meeting new clients

As a young female designer, I am often faced with having to meet with clients (mostly male) alone. This is potentially very dangerous. I never meet with someone I have not spoken with on the phone. That’s where a free phone consultation is very helpful. I know that this is not a fail safe system. I also try to research my potential client. If he says he works for a real estate company, then I expect to be able to find him on the internet somewhere. I research addresses for proposed meetings and projects. If I am meeting in public to discuss a project Starbucks is a generally a good atmosphere with plenty of eyes and wifi and you can generally find one mutually close to both you and the client. If I need to meet at a site, I admit I try to drag a guy along with me. This sometimes works if you know a nice guy with extra free time. He can act as a chaperon and a great “ten penny nail” (assistant) if you are field measuring. If this is not practical, then the tools of the trade can be great weapons 🙂 I carry a husky flip knife and various pens in addition to keys and things just about every time I visit a site. And some self defense lessons and pepper spay can’t hurt. I’d love a taser if I could afford one. But i’m not sure how I could keep it handy. Someone should design a taser app/attachment for cell phones… but I digress. Making it obvious that you have some forms of protection might even be enough to deter a potential “bad guy” because they are looking for prey that won’t put up too much of a fight.

I started thinking about this after meeting with a slightly odd/creepy client who reassured me that he wasn’t a “bad guy” and that he hoped I wasn’t, “uncomfortable meeting him alone in a half demolished house.” The thought hadn’t crossed my mind but perhaps it should have. Although he did have real work to offer me and a check for a job I had already done for him (without having met him), I should have been more cautious. I guess I just had my eye on that carrot dangling on the end of that string. :/

He spent the next hour or two, half hitting on me and trying to sneak me into the pictures he was taking of the property (or maybe, hopefully, this was just in my mind), while I did my field measuring. The check he gave me was legit and didn’t bounce and he actually overpaid me (tip?) so he turned out to be an all-around decent client. Especially, now that I realized how scary it could/should have been.

I hate to be reminded that, yes, I am a woman and sometimes I should have a less brazen approach to potentially delicate situations. It is a sad reality but a necessary thing to understand and of which to be cautious.


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