Client meetings can be pretty stressful. And when you have a backyard office, it can be even more stressful worrying about whether you should meet with clients at your backyard office or rather meet somewhere else like a coffee shop or public lounge.
So, you’re not alone in asking – “Should I meet with clients in my backyard office?”
In recent years, home and backyard offices have become increasingly popular. Formal client meetings can definitely be hosted in your home or backyard office, provided that your office is fairly neat and professional. Hosting meetings from a home or backyard office has its advantages and disadvantages. You can make it more advantageous by just tweaking a few things in and around the office.
I have a few years experience working from a backyard office. In this article, I will share all the tips you can use to ensure a professional setting in your backyard office so that you no longer have to worry about hosting client meetings.
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL CLIENT MEETING?
The most important objective of a client meeting is for it to be a success. It doesn’t really matter where it’s hosted, but what matters most is that it’s a successful meeting. That said, I’ve put together a few basic guidelines that should lead you to host a successful client meeting.
- Not only should you prepare to host a client meeting, but you should also allow your clients some time to prepare for the meeting too.
- Share some of the topics you would like to cover when sending the meeting invitation. That way, your clients can prepare some questions and pre-empt answers to some of your questions, and they can also add some topics that they would like to maybe discuss as well.
- Try to gather all relevant documents at least half an hour before the meeting. If you’re solely depending on your computer, then it really helps to close all other apps and just leave the client’s documents open on your computer. This has helped me on many occasions with preventing distractions and allowing me to solely focus on my clients and their needs.
- DO NOT be late. This is particularly important for your first meeting with the client/s. You’re probably asking yourself how could you possibly be late for a meeting hosted in YOUR backyard office?
- This is where preparation plays an important part. Even though you’re hosting the meeting, you can still be late. If clients rock up and you’re still busy gathering documents, feeding the dog, in the bathroom, talking to your cousin on the phone, basically doing anything unrelated to the meeting and having your client wait for you – you’re late.
- Allow enough preparation time for the meeting (at least half an hour). It’s way calmer and much more relaxing to have coffee waiting on the table for your clients, rather than having them rock up and you’re not quite ready to start talking yet.
- Meetings often drain your time, both as a professional and as a client. It makes the meeting so much easier when you set up an agenda beforehand.
- An agenda is simply a set of objectives or topics that you’d like to cover during the meeting. You or your client/s can set up the agenda, or both of you can put it together if need be.
- The use of an agenda will make your meeting much more efficient. Covering five different pre-defined topics in one hour feels like a real accomplishment, instead of aimlessly rambling back and forth for the hour.
- We are lucky that we’re no longer living in the era where professionals are frowned upon if they’re not sporting a three-piece suit to the office every day.
- It’s still important that we dress to impress, but the main concern of a client is whether or not you can solve their problem/s.
- So, dress to impress but keep it to your character. It’s important that you feel comfortable in a meeting. There’s no point in throwing on a three-piece suit and being extremely uncomfortable in your meeting. Your discomfort will most likely hinder your performance and credibility in the client’s eyes.
- The three things people notice first are:
- Watches / bracelets
- If you are going to splash a bit of coin on your appearance then I suggest you focus on getting yourself a good-looking pair of shoes for meetings, a nice perfume, and the watch / bracelets are optional. To me, the most important of the three is fragrance!
- It’s important that all parties involved in a meeting do not forget what was said as soon as they left the room.
- Conclude by reiterating the most important topics that were covered. This way, any lingering questions can be raised and dealt with.
- Assign action items to the relevant parties so everyone has a clear path on what to do.
- Arrange for a follow-up meeting and send an email to all attendees. The email should include the meeting notes, and highlight the action items and the agenda for the follow-up meeting.
THINGS YOU CAN DO OUTSIDE YOUR BACKYARD OFFICE
For almost two years, I had previously worked in a backyard office – Not my own backyard office, but for someone else. Having a backyard office means that you have an outdoor path to your office. Having clients over for a meeting will lead them through that path.
Below I highlight some of the things you can do to improve the outdoor surroundings of your backyard office.
- Be sure to provide your clients with clear instructions on where to park.
- If you have a big enough driveway then parking should not be a problem. If need be, park your car in the garage so that there’s enough parking space in the driveway.
- If you do not have driveway space, then your clients will most likely have to park on the curb. This usually wasn’t a problem for our backyard office. You will be in your neighbor’s good books by giving them a heads up that there may be cars parked on their curb from time to time.
ROUTE TO THE BACKYARD OFFICE
- Keep the path leading to your backyard office neat and tidy, especially on the day you have meetings scheduled.
- A backyard office usually means walking along one side of the house. A good tip is to clean the windows on that side of the house. People will notice dirty windows. Keep your outside aesthetics attractive and inviting.
- Keep your backyard clean, mow the lawn, sweep up the leaves, get rid of those shrubs. If you can’t find the time to do it yourself, perhaps hire a service to do it for you.
- Aside from the outdoor spaces like a backyard and alley, your house exterior should also be in a good, healthy-looking state.
- Maintain the paint on the house, especially the sides that the clients will see.
- As mentioned above, be sure to keep your windows cleaned at all times.
- It’s often common that we forget about our gutters and downpipes. Keep them clean of weeds and sprouts as people tend to notice those nasty weeds when their eyes wander around.
- Pets are great, but not everybody loves other people’s pets. Some people are scared, some are allergic and some pretty much do not like animals. Keep your pets inside when engaging with clients, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Make sure you clean up after your pets – both outside and inside. If your pets are allowed in your backyard office from time to time, then make sure you clean up any stray hairs, litter and food bowls. Also, remember to check outside for any pet droppings as nobody likes walking into a pile of poop – no matter how cute your pet is!
THINGS YOU CAN DO INSIDE YOUR BACKYARD OFFICE
You want a client to enter your office and instantly feel comfortable and at ease.
When I was working in a backyard office (for someone else), clients entered through the kitchen, walked through our work area, and finally reached the conference room. There were many times that our kitchen was a mess when clients arrived, and I did not know where to hide my face. So, you have to be mindful to not only take care of the meeting area but also the areas that lead to it.
KEEP IT CLEAN
- Keeping your office clean and tidy is a no-brainer.
- All the areas that your client is likely to see, should be kept clean and appealing.
- If you have a kitchen in your office, make absolutely sure that there are NO dirty dishes in the sink! Dirty dishes are probably the most unappealing thing to see in a home, let alone an office.
- In an office with lots of paperwork, it would be wise to store them out of sight for client meetings. Loose papers and documents scattered all over the place exude a cluttered and unprofessional vibe.
- Clear your desk of any unnecessary items. Just keep what’s essential to the meeting (like your computer, phone, and relevant documents).
- Try to have clear paths in your office. It can be very annoying having to work your way around a coffee table that’s sitting in the middle of a room. Keep clear and direct paths for your clients. This will make your everyday life easier too!
CREATE A CALM ATMOSPHERE
- Following the tips above and keeping your office clean and tidy will automatically provide a calm atmosphere to your office.
- The interior paint selection impacts your everyday life AND productivity in an office. Try painting your office in a soft shade of blue, green, or beige for increased productivity but to also keep the office vibe calm and soothing.
- Get into the habit of allowing fresh air to ventilate your office. There are times when you are unaware of how stuffy your office is, but other people will notice. A stuffy office can really make a person feel uneasy very quickly.
- Personal items may seem harmless to you but it can be distracting and look unprofessional to clients. The fewer personal items, the better. Sometimes personal items distract the client so much that they start wondering about the backstory to those items while you’re talking.
- Replacing personal items with business related items is a good idea – especially items that are related to your field. For example, as an architect, I would display some of the miniature models that I designed. This would make the client immediately know that they have indeed entered an architect’s office. And, it’s also a chance to show off my skills.
- As I had previously mentioned, wear appropriate clothing. You might wear shorts and flip-flops every day but you should really up your game for a client meeting. Remember, we’re not talking three-piece suit or tux here, but just some neat, semi-casual gear will give a good, professional presence.
KIDS AND NOISE
- Try to schedule meetings while your kids are still at school.
- Younger kids who are not yet in school will probably have a nap time. This will be the perfect time for a client meeting.
- Should your kid/s not have any set routine then consider hiring a nanny or babysitter. The service does not need to be full time – schedule the babysitter at more or less the same time that your client meeting is scheduled for.
- Kids needs are important and parents will do anything for their kids. This means that a client meeting can be disrupted by having to attend to your kid. These types of disruptions break the momentum of a meeting and cause you and your client to lose focus. I’m not saying neglect your kids – but do not neglect your client either.
Remember that it’s not really about where you host a meeting with your clients. The most important thing for a client is to have confidence in you. Your client needs to leave the meeting with absolute certainty that they have chosen the right person for the job.
Following the above tips will place you on the right track to achieving successful interactions with your clients – right from your very own backyard home office.