Consultants and freelancers are known for their coffee shop meetings. In fact, if you walk into any coffee shop in my city at 11 am, you’ll find consultants, freelancers and people on their first online dates. And there’s good reason for that.
Safety in meeting freelance, consulting, coaching or counselling clients
Whether you’re meeting someone from an online dating site or a prospective business client, you’re taking some personal risks. If the client is from a well known business, you’re probably safe to meet at their corporate offices. But, when you’re dealing with smaller businesses, you may not have any way to tell how big the company is. In fact, if they just called you up and asked to meet, you may not have enough time to do any research. So meeting at a coffee shop tends to be a safe choice, not just a way to deal with home office isolation - and it’s not a sign that your business isn’t doing well. Many people who command high fees for their busy practices still meet in coffee shops.
Coffee shops are high profile venues with lots of witnesses. And, conveniently, you can get a cup of coffee while you’re there. While the atmosphere, coffee grinder and cappuccino machine may be somewhat distracting, coffee shops allow you to get to know the prospective client and determine whether you’d feel safe meeting them elsewhere.
Safety issues and concerns with clients
Over the years, I’ve run into a few small issues with prospective clients:
- The business advisor whose seemingly booming small business with multiple staff turned out to just be him in a lonely all-concrete work/live building – can’t say the boxing gear in the corner put me at ease either.
- The client who hammered on the table in anger and swore at me when he didn’t agree with me.
- The vendor who started asking me about my dating availability
- The prospective client who started telling me about his recent divorce and how lonely he was…while we were alone in a quiet office on a secure floor after hours.
And so on.
That’s why I meet most clients at coffee shops, business centres or their own busy offices. However, I’m a marketing consultant. If you’re working in business coaching, counselling, life coaching, personal training, real estate or other situations where you need to be alone with clients, it’s a good idea to think ahead about your safety.
Safety tips for meeting prospective clients
- Screen the client over the phone
- Meet in a public place
- Keep your phone in an accessible place
- Be willing to end the meeting if you get a gut feeling that tells you something is wrong
- Ask a friend to do a walk-by
- Have an agreement to text or email a friend by a certain time if you’re meeting after hours, in an unfamiliar location or your spidersense is tingling
- Excuse yourself to use the washroom and call a friend to check in, if you need to
- Ask building security to do a walk-by
- Ask the police to do a safety drive-by
Remember that, in the rare case that something happens, it is not your fault. You have no responsibility for the actions of others.
See our tips for assessing safety risk with clients.