Tips for Your First Client Pitch Meeting
Helpful advice for approaching your first client pitch meeting as an entry-level designer or freelancer.
I recently found myself preparing for my very first pitch meeting (yay!) to secure a new client project. As someone new to the field of Product Design, naturally I turned to Google and reached out to mentors in the field for guidance about how to structure my approach and the client questions I should be prepared to answer. Here's what I discovered from my fact-finding mission, and how I applied it to my first meeting:
Before the Meeting
First, learn the most you can about your potential client.
What is the company's mission and history? What are the business goals that your product can help achieve? Who are the decision makers? What's the company's budget and potential timeline, and how might that impact your approach to the project?
My pitch was a bit unique in that my client was not actively searching for a designer. However, my previous work aligned with the company's needs and he was interested to learn more about how I could help design a similar feature for his product. Doing some background research on the client's goals, target users, and decision-making process helped me to tailor my pitch to fit the company's needs.
Second, be prepared to show examples of similar work.
Since my client's target users were very similar to the users for one of my previous projects, I was able to provide solid user and marketplace research for the product feature he was interested in. Seeing that I had domain knowledge of his issue area and experience conducting UX research inspired trust and confidence in my work. I suggest putting together a brief but engaging slide deck to showcase your work and how it aligns with the client's goals.
During the Meeting
Third, clarify the client's expectations for the meeting.
Aim to learn more about how your client could benefit from your partnership, what they do and don't need, and any pain points they are currently experiencing with their product. It's also important to consider the feasibility and scope, any risks for the project, the intended timeline and potential budget, and of course, how your client determines success.
From this conversation, I learned that my client's company already had a visual designer and a large engineering department, so my project would need to focus on research, wireframing, and testing, stopping at the mid-fidelity level. I also needed to be able to provide handoff documentation of any designs for the engineering team. Clarifying these limitations and project goals during the meeting helped me better align my proposed work plan to fit my client's needs.
Fourth, provide a few partnership options - I suggest two to three.
Prior to the pitch meeting, it can be difficult to predict client expectations, constraints, or project needs (although background research can help!), so I found it beneficial to prepare a variety of proposed actions that I could tailor based on the conversation.
For this client, one option I was prepared to offer included UI Design. However, because I learned during the meeting that he wouldn't need any visual design work, I was able to focus my efforts on several other proposed actions. If I had only prepared one partnership opportunity, I would have had to scramble in the moment to think of other ways in which we could partner.
Fifth, be prepared to talk about compensation.
Money can be a very uncomfortable topic. However, it's a necessary part of any work plan, and knowing how much you should charge for your work can help build confidence before the big ask. Prior to the meeting, I made a point to figure out the market rate for my skills based on experience level and location. I also did some digging into the size of my client's team and the company's revenue to help determine the potential budget. But sometimes, doing background research doesn't provide enough insight into how much your client would be willing to spend for your work. Being able to provide a range that you're comfortable with (either hourly or for the full project) for your client will help you land on a compensation rate that fits both of your budgets.
After the Meeting
Sixth, prepare a Statement of Work.
Congrats, you successfully had your first client pitch meeting! If you were able to nail down your project scope, limitations, success metrics, and compensation, it's time to put what you discussed into writing. Your Statement of Work should include:
Your name and your client's name
Purpose of the project
End goal for the project/success metrics
Any requests for the client (i.e. if you'd like to have access to their users for research)
Property rights (i.e. who has final rights to research and deliverables)
The Statement of Work may go through a few rounds of edits by you and your client, so before you begin working, make sure you have the finalized version and that both parties have signed.
Freelance work can be very rewarding and provide a flexible lifestyle and schedule. But before you take the leap and have your first pitch meeting, increase your chances of success by making sure you're prepared with questions for your client, examples of your work, and a range of partnership opportunities. You've got this!