When you’re a freelancer, there will be times where you need to meet with clients face-to-face. There are the obvious and safe options, but you are neither of those things. Step up your client meeting by holding it in a fun and unexpected, yet (mostly) acceptable, spot.
Your Local Coffee Shop
Whether for an awkward first date or a casual job interview, the coffee shop is the gold standard for a neutral meeting spot. It’s easy to see why. The swirling scents of bold roasts will lift your spirits. That one handsome leather sofa. The possibility that, when lobbed a difficult question, you can buy a couple of seconds by pretending your mouth is full of caffeinated gold.
The only things more ubiquitous than cafés are the NGO canvassers that will post up in your favorite park this summer. But most of those joints will be chain franchises. While we’re thankful that their presence means we can get a $7 Copa-Americana-Fettucino anytime we want, heading to one of them for a meeting isn’t what anyone would call original. Instead, raise the stakes by suggesting a sit-down at an independent operation. It signals that you respect traditional expectations, but a local curveball shows you’re willing to sidestep the obvious choices in life.
A Stroll in the Park
The walking meeting isn’t new. As President, Theodore Roosevelt would elect to go on long walks with staffers rather than meet in the office. Today, such a suggestion will raise heads, but will be welcomed all the same— especially when we spend all our time plopped in front of a computer. Everyone wants to stretch their legs.
In an office or formal meeting area, you’re limited in what you can do and talk about. The moment you don’t have a relevant comment or topical observation, the meeting is over. Outside encounters are a different ballgame. There’s a certain encouragement to follow the natural pace of conversation, as you would experience with a friend. Lulls in conversation are natural, and when that happens you can just go with it. Take in the greenery around you, and give yourself some time to plan a follow-up question or idea.
You’re in luck if you live in or near a big city, where art galleries are abundant. These locations are perfect if you have a friendly rapport with your client because you can take care of business in a relaxed but sophisticated environment. A lot of them have vibe that is best described as “cutoffs-and-crocs classy.” You can stroll into contemporary galleries looking however you want, so as long as you’ve got the confidence to rock it. It’s not as formal as most museums, and you can speak at normal volumes while guessing the prices of some of the far-out art of the contemporary scene.
Galleries, like a walking meeting, are notable because they give you a natural escape from conversation. The primary attraction is the art, so it’s normal to stare intently at a paper clip and chewing gum sculpture while you think of a new idea to share.
One more thing: there’s most likely free wine to be had. Make of that what you will.
The gallery’s straight-and-narrow cousin. If your meeting is going to be on the more formal side, but you still want to get the freedom to roam, a museum is the way to go. To make the most of it, pick a museum that you know like the back of your hand. Unlike galleries, which have art for sale, museums have their own permanent collections. So, you can keep things interesting by showing the client your favorite artifact or painting, and sharing a few fun facts about it. If you’re super confident (and with AND CO by your side, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be), incorporate a private tour into your meeting. Bonus points if you can connect it back to the project at hand.
Go to See the Sports
If you and your client share a love of a particular sport, why not have some fun and go to a game together. Professional games can be pricey, but if the home team is struggling you can easily scoop up dirt cheap tickets. If the squad is are bringing your city some hard-earned hometown glory, why not look into minor-league or amateur events? If you’re watching something like baseball, the leisurely pace of the game should facilitate an equally leisurely conversation. If they’re fans of something more explosive, like football, you can gamble on the hope that the euphoric effects after a big play will tilt the meeting in your favor.
Or Better Yet… Play One
Sometimes, egos are fragile. If you and/or your client suffer from one, just stop reading and skip to the next suggestion.
If you are both up for a good time and working up a sweat, some competition could be what your meeting needs. Golfing has always been go-to in the business world. If you aren’t down for teeing off with a client, check-up for a little one on one. If you aren’t comfortable with bodying your client in the paint, maybe tennis or squash is more your speed. Or, spin the golf meeting on its head and set up a game of croquet instead. It will be just like Heathers, except you’ll be discussing your creative output instead of how to be the worst possible person in high school.
The Unexpected Vehicle You Happen to Have a License For
Part of being a driven freelancer means that you are a lifelong learner. In the event you lifelong-learned your way to a pilot’s license, then take your client out for a ride. There’s nothing like gliding along the sea while aboard H.M.S. The Boat Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince while renegotiating contracted deliverables. Take to the skies in your dirigible, and casually remark how you’re one of only thirty-something blimp pilots in the world. For the more traditional minded folks, hitch up the Hansom Cab and enchant your client during a magical evening ride. When you can complete your journey unscathed, they will never look at you the same way again. That’s a good thing.