Saturday, December 12, 2009

5 conversation killers in a first-client meeting

Driving through the mountains east of Pittsburgh yesterday, I caught a fuzzy radio broadcast with a great tease: "After the break...the 7 worst types of small talk."

Alas, the actual segment wasn't as juicy as I'd hoped--the guest's verboten topics were the things you could probably guess if you've ever been to a cocktail party: Don't talk about your golf game (no one cares, even other golfers), wine (unless you're sure the other person is a oenophile), what route you took to the party (ZZZZ), kids (no one cares, even other parents), dreams (unless you want to be flagged as a flake), and stocks (you're probably either bragging or whining). The signal faded out before the final one, but I'm guessing it was religion, politics or sex.

But it did strike me that there's an analogy for freelancers headed into a meeting with a prospective client, when the inevitable lull in conversation comes around but the sale hasn't closed. The nervousness and excitement can cause us to blurt, blab or otherwise inject nonsense in ways that can be every bit as deadly as the items above:
  • Talking about how slow business has been (smells like eau de desperation)
  • Talking about being super busy (it's a fine line between being highly sought and overwhelmed)
  • Recounting a tale of bad or unruly clients (risky, though you might be able to get away with something that's funny and has a happy ending)
  • Penalty fees/rules/restrictions (e.g., number of rounds of revisions)
  • Talking too much, period (even if it's positive and upbeat stuff)
You need to know yourself and how you react under the pressure of the first meeting. Better to be armed with a bunch of good questions that can drive the conversation where you want it to go. Ask the client if it's OK to record the conversation, and then listen to it afterward to identify the weak points of your presentation. And for the love of all that's holy...please don't talk about the weather.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Arizona Dust

I'm taking a break from loading the trailer while a snowstorm drops the first of 30 centimeters on us. My computer will get boxed next, so this will be my last post till I hit the road in the morning.

Yes, our Canadian tour of duty is complete and it's time to head Phoenixward. Too many thoughts rattling around in my head to do any of them justice, so I'll let Blue Rodeo, a quintessentially Canadian band, handle the outro for me. Their lyric--"As I’m eating Arizona dust/And wishing I was home"--testifies to the power of returning to the places that make you happy, even if they're not the same for each of us (and occasionally 180 degrees different).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Announcing Freelance Forecast 2010 survey (again)

The Freelance Forecast 2010 surveys have closed, and the results of this year's more than 400 participants have been posted at

If you'd like to participate in next year's survey there is also an email sign-up link—welcome aboard!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An open letter to the White House "Jobs and Economic Growth Forum"

Dear Friends:

Perhaps my invitation to today's White House forum got lost in the mail, but no worries--I'm not the kind of guy to risk a felony by crashing a party at your place.

While you were jawboning at roundtables and breakout sessions, talking about not talking about 30,000-foot solutions, munching on bagels and sipping fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, it was an average day out here in the real world. The vast majority of your fellow citizens were busy at our desks, in the fields, at chalkboards, behind the wheel, on duty or patrol, working on projects, prospecting for new business, keeping people healthy and safe, and, depending on whose numbers you believe, 10.5 to 20 percent of us were simply looking for gainful employment.

As some are fond of saying, let me be clear. I'm not writing to whine--I love what I do. The reason I wanted to drop you a line is because of a couple of conversations I've had this week among peers and associates. You've surely heard the old aphorism that "the market hates uncertainty," and I'd say that fairly represents the feeling at the grassroots business level. Those of us microbusinesses that don't really register on your radar (because we don't have lobbyists, lawyers, stock tickers, or labor unions), well, we're a little freaked out. We're scared that The Powers That Be are going to bail out another company, bank or governmental entity, fund alarmist "emergencies," hire more bureaucrats, print money 24-7, or tax the bejeezus out of us, or all of the above.

Meanwhile, we small fry don't have the luxury of spending money we don't have currently or won't have in the future. We know we're not going to get billions of dollars in bonuses (*cough* Goldman Sachs *cough*). We wouldn't be eligible for unemployment benefits, so we just keep figuring out what we need to do in order to pay the bills. There ain't no such thing as "too small to fail."

You want more businesses to hire people? Start eliminating uncertainty. Stop wasting money on crap.

Then again, the realistic side of me reckons not much will come out of your little summit. (I've been to my share of forums, so I know that the baloney gets sliced pretty thin, and have heard the 4 p.m. cry of "More coffee, stat!") Indeed, the most comforting item I saw about your exclusive confab was a single sentence tucked way down at the tail end of an AP story: "Administration officials said they don't expect major policy announcements from the forum."

But, just for giggles, I'll look forward to seeing the meeting minutes once you've typed 'em up. Thanks in advance.

Jake Poinier
Boomvang Creative Group
Phoenix, Ariz.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Announcing Freelance Forecast 2010

The Freelance Forecast 2010 surveys have closed, and the results have been posted at

If you'd like to participate in next year's survey, there is an easy email signup box in the right sidebar of the Dr. Freelance page.