Throughout the last 10-15 years, many things have changed with regards to how we build websites. Broadband and computing power have brought time-saving efficiency, while coding and markup advancements have ushered in a new era of interactivity.
But there have also been changes to how we do business, as well. For example, online payment processing is now accessible to virtually every freelancer, taking the pain out of getting paid. Collaboration tools make communication with team members lightning-fast.
Still, among the very biggest changes I’ve noticed is that I seem to have fewer face-to-face meetings with both prospective and existing clients. Each year seems to bring fewer requests for such get togethers.
Have traditional meetings finally gone the way of the dinosaur? Here are a few possible explanations as to why we don’t see as much of each other:
A More Mature Industry
In the grand scheme of things, web design is still a fairly new industry when compared to other more traditional sectors. But it has also progressed a great deal in the time it has been around.
When I first started out as a designer, it seemed like many businesses I dealt with (at least, initially) were a bit nervous about the web in general. Not everyone was familiar with the technology nor was everyone sold on its potential. I can recall some people who felt the whole thing was a passing fad.
Looking back, it is understandable why there was some mistrust out there. We’re often more cautious regarding things we don’t know a whole lot about. Comfort comes with exposure.
One of the biggest ways to try and achieve that comfort level with a client was with an old-fashioned meeting. Quite often, once we’d spent a little time together, apprehensions faded and attitudes changed.
However, now that the web has been a part of daily life for so long, that need for reassurance has become less of a priority for many organizations. They now realize the importance of their website and are more eager to just get things done.
Freelancers Are More Accepted
Similarly, the whole idea of working with a freelancer was foreign to many companies. There were actually meetings I attended where it felt like I was seen as less capable because I wasn’t working for a large agency. One meeting participant was so dismissive that I was nearly laughed out of the conference room (suffice it to say that I didn’t book the project).
Freelancing has come a long way, though. It is an increasingly more relevant part of the economy as a whole – not just web design. Over time, any taboos about those of us who work solo have been vaporized.
With that has come a lot of change in how companies do business. A firm that might not be able to afford to hire an in-house specialist may very well be able to afford a freelancer.
So, as dealing with freelancers has become much more common, the need for in-person meetings just isn’t as necessary.
Using Technology is More Convenient
One of my biggest frustrations with meetings is that they tend to take up way too much of my time. To visit many of my local clients requires a 30-60 minute drive, each-way. Coupled with the preparation time and time actually spent at their location, I often end up losing several hours out of my workday.
Thankfully, technology has stepped in to save loads of time for everyone involved. Now, I often find that either a phone or Skype conversation will sufficiently cover most questions that a prospective client and I might have for each other. And screen sharing is a perfect solution for demonstrations and training.
As more companies adopt video conferencing in particular, the more it seems that in-person meetings are wasteful. Clients may have trouble scheduling a traditional meeting where everyone is in the same room. Video conferencing simplifies the whole process and can help projects progress more quickly.
Taking advantage of technology is more efficient all the way around – and it’s even better for the environment. For freelancers, it also takes away what can be a source of stress. In my case, I no longer have to worry about missing too much work due to frequent meetings.
The Last Holdouts
Even with a mature industry, greater trust in freelancers and amazing technological advances – there are still some people who do prefer a proper meeting. The funny thing is that, in my experience, I can’t pinpoint one type of client who opts for in-person meetings more than another.
The meetings I’ve had in the past few years have consisted of a variety of businesses. Some were midsize corporations, while others were solo entrepreneurs. There didn’t seem to be any common rhyme or reason to their preference.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Getting out of the office every now and then is important – just for the sake of interacting with other people.
An occasional meeting can be good on many levels. That said, I’ll still hope to keep them to a minimum!