The internet has made it possible for millions of people to work remotely, even creating and managing businesses from the comfort of their homes. Of course, it’s hard to make a business successful in a vacuum; you’ll still need to engage with people, including potential clients, employees, and partners on a regular basis. The question is, if you do most of your work from home, should you go out of your way to meet clients (and other business contacts) in person?
Option 1: Purely Digital Interactions
It is possible to commit yourself to maintaining purely digital interactions with your clients. Thanks to the plethora of available communication options, like emails, instant messages, and video chatting, it’s possible to cover almost any topic without the need to meet in person.
That said, there are some advantages to meeting face-to-face, including:
- No matter how much time you spend with someone chatting over instant messages or even engaging with each other on a video chat, few things match the bonding potential of meeting in person. The in-person experience can’t be fully replicated when it comes to getting to know someone and establishing that personal connection.
Gestures and body language
In a similar vein, only video chatting gives you a glimpse at a person’s facial expressions, and it can be limiting in terms of presenting other subtle body language indicators. Meeting in person gives you a chance to not only read deeper into how your clients are communicating, but also use your own body language to forge a stronger connection (or negotiate harder).
Fewer tech issues
No matter how up-to-date you and your client’s computers are, there’s a chance that tech issues could interrupt your communications. Meeting in-person forgoes the need to make sure you’re both updated and ready to go at the right time, and minimizes the impact of tech hiccups.
Hard conversations and respect
Some conversations are inherently better to have face-to-face than over email or another, less personal format. If you need to have a hard conversation and show more respect to your client, in-person is still the way to go.
If you want to achieve these advantages, there are several options available to you.
Option 2: Home-Based Interactions
Depending on how your home office is set up, it may be possible to meet with clients in your home. If you choose this, be aware that your prospective and existing clients may judge your brand based on the image your home conveys, down to the color of your siding and the style of chimney cap you have on your house. Make sure you have a designated office in your home, where you and your clients can sit and discuss things professionally, and do your best to make a good impression with your design choices and upkeep.
Option 3: Public Meeting Spaces
If you’d prefer not to have clients over to your house, you could opt to meet exclusively in public spaces. For example, you might arrange to have lunch meetings at your favorite restaurant, or coffee at your local café. This is typically convenient for both parties, and allows you to occupy “neutral” territory. However, public meeting spaces can sometimes be inconvenient due to background noise and distractions, and may not be ideal for a first meeting.
Option 4: Client Meeting Spaces
If you’re already on good terms with the client, you may be able to meet at their location. This will be more convenient for them, and may allow you to work in a more professional space than your home would currently allow. The big downside here is that you won’t be operating in familiar territory; you may be relying on presentation technology you don’t have much control over, and may not have control over when or how the meeting room is available.
Option 5: Neutral, Professional Spaces
Another option is to rely on neutral, professionally optimized spaces like coworking spaces, which are increasing in popularity. Depending on the business you work with, you’ll likely gain access to a meeting room and other business-oriented features for a small fee each month. You may be required to reserve a meeting room in advance of your meeting; either way, you’ll have control over the space and will be able to meet in person without putting your home up as a place for engagement.
Meeting in person isn’t strictly necessary these days. Many businesses get by with purely remote meetings, and it suits them well. However, there are still some advantages to having face-to-face interactions, and many businesses will benefit from spending the extra time, resources, and effort to preserve those types of meetings. Think about your environment carefully, and choose a meeting location that will ultimately reward you.