Would you agree that being a freelancer is a full-time job in itself?
Think about it: you need to promote your services, update your portfolios, maintain your online presence, calculate your hourly rate, send proposals, and, on top of it all, schedule meetings with your clients. Aside from your main area of expertise, you got to take care of PR, social media, digital marketing, lead generation and event management. That's a lot of hats to wear, isn't it?
In this article, we'll teach you how to get the most out of your meetings. Ready to boost your effectiveness as a freelancer? Let's begin!
Why freelancers should care about meetings
What comes to your mind when you think about meetings?
You might be thinking about lengthy, unproductive gatherings, which are often a part of corporate jobs. If you swapped your 9-to-5 routine for the freelance life, these pointless meetings are the last thing you'd miss.
As a freelancer, you're well aware that time is money. It's not some abstract company money anymore – it's the money that comes directly to you. You really don't want to spend your precious time on conversations that lead you nowhere.
On the other hand, you can't avoid meetings entirely. Quite often, it's the only occasion you'll get to discuss the details with your clients. Most importantly, it's also a chance for you to sell your services as a freelancer! Business meetings come with a huge potential – the key is to know how to harness it. We're here to share our best tips with you!
How to get the most out of meetings as a freelancer
Avoid unnecessary meetings
The golden rule of meetings is... avoiding them, if possible.
This applies to both freelancers and nine-to-fivers. If something can be solved via email or an internal communication tool, it doesn't call for a meeting. Same applies to matters that don't need to be discussed in real-time. Don't know what's the purpose of the meeting? Don't schedule it until you know the objective.
Your clients may ask for a meeting just because they would like to stay updated on the project. If you reject because you'd like to stay focused on your work, they will feel neglected. Instead, you can agree to send them an update email report every week. This way, it's a win-win situation – you'll avoid interruptions and your customer will feel that you genuinely care.
Sometimes, though, the meeting is essential. Especially at the beginning of your collaboration, the client would like to get to know you and understand how you work. In this case, the meeting is a chance to develop a professional relationship and agree on the details of cooperation. Think of it as a way to lay the foundation for your project and partnership.
Understand the meeting cost
You should always treat meetings as an investment. You're devoting some of your time to develop a long-lasting relationship with a customer and eventually improve the quality of your work.
And here comes the big question: should you charge your clients for meetings?
To be honest, there is no single right answer. While freelance work is usually paid by the hour, and meetings are also work, these costs should definitely be included in the project. If you're planning to charge your clients for meetings, be sure to let them know early in advance. All the costs should be transparent from the very beginning. There is nothing worse for mutual trust that such unpleasant surprises along the way!
Set the meeting dates wisely
Don't you just hate it when you have a meeting scheduled in the middle of the day and you can't really focus on anything in the morning?
If you're working with many clients, you might want to schedule all your meetings for one day of the week only. This will help you avoid distractions.
What about picking the right time slot? Thanks to meeting schedulers like Harmonizely, you don't need to exchange a lot of emails to finally find a timing suitable for everyone.
Instead, you can send a single invite link with your available time slots:
The client will be able to choose the one that suits them most. This way, the meeting can be scheduled in just a few clicks!
What's more, meeting software is less prone to human error. For example, freelancers often work with clients from different parts of the world. With Harmonizely, time zones are aligned automatically, so you don't have to worry if you got it all right.
Alright, but what if your clients are using another calendar? It doesn't matter if it's Google Calendar, Office 365 or iCloud, or another solution. Harmonizely can be integrated with a wide range of calendars, including the niche ones. This makes it the perfect tool for freelancers who usually need to adapt to their customers' habits.
Make your time slots shorter
When it comes to meetings, 30 and 15 are your magic numbers.
According to Harvard Business Review, 30-minute meeting slots are more effective and help people get to the point faster. When the attendees know their time is limited, they're more involved and focused on what really matters. Some entrepreneurs (such as Marissa Meyer, the CEO of Yahoo) make the time slots even shorter and schedule 15-minute meetings only! We're discussing this further in our guide to effective meetings.
Let's be honest: the modern attention span is getting shorter. You've probably been to at least one gathering that:
a) turned into a gossip session
b) almost put you to sleep
c) actually put you to sleep
d) could be much shorter and you would manage to cover all the topics anyway
If you're used to one hour slots, start from cutting the duration in half. Once you feel that 30 minutes is enough, try 15. You'll be surprised how much it can boost the productivity of all the meeting participants!
Come up with a detailed agenda
The meeting doesn't make much sense if you don't come prepared. Here are some of our best tips for organising meetings that serve a purpose:
- Write down the main objectives – You might have the goals in mind already, but they will be much clearer and easier to execute if you write them down. No need to spend a lot of time on elaborate descriptions – a bulleted list will do the job.
- Share the agenda before the meeting – Once you're done with setting the goals, don't forget to evaluate them with your client. It might happen that they would like to discuss something you haven't included on the agenda. What's more, knowing the objectives early in advance will help them prepare better.
- Decide on what happens after – Effective meetings are actionable. Every agenda item should lead to an outcome – for example, if the client wants to improve a particular feature, you need to agree what needs to be done for this to happen.
Do your homework
Creating the agenda is crucial, but it's not the only thing you should do before the meeting – especially if it's your first encounter with this client! You're sure to make a good impression if you arrive well-prepared. Show initiative, come up with ideas and read a little bit about the company you're supposed to work with. It works like a charm and doesn't take a lot of hassle!
Key takeaways for freelancers
To sum it up, you should always value your time above everything. Every meeting should lead to a specific outcome. We wish you all the best with all your projects and we hope that this article will help you improve the meeting planning process!