There’s a time when you are in discussions with a prospective client about a project but haven’t been hired for the gig (yet).Before you can say, “Yes” or “No,” you’ll need to get clear about a few things first. Here are some suggestions about questions freelance writers should ask prospective clients before deciding whether to take on a particular gig.
Approach the Conversation with the Right Attitude
Contacting a prospective client through an ad, sending a query letter, or sending out your writers’ resume and some samples does not obligate you in any way to that client. You are not required to “hold” a spot open for anyone who has not officially hired you to do work for them under the terms that you find acceptable.
This policy includes having a conversation with a prospective client about the possibility of working together. Until a contract is signed, a deposit has been paid, you receive an assignment or whatever you normally do to start work for a new client, you haven’t been hired yet. All you’re doing is talking.
During this process, you should be evaluating whether the client is a good fit for you as well as presenting yourself in the best possible way to show the client your best qualities to show him or her that you are the best freelancer for their needs. Not all gigs are going to be a good fit for you, and over time you will learn to recognize them. Asking the right questions will help you find freelance writing gigs that you will enjoy and where you can put your skills and abilities to good use.
Questions Freelance Writers Should Ask Prospective Clients
1. Are you looking to hire for a long-term arrangement or a one-time project?
The scope of the project will help you determine how much time you will need to devote to it and help you start to work out pricing. Some freelance writers have package deals for clients who place a minimum number of articles or blog posts or will commit to a certain minimum amount of time for blogging services (usually three months).
2. Please briefly describe your project.
This is where you get down to the nitty-gritty about why the client needs a writer. In this part of the conversation, whether you are meeting in person, discussing the project by phone or Instant Messenger or e-mail, pay close attention to how the client describes how he or she sees the writer’s role. Do they have a clear understanding of what you are expected to do, or do you need to ask several questions to clarify what the client wants?
Some people know what they want but need some help putting it into words. They can be wonderful clients once make sure that you understand what they are trying to communicate to you. You’ll find some who are very organized, know exactly what they want and are quite articulate. (Hang onto these gems; they are few and far between.) The ones who aren’t sure exactly what they want either aren’t ready to talk to you yet or need to be informed of your hourly rate for consulting from the outset.
3. What are you trying to accomplish?
Some clients are looking for writing that will help them sell their products directly, such as brochures or sales letters, while others need content to help them boost their search engine ranking and is not meant to be “salesy.” You may be asked to work on a newsletter or social media posts, a short e-book that a client can use as a giveaway, a press release, white paper, blog posts or SEO articles.
4. What type of tone do you use in your content?
Your prospective freelance writing client will have a brand and you’ll need to communicate its message to the audience. Depending on the brand and the audience, you may be asked to write in a casual, technical, or formal manner.
You wouldn’t use the same style of writing if you were asked to blog for a law firm (which is known as a very traditional type of business) as you would if you were blogging for a company that develops video games. If you were writing blog posts directed at the law firm’s clients, you would want to use language to make the topics easy to understand, but you probably couldn’t get away with as casual a tone as you would use to point out the pros and cons of the newest video games to hit the market.
5. What is your preferred payment method?
At this point, you discuss the payment methods you accept and your standard payment terms if you decide you are going to work together.
Why it’s Not a Good Idea to Talk Money from the Beginning
I know it would seem to make sense to get right down to the heart of the matter and start talking about money and budgets from the outset when speaking to a potential client. This strategy can work against you, since asking about the budget for a project can make a client think that you are going to quote “up to” the stated budget in spite of what you normally charge.
A better choice is to learn about the project in detail and then providing the potential client with an itemized quote that sets out exactly how much you charge for each type of service (research, writing, uploading to the client’s blog, finding/cropping images, etc.). The client can see exactly what he or she is paying for and can then choose to take some services out of the “basket” to keep costs down, if necessary.
What Happens Next?
Since you are still at the interview stage, neither one of you are committed to working together. You have the options of stepping back to consider what has been discussed and making contact at another time or moving forward to request/agree to make up a quote. If you already know this project is not what you’re looking for or you don’t have the time to take it on, you can politely decline at this point and thank the potential client for having considered you.
The answers to these questions freelance writers should ask prospective clients should help you get a better idea of whether the gig being discussed is something that would be a good fit. They will also help you get to know the client a bit and let you determine whether this is a person or a business you can work with.
Keep in mind that a conversation doesn’t commit you to a project, even if you have discussed it in detail. If you don’t feel that it’s right for you, for whatever reason, turn it down and move on to something that will be a better fit.