Having direct interactions with your clients will help you gain a deeper understanding of their requirements, objectives, and guidelines. Phone and video meetings also cultivate stronger connections, increasing client loyalty and trust. But, no one wants to waste time on meetings — especially if you aren’t getting paid for that time.
Let’s break down what goes into successfully booking and managing appointments as a freelance writer so you can leverage this important tool without feeling overwhelmed.
How to Book Effective Appointments
A bad meeting can sour your day pretty quickly. Maybe you spent half an hour preparing just for the person to not show up, or maybe they did show up, but neither of you was really able to take the meeting in a productive direction. You can avoid these common pitfalls with proper prep, saving you time and ensuring you evoke confidence in your leads and clients.
Ask Qualifying Questions
Allowing anyone to book an appointment with you can sound like a scary notion, and it can be if you don’t how to qualify those people before the actual meeting. Asking the right questions beforehand ensures neither you nor the lead is going to waste their time.
In your booking form, ask them:
- Where can I find your website or learn more about you and your business?
- What is the scope of your project? What are you hoping we can achieve together?
- Do you have examples of content you love that I can review before our call?
Check the lead’s answers as soon as you can. Consider the business, niche, project scope, objectives, and potential for long-term work when deciding if things are a good fit. These questions will also help you prepare for the meeting to ensure it’s productive.
Do Your Research
If you’re terrified of running out of things to say or simply fear looking unprofessional, the best thing you can do is prepare with some preliminary research. Don’t invest hours into a meeting with a lead, but do consider spending 15 to 20 minutes leading up to the meeting on the following activities.
- Research the Client: Gather information about the client, their business, products, services, and any recent news or developments related to their industry. This shows that you are genuinely interested in their work.
- Review the Project: Familiarize yourself with the project requirements, objectives, and any relevant documents or materials they provided. This preparation will enable you to ask relevant questions and demonstrate your understanding of their needs.
- Be An Engaged Listener: Use natural pauses to ask relevant questions as they come to mind. If you’re going to take notes on paper, let the client know in advance and pause your notetaking to look into the camera when they’re making important points.
- Check Your Setup: Always test your microphone and video feed to ensure everything is working correctly so you aren’t the one going, “Can you hear me now? … How about now?” It’s not a fun way to kick off your introduction.
- Prepare Samples: If you can, have a portfolio or samples of your previous work ready to showcase during the meeting. If you’re new, consider pulling up competitor websites and asking the client for their feedback, then giving your opinion to showcase how you two can work together to produce even better content.
Confirm New Bookings
Have you ever booked a meeting with someone and heard nothing in the days or weeks leading up to the time slot? Sure, you got an automated confirmation and automated an invite, but it can leave you wondering whether the person ever looked into the information you provided or if they’re going to show up at all. A simple confirmation email can take all these doubts away.
Within a day or so of a new booking, send a quick, personalized email to the person to thank them for scheduling and let them know you’re excited to meet with them. Also, take this chance to ask if there are any additional points or materials they would like to share beforehand. Lastly, use this as an opportunity to provide a link where they can cancel or reschedule if needed.
Send a Reminder The Day Before
If a meeting was booked a week or more in advance, I like to send another email the night before or the morning of to confirm the meeting time, express my excitement once again, and provide a final opportunity for the person to cancel or reschedule. While last-minute changes can be discouraging, it’s way better than getting all set up for the meeting only to have a no-show.
Take Notes or Record The Meeting
The meeting went great. Now what? Don’t count on your good memory to keep track of all the notes the client gave you. If it’s a short meeting, you can take notes directly after the call while it’s still fresh on your mind, but taking notes during the meeting will ensure nothing is forgotten. For some people, live notetaking can also help them process the information so they can ask better questions.
For me, I find notetaking distracting, but I don’t want to rely on memory alone. Recording meetings will allow you to give your full attention to the call. Afterward, you can either re-listen to the recording or use a transcription tool to get everyone’s ideas on paper so that you can reference them later. If you do want to record the meeting, make sure to ask all participants up-front.
Follow-up After The Meeting
Within 24 hours of a meeting, aim to send a follow-up email to thank the person for their time and reiterate your enthusiasm for working together. Depending on the nature of the call, you may be waiting for them to make a decision or they may be waiting for more information from you. In any case, use this email to:
- Summarize Action Items: Include a summary of the key points you discussed, along with any action items or next steps you agreed upon. If you received feedback that requires clarification, address it here.
- Provide Documentation: If there were any materials, documents, or samples requested during the meeting, make sure to provide them promptly.
- Submit Your Proposal: If you discussed a new project, send an official proposal outlining the scope, timeline, and cost.
- Confirm Deadlines: Reconfirm any agreed-upon deadlines for drafts, milestones, or invoices. If there is no immediate action required, propose a timeline for the next check-in or progress update to keep the project moving forward.
- Ask for Feedback: If it seems appropriate, ask the client for feedback on the meeting or any additional information they may require.
Choosing an Automated Scheduling Tool
Manually scheduling meetings is practically impossible for most of us these days. Even if you don’t have other obligations, the other person might, and that can lead to a long back-and-forth process trying to agree on a good slot (across timezones, no less).
Automated scheduling tools can sync with all of your calendars to avoid double bookings while providing a self-service interface that allows people to schedule meetings with ease. Plus, if an appointment is canceled or rescheduled, the tool automatically notifies you and updates your availability. The trick is finding a scheduling tool that’s free and powerful.
Why We Endorse Calendly®
Calendly has over 10 million users and it’s 100% free. With such widespread adoption, Calendly provides a familiar interface with plenty of added perks. For instance, if a person uses Calendly themselves, the tool will hide time slots on your calendar if they have marked themselves as unavailable during those periods to help them avoid meeting conflicts.
All in all, Calendly provides all the features you need — including the option to embed your calendar into your website and send one-off booking links — and it costs nothing to use. The Society of Writers gets nothing in return for endorsing it, we just love seeing fantastic tools that can help you work more effectively as a freelancer.
Tips for Setting Your Availability
Follow these availability tips to get around timezone differences and avoid meeting fatigue.
Cross out dates in advance for vacations, holidays, and other commitments. Personally, if I have an appointment scheduled or hard deadlines, I’ll mark myself as unavailable so I don’t have to take meetings at all that day.
I would also suggest not leaving yourself open to meetings five days a week. Instead, pick two or three days out of the week. For me, this helps me set deadlines and schedule my workload more effectively as I know there are certain days where I will never have meetings to contend with.
Pad Meetings with Downtime
Allocate buffer time between meetings to provide yourself with a short break where you can review notes and gather your thoughts before hopping on another call.
You can avoid last-minute bookings by requiring clients to schedule a certain number of hours or days in advance. For instance, I don’t allow same-day bookings.
Consider Establishing Office Hours
If your clients are always asking if you’re available earlier or later or on a certain day, it might be best to establish “office hours” one day out of the week or month so that you can meet without taking calls on short notice or opening up special slots to accommodate their schedules.
For my clients, I set the expectation that I will be available during my office hours for phone calls, meetings, and collaborative sessions even if they didn’t schedule something in advance. This works well for me as I maintain control over my schedule while remaining more accessible to my clients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I provide my pricing information upfront?
It’s a major waste of time to get a lead on a call only to find that your pricing and their budget are lightyears apart. While I don’t like to provide quotes before understanding the scope of a project, you can provide price brands or allude to your price scale on your website and in communications.
Some writers will include a question on their booking form like, “Is your budget for this project more than $1,200?” to hint at what they charge. Others may send an email before the meeting where they say: “My retainers start at $2,500/month.” However you choose to approach it, avoid wording that could make the lead think you’re already committing to a given rate.
Is it okay to charge for meetings as a freelancer?
Typically, consultations with potential clients are free but you may decide to charge for them. Once someone becomes your client, you should always factor meetings into your rates. If you’re charging by the hour, charge for the meeting time. If you’re charging by the project, ask the client about their meeting expectations so that you can be compensated for that time.
Do I have to turn my camera on?
As much as you may anxiously despise video meetings today, practice makes perfect. Here’s my advice: Join the meeting with your camera off. If the client turns their camera on, it’d be courteous to turn yours on too. At the very least, turn it on for your introduction and you can turn it off and start sharing your screen instead if you have something valuable to show.
What do I do if a meeting runs over?
If you still have more to say as a meeting approaches its scheduled end time, point the time out to the client. Recognize that their time is valuable and you don’t want to keep them if they have somewhere to be. Let them know that you can reschedule if they need to get off the call. If they don’t, agree to extend the meeting for a specific amount of time, whether that’s five minutes or fifteen.
If the client is the one still gabbing and you have other obligations, interject as nicely as possible and let them know, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Alan, but it’s 12:17 and, as much as I’d love to continue speaking with you, I have to get to another meeting. Can I please send you my link so we can schedule a time to continue?” And, if you know Alan’s pretty chatty, consider giving yourself extra buffer time for your next call.
How do I cancel an appointment?
If you need to cancel an appointment, provide as much notice as possible. If you’re canceling because you don’t feel you’re a good match for their needs, be honest about that. Apologize for any inconvenience and, if you’re open to rescheduling, provide them with a link where they can re-book.
In the instance that you backed out of the meeting because it was too early, too late, or one too many meetings for the day, reevaluate your availability so that doesn’t happen again.
Get Help on Your Freelance Writing Journey
Now that you know how to book and manage meetings like a boss, what else are you going to do to level up your freelancing game? After eight years in the industry, I can tell you that there’s always something new to learn and master. If you’re looking for guidance and community, come join our Slack channel. It’s 100% free!