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I was interested to know what some go by when meeting with a new client and discussing their options and trying to figure out what they want and how you can execute. I typically set aside 30-45 mins to meet with a potential client and bill it in the back end if they decide to start the ball. However I know, and have seen, many clients just want to be walked through everything so how do you properly manage time you aren't currently charging for?

  • How do you limit the time interaction?
  • What's a good amount of time?
  • Do you base time on the project complexity?
  • Do you add this time in your bill, as in, it is scene on the invoice or just price it as a design hour?
  • If you approach the time you try to allot, do you end the meeting or acknowledge that you are running out of time and will have to bill?
  • Is it bad if they are "stalling" to tell them sorry I can't meet with you anymore?
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2 Answers

I frequently use the first meeting with a client to actually understand exactly what they need, so I can send them the estimate and details.

In my case, it almost always takes more than 30-45 minutes. I might not be that good at ending meetings, though!

I think it definitely varies depending not only on the complexity of the project, but also on your intuition ("Is this guy really interested and committed, or is he just curious?"). And I frequently find myself interested in the project as well, and want to grab as much information as possible so I can offer a good solution that will make me feel good too.

The first 20-30 minutes, it's usually about the client telling me what they want. After that, we normally discuss what I think would be a good approach for it, show my 'credentials' and all that. And I never give an estimate in the moment, I always mark the time to leave by saying "Ok, I think I have all the information I need, I will send you an estimate".

Unless a client holds me prisoner for more than an hour, hour an a half tops, I don't include the time in the bill. If it goes beyond that, I include it, but don't specify it (sounds a bit vindictive, doesn't it?).

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I never care unless I have other commitments to keep.

I'm willing, at least initially, to spend as much time as the client feels is needed for them to convey what they feel they need to convey. I do not bill for initial consultations. I look at that as merely a loss-leader. Most initial meeting are anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. I've had a few go a couple hours for more complex projects and some that merely take 5 minutes. There's really no telling what the client's agenda may be in some cases.

Once the client and I are a bit familiar with each other, most meetings go fairly quickly.

If I need to end a meeting I simply state I have other obligations and I need to wrap things up. I will offer to continue things at another time if there is still more to discuss.

If follow-up meetings start taking too much of my time, then I politely explain that I can't work on their projects if I'm always on the phone/answering emails/video conferencing/driving to their office/etc.. And I will have to start billing for consultation time (on this particular project). This is exceptionally rare for me though. In general, I have an initial meeting, a brief meeting upon delivery of comps, and then occasionally a follow up upon final delivery.

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