5 Reasons You Should Never Meet Your Clients at Starbucks

Figuring out where to host consultations can be a challenge for most wedding and portrait photographers who operate out of a home office. It’s easy to find yourself relying on the convenience of America’s every-other-corner caffeine distribution center, Starbucks, or a similar chain coffeehouse. And while saying you should "never" meet there might be a little drastic, client courtship in cafes isn't the best idea and is actually pretty avoidable. Here are five reasons to ditch your Starbucks meet-up for something a little more creative.

1.) Noise

It's legitimately noisy. Having a meeting in a crowded coffee shop is about one rung below dinner conversation at a Green Day concert. It’s hard to discuss the subtleties of your photography business amongst the hissing of steam, the stomping of boots, and the 30 other hushed conversations happening around you. There's a reason all those medical students have their headphones on.

2.) Confidentiality

Some parts of your business are best discussed with confidentiality, and that simply can’t happen at Starbucks. It might seem paranoid, but talking money and legalities surrounded by strangers never feels quite right and some couples might have questions for you about handling personal family situations that they might not want to share with everyone else there. Even without your own office space, there are better alternatives that don’t have community tables and tight quarters.

3.) Credibility

Despite your best intentions and the earnest practicality of it, some people may pass judgment on being asked to meet there. Sure, lots of photographers close deals in Starbucks day in and day out, but that doesn’t mean it’s a plus to you credibility. Neutral is the best one can hope their potential client’s opinion is about discussing business next to frantic studying, blind dates, and job interviews.

Why not take your clients to a more unique location like a micro brewery or someplace else with a local flavor?

4.) Comfort

It’s the not the most comfortable place to meet. Getting to know a new couple, looking at the books you offer, or discussing the concerns of a new client can be made a lot easier when everyone can relax. The aforementioned noise, close proximity to conversing strangers, and lack of comfortable seating aren’t helping you any in the Zen department.

5.) So Many Other Options

Finally, you have so many other options. Why not show your clients how well you know the area and give them a sense of the community by inviting them to a locally-owned business? A small tea shop or alternative coffee shop can be a great option, or even an outdoor cafe, microbrewery (still loud), or ice cream parlor to help set a more creative, collaborative, and local tone for your meeting. For a more private space, consider renting a meeting room in the library or community center.

In an ideal world, having the budget set aside for your own meeting place would be a top priority. It’s the best option to avoid all the public-space issues mentioned above, but it’s not financially possible for some photographers and others may not see the point if they can run a fully-functioning businesses while avoiding the overhead of an office.

If either is the case for you, consider exploring your options for a meeting place that might help you avoid some of the hassle and present a more complete picture about you and your photography. If you work from home, where do meet your clients?

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james johnson's picture

I completely agree with the idea that meeting in a Starbucks is cliche, passe, and just generally not a very good idea. However, I would have to quibble with the idea that there are always other options. Starbucks is the "third place" (look it up) for a lot of people and smaller markets often don't have a lot of those. A medium size southern town doesn't often have a brew pub or local tea shop.

Alice Avenne's picture

There are people who actually meet clients at starbucks?

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

I have clients who prefer to meet at Starbucks. Its a familiar place and easy to find. They know what to expect. I don't like meeting there as I am never able to book on the consultation day when I go there. Clients always want to "think on it" but they always book.

If I had a studio space it would probably be easier, but thats a load of overhead I do not need since nothing I do takes place in a studio.

As a traveling photographer I am curious what does work. Every place worth going is loud inside. I'm still looking :)

Alice Avenne's picture

I'm assuming you work for individuals in which case that's perfectly fine but if you're meeting someone from a big company then it's really weird (unless they work for starbucks).

Helo costilla's picture

I have always hated the idea of meeting at Starbucks. Sucks when the client suggest to meet there. Awkward!!

Brian Reese's picture

I always do McDonald's Play-scape.

Casey Berner's picture

Meet me between the slide and the blue tubes.

Jeff McCollough's picture

In a ball pit.

Ryan Cooper's picture

One thing to keep in mind for portrait photographers who might be meeting a client/model that is worried about safety that a Starbucks is great because it makes them feel safe.

Adam Sparkes's picture

Ryan, there is no doubt familiarity does have benefits.

Justin Haugen's picture

Starbucks is a shit show. I got tired of fighting for big enough tables to show my presentation and speaking over loud barristas (one in particular who would break out into song regularly).

rejeanbrandt's picture

Totally agree with this article.
Sharing studio/office space is a very affordable way to meet with clients, and not only will they look at you as more of a professional, but they get to see where you work... having more confidence in you as a photographer.

Prefers Film's picture

I thought Starbucks was for closing another kind of deal. With the opposite sex.

Gazmend Haliti's picture

I have 100 reasons to never step foot at Star Bucks....

Edoardo Panella's picture

some co-working space offer temporary space (meeting room) for this.

Quentin Robertson's picture

I guess you guys must be really loud, Starbucks in the UK is pretty quiet........especially since we all found out that they were using elaborate tax avoidance schemes here lol

Adam Sparkes's picture

We don't talk, we holler. :-)

Michelle Rodriguez's picture

I'm in the US and it's pretty quiet in the Starbucks (and other coffee shops) in my area as well.. And rarely crowded, seats are comfortable (at least they are at Caribou Coffee, which is typically where people in my area go to meet up for pretty much anything, including business), atmosphere is great. So I think this article is assuming a lot about the local Starbucks. Maybe it's not so great of a meeting place in larger cities, but suburbs seem just fine in my experience.

Jonathan Reid's picture

6.) The coffee is criminally bad.

Merrick Cousley's picture

Pool side at a nice hotel is my preferred choice (one that is usually not crowded and caters primarily for business travelers).

Adam Sparkes's picture

Interesting idea, Merrick.

Jon Dize's picture

For 30 years, I met with clients in their homes, where they were comfortable, did not feel pressured and of the hundreds of weddings booked, only two I met with did not book me for the wedding. One, a Lesbian, hey... it's a fact, she had no intentions of booking a male photographer, all vendors she contracted were women, the only reason she met with me, is because she worked with my wife and did it as a courtesy. The second non-booking... she did not like how I MOVED her dog out of my foot-path with my foot. I lucked out of that wedding. But, those were the ALBUM days, when removing a hand tooled Italian bonded leather album from the box in their living room captured their attention and the smell of the leather (when leather was not obscene) made their faces glow in anticipation. Consultation at Starbucks? Clearly, I have lived too long!

kelvin q's picture

Here's the perfect follow up article to this one. I just finished reading the other one - co work space!