business of freelancing

The questions you absolutely must ask potential clients

By December 12, 2018 June 29th, 2019 4 Comments

There’s a lot to think about when you start working with a new client. It’s imperative that you have a clear brief, a detailed scope of work and set deliverables. I’ve found that if you don’t have these from the outset, a productive and stress-free working relationship can be very difficult to achieve. By having an established project intake process, you’re much more likely to get the information you need and be able to judge if the project is a good fit for you.

The questions freelance writers must ask new clients 

I have a (very simple) new client questionnaire template that I send to all prospective clients.

Quite embarrassingly, I’m still doing this as a word document and attaching it to an email, but one day I will take the advice from my friend and fellow freelance writer, Lilani Goonesena and set up this form in Google Drive.  

My project intake template is a fairly straightforward document, but I can’t tell you how important it is.

I really don’t think you should put together a proposal for a client without asking them to fill in a project intake form first.  

I get lots of questions from freelance writers about what to do when a potential client contacts them and is interested in assigning them some work, so I wanted to share with you what I put into my new client questionnaire.

For your information, I’ve also included the reason why I’ve asked particular questions.

I don’t always include every single question for all my potential clients – but this is pretty much my standard intake form.  

Some people (especially small business owners) may feel overwhelmed at filling this in, so it’s totally okay for you to jump on a call with them and talk them through all the points and fill it in while you speak to them.

This can often be a better way of doing it as you get a chance to respond immediately to their questions and you can judge what kind of client you think they’ll be.

However you do it, it’s just important that you do it!

Questionnaire for (potential) new clients

Name:

Company/organisation/business name:

Contact details:

Will you be the decision-maker for this project?

 (This is really important to know – sometimes you can get the go-ahead on a project, but the person you have been liaising with may not have the ultimate say or sign off power)

 Have you worked with freelance writers in this past?

 (This is a good question to ask because if they haven’t worked with freelance writers before, it’ll be your responsibility to guide them through the process, and if they have, you can ask gently probing questions about what worked well/didn’t work well)

How did you find out about me?

 (This is to see which referral channels are working for you – is it from LinkedIn? Your website? Word of mouth?)

Please describe the project and the type of content required:

 (What does the client want you to do? Blog posts? White paper? Social media content? Website copy? Q&As?)

 Who is your target audience/reader/consumer?

 What stage are you at with this project?

(You want to find out here if they have already made a start on the project – perhaps they have tried writing articles themselves or they have engaged another freelance writer. If they have already begun – ask to see what they have created so far)

 What are your overall aims with this project? How will you know if it’s meeting those goals?

(This question is crucial to ask for a number of reasons – you want to find out their objectives because then you can judge whether you can meet their needs or not, and you can also start to think about how you can help them reach their goals. Just say a client wants to ‘get more blog readers’ then you know to ask about how many readers they currently have, how they are tracking their analytics and so on. It’s also so important to ask whywhy do they want more blog readers? What will that give them?)

Is this project likely to be a once-off or ongoing?

Do you have a deadline in mind?

What is your estimated budget for this project?

Can you think of any challenges that may be associated with this project?

How do you like to work with freelancers?

(This is a good question to help determine if they would like to have weekly check-in phone calls – and you need to know that so you can include that into your content proposal costings or if they are happy with you updating them via email every fortnight. This is a good opportunity for you to discuss your availability and what you can and can’t provide (e.g. you may wish to set up a folder in Google Drive or Dropbox that you both can access so they can pop any questions they have into that and then you can discuss during your regular phone calls).

Depending on the type of content they want you to produce, you may also need to ask about:

Length of content

Interviews required (do you source them or do they, how many and can the interviews be conducted via email?)

Level of research needed

SEO optimised and keywords provided?

Will your byline be on the work?

How many rounds of edits/amends?

Do you need to provide images?

If they have preferred platforms or tools they like to use

Of course, you may want to add or subtract various questions depending on your client. This is also a good resource for the types of questions you can ask.  

Once the potential client has filled in the form I then develop a content proposal with rates and send it over to them.

I’ve found that using this process removes a lot of the headaches that may crop up later. Making sure you’re both on the same page is absolutely imperative to having a successful relationship with your client.

Do you have a new client questionnaire template? Is there anything you’d add to this one?

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