7

A client called me at the telephone weeks ago, he said he is the CEO of a local big car dealer, my number was given to him by another of my clients.

He said he wanted to talk about the website. We agreed to contact again the week after to fix a meeting date and hour.

He didn't call me so I called him a couple of times (no answer) and then the day after I called again and he answered. He told me that he could meet me two days after at 8:00 am.

I prepared myself for good knowing it is an important company with big sales volume, with examples, things to say and to explain, proposals, etc.

The day after at 8:00 am I was at his office, he welcomed me and he started to talk about himself, he did this, he did that, he launched this service, he launched these people (unknown to me), and then he asked suddenly to present myself to him, so I presented briefly myself, my knowledges, my skills and I wanted then to show him and explain some of my top projects to complete the presentation, but he refused saying: "I already saw them on your site".

Then he said: "I want to develop a specific platform for a specific type of business and then sell it worldwide by the end of the year, are you able to develop that?".

I said: "It depends! I could take two weeks or two years depending on the requested features and specs. Also I am a single freelance I can't guarantee 100% commitment to your project since I already have long term clients that I have a live and continuous collaboration... But let's talk about the project so I can understand better."

He said: "Now I only wanted to meet you and know you. Please give me a week of time and I will send you by email a word file with all the specification of that project. Please review it and then we will meet and talk in depth".

Then he got up from the chair, shook my hand, said "it was a pleasure, have a good day..." and he left the room leaving me there...

I was a bit shocked about that, I entered the room at 8:00 and left it at 8:12. I just left my business card on his desk and went back to my office.

I feel like I was in the middle line between being treated with bad manners and having to deal with an aggressive/strange client...

Now more than two weeks passed but I had no news from him, I don't know if I want to work for him, but a part of me thinks that it could be an interesting project with a successfull company...

Should I contact him again?

Do you think that he just subtly got rid of me after the first 10 minutes of meeting?

7

He said he wanted to talk about the website. We agreed to contact again the week after to fix a meeting date and hour.

This didn't exactly happen, did it? You drove across town, and back, to sit with this guy for twelve minutes. He didn't care at all about your time. But what's worse is that instead of going down a course - prescribed by you - of getting a new project, you allowed him to dominate the meeting after having had to chase him down to even get an audience with him.

What's worse is that you didn't meet him in a situation where he would be required to vest his time in the same manner as you, i.e. at a coffee shop or rented meeting room. So he had the advantage in getting you to his office and dismissing you quickly. He never had to leave his seat to do a thing, but YOU did.

Now, THINK AHEAD.

With this client, you're going to be chasing him down for requirements, to sign off on work, and to get paid. So far, his behavior shows that he is inconsiderate and doesn't feel accountable at all for making promises to you and then breaking them (in your example, he's done this twice).

Unless you are desperate - which he is hoping for - run away fast.

5

It sounds to me like he treated your interview as if he was interviewing a potential new employee, rather than interviewing a freelancer. He most likely wanted to meet you and get a feel for you as an individual. Think about his job; he's the CEO of a car dealership. Most of his employees are salespeople, so he's probably used to hiring people based on his first impression of their personality, which is what counts the most on the showroom floor.

I would assume that he is interviewing other freelancers and will send you the specifications if you meet his short list.

It's also possible that he was turned off by your answer to his first question ("I could take two weeks or two years depending on the requested features and specs") and decided to stop considering you at that point, but didn't want to be so rude as to immediately tell you to leave.

Often, people from traditional businesses aren't used to getting such vague answers for a timeframe; they're used to buying physical goods and services from vendors who provide relatively standard options and timeframes. For example, if he called about getting a new AC unit for his building, he might get an answer like "most installations take 3-5 days unless you have a very unusual setup".

Always try to have a handy analogy to help the potential client understand why your answer is so vague. For example, you might say "Well sir, if I asked you how long it takes to build a new car dealership, you'd probably tell me it depends on how big of a lot I'm looking for, what area I'm located in, what type and brand of vehicle I'm looking to sell, how many employees I'll need to train, etc. Similarly, I can't give you a precise estimate without knowing more about what you want to build."

Alternatively, it can help to give some BS average figure, such as "Well, typically the websites that my clients want to make take 5 - 6 weeks to build, but obviously it depends on how complex your idea is." This sometimes helps clients feel more comfortable, even if the average number you give is meaningless and ends up being nowhere near what their project would require. This approach is a bit more of a gamble, and you might not want to try it unless you're good at reading people.

4

He does not look odd to me. Just another overpotent I-am-the-smartest CEO. He is busy and you are some geek programmer who is doing something that his nephew could do, but just a bit better.

Would I continue? Depends. There are things I am ready to tolerate and things I am not.

A client has bad manners, does not treat me as high as I wanted - No Problem. I will do the project. The most important thing is that he is not cursing on me. I also tend to avoid people who are used to work with grey zones (gambling, criminals, ...) as they often like to put force in front of intelligence. I do not have time for that.

After his manners, I would check what kind of payment terms he had in mind. If he will accept my milestones scheme (and not "Pay full on delivery"), then I am OK with it.

This is the person that requires a GOOD contract. When he signs it, make sure he has time for you to tell him a few important paragraphs from the contract - like those that you will work only on things you agreed in the contract, anything beyond is treated as an extra. Just point him 2-3 important things so he does not mean that you will do EVERYTHING for the money he gives you.

I would call him again, saying that you are expecting him to send you project specification. THIN ICE: If you want to go to the ice and a bid show him that you are not a slave, tell him that you have another long-term offer and that you need to decide in 2 days if you will accept that offer or his offer. So he needs to send you something today or tomorrow, otherwise you will not be able to promise that you will take the project in work.

And lastly, if you FEEL that this is a person that you should avoid, then just be silent and do not accept the project. I often listen to my guts and I have never regretted about it.

4

Whether or not the guy was "rude" is really your call. That's often more of a percieved thing. While what you've detailed doesn't really sound so much rude as possibly inattentive, his attitude really tells the story and no one here can pick up on that via text. So, if you felt he was rude, then I'll assume he was.

The big question is.... do you want to work with this guy based upon his attitude?

For most new clients who contact me, I'll stay attentive and involved in a cursory fashion. I do have other clients and other work to attend to. So, if asked for a meeting, sure I'll make that meeting. You better as well though. Miss 1 meeting and okay, I may let that slide, miss 2 and you then have to come to me I won't come to you a third time.

If I expect specification or information on a specific date... I'll reach out the day after that date if I've not received anything. If I still don't get anything... I ignore the client until they pop up again. They essentially go into my "looking but not serious" category.

I don't ever want to tell a client that I specifically "have other things to do" That's the same as stating "you aren't important enough to me." Which is NEVER the message I want to convey to any client. I merely make myself less available as they prove themselves to be inattentive.

So yes, I'd reach out once to see if he was going to send specifications. Beyond that, I wouldn't chase him. Being too attentive when the client is the exact opposite sends the unconscious message that you are desperate for work... which then starts eroding the respect a client may have for you.

2

Should I contact him again?

Yes, you should.

Whether you are interested in working with him or not, do contact him and let him know as (effective) communication is one of the key elements to successful business and business relationship.

Do you think that he just subtly got rid of me after the first 10 minutes of meeting?

Honestly, I don't think so.

We all are different and likely in all.

Besides, nothing insinuates that from your narration but respect as he wasn't rude to you in anyway.

It is true non-verbal communication is equally important and shouldn't be ignored just as cultural dimension, often brushed under the carpet by many.

While I must admit some of my clients are extremely chatty, there are other ones who are simply not; they may have less time or interact less but convey most often fruitfully their needs and expectations, specific in their request (even if not precise enough on your side ~ in that case, I simply answer on an average request timeframe for that global scope, then call for more details so as to give a suitable timeframe based on his specific needs) with reference to their field and less knowledge on what it that may translate to (that's why he needs you) among others.


Few observations and recommendations based on your submission;

I just left my business card on his desk and went back to my office.

Here in Ghana, that will most likely be interpreted by the CEO as a sign of disrespect and or otherwise; he never requested for that, it wasn't given in hand, you violated privacy by interacting with his desk without his approval, etc., ~ besides: he already know you, your website, and can easily contact you as he already did.

In most cultures where you may give out your business card with one hand (mainly your right hand; in Ghana just as most African country, using your left hand is definitely synonymous to an insult). There is currently no article I could reference online at the moment to illustrate this as the body language is important just as considering whether you may offer your card to a given person indirectly (through someone representing him, even in his/her presence) based on certain criteria; I may possibly work out one in the future.

In Japan, cultural values and etiquettes are equally pronounced; you ultimately need to do so holding and giving it the right way and with the right posture (placing your business cards on top of your business card holder, using your right hand to offer your card while holding it by the top corner, giving a brief self introduction as you offer your card).

Even the receiver does receive by observing a certain cultural norms; the common practice is to confirm the name of the one giving you his/her business card and say thank you for the card, then placing the card on top of the card holder (you shouldn't put it right away into your card holder or anywhere until appropriate).

... read more here and watch this video as well.

Both cultural insights above may seem trivial but can have very devastating effective when not observed properly.

In addition to that, your answer to his question to knowing whether you can get his product ready by the end of the year was not the best as you estimate ... or two years; ~ a Yes or No answer will do in such cases than evasive.

Also, you said to him you can't guarantee 100% commitment to his project and that may easily be interpreted as: you are not such an important client to me.

You should manage your relationships with your clients and prospective ones in a professional manner; your clients do not need to know how you go about with that nor told I can't ... because of commitment to client B.

If you can't, do consider to either learn it, hire a PR for that purpose or co-work with one so you focus on what you are good at while he/she handles that aspect of your business; it is better you owe a percentage of something than a 100 of nothing.

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