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  1. #1
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    First meeting with a client, advice? [web site]

    All of the sites I have done either have been for myself or for friends, so everything was pretty laid back.

    Well there was an ad in the paper and I emailed the guy. We chatted on the phone and everything went well, and he set up an appointment for us to meet. (At least I got this far, )

    Now from here I'm a little lost. My partner has a little more experience in this, but I don't want to bring us down at all. So what advice do you have for me?

    Some questions I have to others are:
    What should I bring to the meeting?
    What are some key questions I should ask or are good to ask?
    We talked about price on the phone and I said it shouldn't be more than xxxx, but I won't know until we meet and discuss everything. Should we give them an estimate on the spot, or best to wait and make sure my partner and I agree and let them know within 24 hours?

    Thats all for know. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    SitePoint Addict Jamieharrop's Avatar
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    Your first meeting with a prospective client is always a fun time. I remember my first meeting well, and I also remember how much I enjoyed it, and how much I continue to enjoy meeting with prospects, whether they be sole traders or large businesses with hundreds of employees.

    I'm not sure what your experience of meetings is, but the fact that you had the guts to call the prospect says a lot for your current mind set. Many people have a hard time picking up the phone, let alone meeting with the prospect. You obviously got past that initial contact stage, and did a good job of it. Well done.

    Quote Originally Posted by robotic
    What should I bring to the meeting?
    Usually, I take a writing pad, which includes two expensive pens (Expensive pens aren't needed, but large companies always notice the little things). Built in to my writing pad is a calculator (This is unusual, and again, many people comment on it). I then take any notes with me that I made during the initial contact stage. I sometimes take a sample proposal with me, to show to the prospect the depth and quality that we go in to when proposing our services to the client. I take my business cards (I take plenty. There have been so many times when I have been ready to leave a meeting, and I have been asked if I can give the prospect several business cards, so they can keep them on their desk for their associates and co-workers).

    I think that's about all I take. Occasionally I'll take my laptop if we're not meeting in the prospects offices, as quite often they will want to see examples of your work on the spot.

    What are some key questions I should ask or are good to ask?
    The whole idea of the meeting is to find out *exactly*, and to the finest possible detail, what the clients aims are for their new Web site. A Web site goes far beyond being part of a brand awareness campaign. In the past, we have saved companies thousands of dollars a year by taking a current offline feature, online. For example a bi-weekly newsletter. By taking this online, you scrap postage costs, printing costs and the time of your employees. Always remember that the aim of the customer is to make money. Discuss ways with them that you can increase their profit, and they'll be throwing cheque after cheque at you in no time.

    Specifically ask them what their aims are. If they're not sure, give them examples. Maybe it is as simple as opening up a new contact channel for their prospects. Maybe it's to solidify their brand. Maybe they are thinking on the same wave length as you, and they know that a Web site is an investment, not a general expense. If they know this, they will want to hear your thoughts on how to lower their costs. At this point you will have to dig deep in to their current business practices, to find out what can be taken online.

    You'll want to ask the prospect if they have a logo. Surprisingly, many sole traders don't have a logo, and they'll ask you to create something simple for the Web site.

    If they do have a logo, chances are they will have a colour scheme that is used throughout their business. Ask them if they do. They'll want to continue this brand through their Web site.

    Ask them what content they would like on the Web site. Have they put any thought in to the navigational structure? Maybe they just want a simple four page site, which shows a home page, services page, about page and contact page. Maybe they want something more complex, with tools that anybody in their industry can use to increase their return visitor numbers to their Web site.

    If you offer Web hosting, ask them if they need that service. Likewise for the domain name.

    Speak with them about search engine optimisation. Many clients will say they are not bothered about good search engine results, just as long as they appear when their company name is searched for. Others will want a full SEO campaign.

    If they want some SEO work done, explain to them that search engines love Web sites that are regularly updated. That leads on to maintenance contracts for you, to update their Web site on a regular basis with articles that the prospect provides, or it leads you on to creating a PHP system so the client can update a section themselves.

    Ask them what thoughts, if any, they have had for how they want the Web site to look. Whether they want a clean, light design, or a dark, content packed design. Ask them whether they can tell you any Web sites they specifically like, which they can see working for their business.

    There are more questions to ask, and these will no doubt come to you as you chat with the prospect. He'll ask questions, and that will lead on to more questions from you.

    We talked about price on the phone and I said it shouldn't be more than xxxx, but I won't know until we meet and discuss everything. Should we give them an estimate on the spot, or best to wait and make sure my partner and I agree and let them know within 24 hours?
    Never, ever rush in to giving a price. They will ask you for a ruff figure at the meeting, and when you politely refuse, they'll ask again. Explain to them that you wouldn't want to give a figure at this time, only to look at your notes tomorrow and see you over or under quoted the prospect. Tell him you'll have the proposal and quote to him in a timescale you feel comfortable with, and leave it at that.

    I hope that helps. The best piece of advice I can give to you is to enjoy it.
    Regards,
    Jamie Harrop

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    My advice - Don't fall into the trap of assuming you need to woo the prosepct by spending several days writing a detailed proposal. If it feels right, try to close the sale at this first meeting - closing the sale is as simple as first verbally agreeing a spec, then agreeing a ball park price, then asking for the job. You can write up a detailed proposal/project specification once you've agreed to do business together.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Addict Jamieharrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    My advice - Don't fall into the trap of assuming you need to woo the prospect by spending several days writing a detailed proposal. If it feels right, try to close the sale at this first meeting - closing the sale is as simple as first verbally agreeing a spec, then agreeing a ball park price, then asking for the job. You can write up a detailed proposal/project specification once you've agreed to do business together.
    I couldn't have put it better myself, shadowbox. I always tend to write proposals before an agreement is made, but only because our clients ask for this. If I could close the deal there and then, that would be my first choice every time.

    Which brings me on to something else that I usually take... a sample contract. This is attached to the back of our sample proposal, and shows the prospect our full terms.

    If you're hoping to close the deal at the meeting, take a contract with you that you can amend there and then and have the prospect sign.
    Regards,
    Jamie Harrop

  5. #5
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Also, don't forget to use the contract as part of your sales pitch. Don't wave it in front of them and scream "YOU WILL SIGN THIS DAMN CONTRACT OR ELSE WE WILL NOT BUILD YOUR SITE, GOT IT?" until you're blue in the face (in fact, don't even think about doing it at all).

    Walk the prospect through the contract, state that this is a sample contract form, and explain the various parts of the agreement and how it relates to the relationship you wish to develop with the prospect.

    Here's an example. My contract states that as an independant contractor (which I defined at the beginning of the agreement) I agree that the client will be the sole owner of all the work done under the contract (the "Work Product"), except for the source code I use to create the look, feel, and functionality of the Web site. The client owns everything else (the content and images--even images I create for the site). My contract also states that the client and I agree to assign rights to each other to use the materials we provide to the table (code, images, Web copy, etc). In my case, the client gives me permission to use the images and text they own so I can incorporate it into the Web site I am to build for them. I, in turn, give them the right to use the code I write on their Web site; however, since I still own it, they cannot go to another Web designer, developer, or programmer and have them tweak the code or add features to the site. In turn, I cannot take their content and images and use them on sites I create for other clients, myself, friends or family. Also, if for some reason we cannot assign rights to each other for some reason, we agree that we will grant licenses to use the materials we each provide at no cost as long as it is necessary to meet and fulfill the intent of the contract (to design, develop and implement the Web site).

    Easy enough, eh?

  6. #6
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    You asked about the best time to give a quotation, like others have said, and it cant be said too many times: NEVER give a quotation on the spot. Doing so puts alot of pressure on you and you will usually end up making one of two mistakes (usually the first one), you'll either 1. give a figure that sounds good to the client and later on realize that at that rate you'll be doing 50% of the work free, at which point you may feel uncomfortable readjusting the quote since you expect that the client will hold you to your word (which they might) or 2. you'll try not to shortchange yourself and end up quoting a figure that's too high and risk scaring off the client.

    When you go to the meeting just take down all the necessary information you need (Jamieharrop's post will give you a good idea of what to ask), then you go home, take out your calculator and work out how much time each section will take and what it will all cost. Afterwards email/send him a quotation or proposal (depending on the scope of the job).
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  7. #7
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    Great info everyone, and very useful info which I'll use. I appreciate it a lot. I think everything has pretty much been answered so far as well!

    Would anyone be willing to share a proposal and contract? Dan Schulz outline a good one, but I'd love to see a detailed one so I can write an effective proposal and contract. You can PM me one that won't be shared if you'd be so kind.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by robotic
    Great info everyone, and very useful info which I'll use. I appreciate it a lot. I think everything has pretty much been answered so far as well!

    Would anyone be willing to share a proposal and contract? Dan Schulz outline a good one, but I'd love to see a detailed one so I can write an effective proposal and contract. You can PM me one that won't be shared if you'd be so kind.
    Search the forum - you'll find several threads containing links to dozens of such documents on various web sites. I doubt you'll get many people round here sharing their actual contracts, as most people have paid a decent amount of money to have lawyers draw them up for them.

  9. #9
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    Have a look at this thread, a contract is attached:

    http://talkfreelance.com/thread2745.html
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moni-Q
    Have a look at this thread, a contract is attached:

    http://talkfreelance.com/thread2745.html
    awesome, thanks!

  11. #11
    SitePoint Enthusiast morgy's Avatar
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    * morgy grabs her notebook and takes notes *


    I've been reading this entire thread and I loved it, as that’s exactly what I was seeking.
    You see I'm also going to have my first (ok second) meeting with this client, by the end of the week and this is actually my first ever business meeting.
    I mean I’ve made websites before but it was for friends and family or myself (lol sounds familiar ), nothing too serious. And when I say nothing too serious I mean that profit wasn’t included. I did it for the experience, which without doubt is the best profit!

    So, I also want to say thanks for the great tips. I had those things on my mind but since I’m a newbie, everything is still mixed in my head. Now I got some things straightened up!

    However, I have a question that as a fresh one is bothering me.
    Let’s say I ask them whether they have any kind of visualization, any preferences about the scheme, colours, layout, logos etc, concerning their new website.
    The good thing would be if they indeed have some ideas. (right?)
    I already have an idea of the colours that are dominant in their current prints, stationary, business cards and they already have a logo.

    However, what should I do if they say “uhm, no this is why we are hiring you”.
    Should I just start making layouts by my head? What if they don’t like anything?

    I’m saying this because once I had to deal with one that after showing him 3 or 4 different layouts (and not just show him but actually started to work on those layouts to *see how they function*) and he didn’t quite like, I asked him “ok tell me how would you like it? Do you have anything specific in mind?” he replied “how should I know? You are the one that is supposed to do this”.
    Could it be that I was making the wrong questions?

  12. #12
    SitePoint Guru worchyld's Avatar
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    * You could always ask if he's seen a website that he likes?

    Other questions;

    1. What were your goals for todays meeting?
    2. What is your main objective?
    3. Before we get into any depth, can I get your agreement on the analysis? Will you look at the facts and decide for yourself if they make sense?
    4. How do you plan to achieve that goal?
    5. What is the biggest problem you currently face?
    6. What other problems do you experience?
    7. What are you doing currently to deal with this?
    8. What is your strategy for the future?
    9. What other ideas do you have?
    10. What role do others play in creating this situation?
    11. What are you using now?
    12. What do you like most about it?
    13. What do you like least about it?
    14. If you could have things any way you wanted, what would you change?
    15. How will this affect the present situation?
    16. What would motivate you to change?
    17. Is there anything else youd like to see?
    18. How much would it be worth to you to solve this problem?
    19. What would it cost if things remained as they are?
    20. Are you working within a budget?
    21. Just out of curiosity, how did you get to that figure?
    22. Are you working towards a particular deadline?
    23. How soon would you like to start?
    24. When would you like to take delivery?
    25. What do you see as the next step?
    26. Who else, besides yourself, would be involved in reaching a decision?
    27. On a scale on 1 to 10, how confident do you feel about doing business with us? What would it take to get it up to a 10?
    28. If we do X, do we have a deal?
    29. Have you ever worked with a company like ours before?
    30. When should we get together to discuss this again?
    31. What else may be prohibiting us from moving ahead?
    32. Have I covered everything? Is there anything I am not asking?
    33. Is there anything else youd like me to take care of?
    34. It makes sense to me what do you think?
    35. Why dont you give it a try?

  13. #13
    SitePoint Enthusiast morgy's Avatar
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    wow... thanks.
    some of the questions never crossed my mind but they definatelly make sense.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by morgy
    Should I just start making layouts by my head? What if they donít like anything?
    No, definitely not. You should develop some form of Needs Analysis document and have the client complete this in writing. This will give you a hard copy of what your client is looking for from their web site. Get them to complete it, send it back to you and them you can arrange a phone call (or face-to-face meeting depending on the budget of the project) to go through their results.

    I always ask then to list sites they like and explain why they like them. I then do the same for the sites they dislike. Plus I have a whole bunch of other technical questions. I also ask for their logo as a digital vector file and ask for any other examples of branding (letterheads, brochures etc).

    BTW - I've assume that this is a fully signed up client, rather than a prospective client. If you still haven't signed contracts, forget all of what I said. At this stage you shouldn't be worrying about technical details, layout, etc - just concentrate on understanding their general needs and proposing an initial solution and cost - Worchyld's questions would work great for that. Only move onto finer technical stuff when you've been hired.

  15. #15
    SitePoint Guru worchyld's Avatar
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    I wouldn't advise asking Question 27, it may sound like your desperate;

    27. On a scale on 1 to 10, how confident do you feel about doing business with us? What would it take to get it up to a 10?
    Yes, I know I'm contradicting myself.

  16. #16
    Matt Williams revsorg's Avatar
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    I find positive mental imaging is helpful. Pretend you are the prospect and imagine how you would like your web designer to be. That imaginary web designer is the model for what you need to become. Knowledgable, friendly, energetic and honest are probably useful keywords when you are doing your imagining.
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    they cannot go to another Web designer, developer, or programmer and have them tweak the code or add features to the site
    Dan, is this in your standard terms?
    It would be difficoult for me to require this, like having the customer bound to work with me for ever and ever!!

    I grant a licence to use the code (often on that single site), in original or derivate form.

    On the other hand, if there is some code I really don't want the customer to have, then I go for a hosted service solution. For example, when using my proprietary CMS to build a simple and cheap website I don't want to licence the code, but I sell them a service of using the system for an annual fee.

  18. #18
    Design and Promotion Crimson77's Avatar
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    Make sure you listen to what they have to say. People like other people that listen to them. This first meeting is getting them to like you and know they can work with you.

  19. #19
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    Going away without closing the deal can be a bad thing. Sending in a quote via mail or email and then ringing to say "so you want me to do this?" gives them a very easy way out, try hard to get them to sign on the first meeting.
    Having said that Ive put in plenty of proposals and won jobs, but they take so much work...
    OH - wear a suit!!

  20. #20
    SitePoint Enthusiast morgy's Avatar
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    Firstly, thank you all. You are a great help and I really appreciate that
    Secondly, to sum things up, I was indeed going to give them some sort of a need analysis form, I haven’t signed a contract yet, of course I want them to hire me on this first meeting and yes smart outfit is part of the plan!

    From what you guys said it’s seems that at this point what I should do is ask questions, talk to them, get to know and understand them, make my offer (in terms of money and solution) always with a positive attitude and with a nice suit. Oh and get the job! Right? I think I can do that


    Which means I have lots of preparation to do.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Zealot cdndesignz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by morgy
    * morgy grabs her notebook and takes notes *


    I've been reading this entire thread and I loved it, as thatís exactly what I was seeking.
    You see I'm also going to have my first (ok second) meeting with this client, by the end of the week and this is actually my first ever business meeting.
    I mean Iíve made websites before but it was for friends and family or myself (lol sounds familiar ), nothing too serious. And when I say nothing too serious I mean that profit wasnít included. I did it for the experience, which without doubt is the best profit!

    So, I also want to say thanks for the great tips. I had those things on my mind but since Iím a newbie, everything is still mixed in my head. Now I got some things straightened up!

    However, I have a question that as a fresh one is bothering me.
    Letís say I ask them whether they have any kind of visualization, any preferences about the scheme, colours, layout, logos etc, concerning their new website.
    The good thing would be if they indeed have some ideas. (right?)
    I already have an idea of the colours that are dominant in their current prints, stationary, business cards and they already have a logo.

    However, what should I do if they say ďuhm, no this is why we are hiring youĒ.
    Should I just start making layouts by my head? What if they donít like anything?

    Iím saying this because once I had to deal with one that after showing him 3 or 4 different layouts (and not just show him but actually started to work on those layouts to *see how they function*) and he didnít quite like, I asked him ďok tell me how would you like it? Do you have anything specific in mind?Ē he replied ďhow should I know? You are the one that is supposed to do thisĒ.
    Could it be that I was making the wrong questions?
    Ah yes.. this is another pitfall I've run into. You ask them for a site that they like, and they point you to their main local competitor, and say they really like THEIR site and it seems to work, so they'd like theirs to be like Joe's.

    You do a layout, changing the colors, changing things a bit, making it all your own code not actually copying the other site just making the elements a bit similar and then send them the sample - and they say "no, it doesn't look enough like Joe's - pls change this, this and this (the things you deliberately changed to avoid looking too much like Joe's in the first place!)...

    This is where you have to sit down and explain the facts of life and copyright law to the client as well as enthusing them with "making their site unique and BETTER than Joe's!" Not to worry, you can win this one... if they only have one example site they like, better to just launch into the "trying to make it better than the competition's" right off the bat in the first meeting, and look at several examples of competitor's sites (even from non-local areas) so you can find some more good ideas for them of things that would be good ideas for their site, thereby broadening their expectations from just Joe's site.

    And yes, a designer is expected to be "artistic" so it's ok to start bouncing ideas around out loud and making scribbles on a sketch pad with a sample layout and discussing it with the client during the first meeting - you ARE often expected to just make it up in your head (that's why they pay you to be the artistic designer!) and bouncing it around a bit with them gives you the chance to narrow down a bit their preferences before you do a sample, and increases your chances of finding one they like right off the bat.

  22. #22
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chargin8
    OH - wear a suit!!
    Heh.. definitely depends on context.

    Back when I first started doing client meetings, I was positively neurotic about how I'd be judged based on how I dressed, so I wore suits and nice ties and the whole shebang to each of the few meetings I had. In the process, I learned a few things.

    For one, unless it's in the middle of January or you're going to court, wearing a suit in a hot, humid climate (like Florida) is just nuts. It's too damned hot and uncomfortable and that shows, even in air conditioning. That's why most business here - again, outside of banks and courts - tends to be conducted in business casual dress: khakis, lightweight cotton pressed shirts with open collars. Unless you're a woman, people look at you oddly here if you walk into a meeting wearing a suit.. there seems to be a natural tendency to expect women to overdress for meetings, I've noticed. An overdressed man here just comes off as a slickster.

    The big-boy-dress-up game stopped for me when I took a meeting with a prospect that did event management for the big area hotels, about a large website/brochure combo project. I walked into the meeting dressed very sharply, and the president and marketing manager were both in business casual. They proceeded to waste about two hours of my time. At one point, the president actually complained about image-driven marketing people who didn't focus enough on business fundamentals - making a brief allusion to my designer tie in the process. That was the last time I even wore a tie into a meeting.

    It is possible to overdress. These days, years later, my goal in an in-person meeting (which thankfully, only happen a few times a year - most of my clients are spread all over the country) is to attract the least amount of attention to my clothes as possible. Simple, clean, appropriate, comfortable. And then spend the meeting hitting business fundamentals as hard as I possibly can. If I'm going to sell them, it's going to be with what I say, not what I wear.

    Of course, YMMV. Context and all.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crimson77
    Make sure you listen to what they have to say. People like other people that listen to them. This first meeting is getting them to like you and know they can work with you.
    Totally agree with this one, I've had the advantage of 'grilling' potential designers as an IT manager and also listening to what the company directors were asking.

    This also sometimes comes with a bit of guidence from your side as they probably won't know their CSS from their PHP, so you need to make them feel confident they know exactly what they're getting for their money.

  24. #24
    PHP/Rails Developer Czaries's Avatar
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    I agree on the not wearing a suit part. Some nice khakis and a long sleeve button-up shirt will be more than adequate. Your job is to have expertise in web design, not fashon design, and hopefully that will become readily apparent in the meeting. Over-dressing may actually make the other people in the room feel uncomfortable. Just pick something that looks nice, but is still confortable and relaxing.

    Also, don't be afraid to give advice. I had a meeting recently where one partner wanted the logo of their business website to "spin fast, slow down, and then kind of twinkle". Also, he wanted to know "is there a way we can make the navigation links sort of swoop in?". I calmly listened, but then explained to him how distracting that would be, and that flash navigation would not be an accessable solution. It's okay to be a bit intimidated at your first meeting, but remember that your are the professional. They are bringing you in because you are the expert on this subject. Let that shine.

  25. #25
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    It is important to appear professional, and this comes across not just in what you say and the way you listen to the prospect, but also the way you dress. As stated above, you don't need to wear a suit to look professional in a business meeting. It is all about context. Wearing a suit in Florida, by the sounds of it is silly, as it's not suitable in the context of Floridian weather. Where I come from, you could wear a suit, doesn't have to be a designer suit, trousers, business shirt, tie and maybe a jacket are acceptable, as is business casual. I've gone to business meetings myself in trousers business shirt (longsleeve of course) and tie, and I've also conducted business meetings in casual...lightweight trousers (all my trousers are made of microfibre, which is lightweight and breathes easily which is good in the heat of our Australian summers) and a business polo shirt, as that was suitable for the context.

    Look at where you're meeting your client. Is it at your office or his? A business cafe or a business luncheon? Dress to suit. Not to impress your prospect, but to maintain a professional look and attitude. There is another thread going at the moment about the lack of respect in the web development and design industry, and one thing all professional designers and developers need to ensure is that they appear professional in everything they do with and for their prospects and clients, and this will vary location to location. What is acceptable business attire in New York is probably different to London, or Rome, or here in little ol' Tamworth Australia.


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