Since starting my freelance writing business 7 years ago I’ve tailored the way I do things – from how much to charge to knowing the questions to ask every client I work with. Above all, I’ve had to get very clear on what kinds of clients I onboard – this alone has made me come a very long way from the days of endless job boards and writing about the mating habits of spiders.
So how do you know the questions to ask every client? Here are my top 10 questions that will not only save you time, but money, and your sanity as well.
There’s no need to deal with clients or projects that will be a total headache and these questions will help you narrow it down. These are the questions that I use myself when meeting potential writing clients and have really found them to be very useful as I keep up the side hustle. Of course, I may use them for writing clients but you can customize them to fit your side hustle’s needs.
Here are the questions to ask every client before you even think about starting to work with them.
1. What’s your budget?
This is one of the most important questions to ask every client. Before you take anything new on, you’d better know what you are dealing with financially. I’m pretty upfront and confident about my rates and I want to make sure my clients can afford me. Otherwise, it may be a waste of time for both of us.
Of course, if I absolutely love the client and their idea I’ll be as flexible as I can when cutting them a package deal. However, I can’t guess flexibility without first knowing what I’m working with.
2. When are you ready to start? When do you need this finished?
Asking this question right off the bat will help you determine how serious your client is. If they tell you immediately then you know you can spend more time talking to them. If they tell you it’s not until next year or they’re not sure then you can cut it short. There is no point in wasting your time with someone who isn’t ready to work with you.
3. Can you describe your project?
Knowing how big a project is can help you determine a timetable and how much to charge. It can also help you determine whether or not the project even interests you. For instance, I once had a potential client try to explain some overly complicated writing project they wanted me to do at the drop of a hat. First off, I had no idea what they were talking about or even where to begin researching. And second, even if I had taken on the project my rates would have gone up because of a rush order.
The end result is they weren’t happy with the increase in rates (hey, I’m not a slave) and the time and effort it would have taken was not worth it. So I decided I wouldn’t take on the project. Since I followed my list of questions to ask every client, I was able to weed out a potential client that would have been nothing but frustration in my business.
4. Can you tell me about your audience?
This is the key that will unlock the door to a myriad of possibilities. Have your client tell you everything they can about their audience. This is imperative when figuring out what kind of look and feel they’re going for with their brand. In my case, it helps me tailor writing content to the need of an audience. To a web designer, it may help them come up with a concept of colors and images.
Of course, the more you can get the better – age group, where they hang out, where they buy coffee, financial situation, etc. etc. etc. By the way, this is also a good way to find out whether or not your potential client is serious enough to have done any research on their part.
5. What problem does your audience face and how do your products/services help them?
This is more of a detailed follow-up to the previous question however just as important. By knowing what their audience is dealing with and how your client is able to help them you’ll be able to articulate it throughout the project. After all, if their audience can’t figure out the point then your client may not encounter much success.
6. What makes you different from your competitors?
If your client has given any serious thought to their business or project then they’ll have a clear idea of what makes them stand out from the rest. After all, nothing is new under the sun so they’ll need to be very sure of what sets them apart from their competitors. This, in turn, will further help you create something unique that is specifically tailored to their brand.
7. Describe your brand’s values in 5 words.
This is my favorite question to ask potential clients! It really gets their wheels turning which can help you some up with a clear vision of what they want. It’s also pretty interesting to hear what they come up with and why.
8. How soon can you come up with X% down payment?
I don’t start anything until I have a down payment and I make that very clear to my potential clients. Quite frankly we all have bills to pay and if your client isn’t cool with that then it’s usually a sure fire sign that they either don’t have the money or were planning on stiffing you anyway.
9. Follow up with your payment policies.
In my case, 50% of the total fee is due upfront before I even start working. The rest is due upon completion and the fee includes two rounds of rewrites.
The only time this doesn’t apply is if I’m working with major corporations because you have to go through payroll, accounting, etc. Many times they are also working through a third party like Contently or Skyword.
Regardless, it’s very important that you are clear on what your policies are. The more professional you are the better you look and it helps both you and your client stay on the same page. This is one of the big things I teach in my course, and I think it’s worth mentioning! It may not be a question, but your potential clients should be made well aware!
10. By when would you like my proposal/bid?
Agree on a deadline for sending over your proposal/bid. This will help the both of you set your schedules and get the process moving right along.
For more on how to make money in the new economy as a freelance writer, check out my online course, Make Money Your Honey with Freelance Writing.