about money on the spot—and I’m still paying for it.
I have clients that I am still charging a super low rate because I felt pressured to answer questions right then and there without fully thinking about how much work it would actually take.
Going into an intro meeting, you probably don’t know enough about what the client needs to come up with an accurate quote. On the spot, it is hard to carefully think through how long or challenging a project may be.
If you find yourself in this position, you can politely say that you can give them a quote later that day or the next morning, after you have had time to review their information, your calendar and any other details that might factor in.
In any case, it’s good to write a follow-up email with a summary of the project and a quote.
Know that things take time
Want to hear something crazy? I have done intro meetings that didn’t turn into paid work until 6+ months later.
I definitely would love for every intro meeting to immediately turn into a paying client, but it doesn’t work that way.
Some people know they need your services but also need to get other things done first before they can hire you. Sometimes, people are interested in what you do, but won’t need it until later down the line. And if you’re interested in working with large corporate clients, the bureaucracy can hold things up for as long as it takes to get the decision maker to sign off.
The trick is to always get your name out there. Make intro meetings a regular part of your business, not just something you do when your work dries up.
And the other upside to consistent intro meetings is that you’ll get a lot of practice. Every intro meeting is a chance to learn more about other industries, test different ways of pitching your services, and improve.