12 Questions to Ask a Prospective Client

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Article by Wendy McCance

When I started out as a freelance writer, the only thing scarier than prospecting for business was knowing what questions to ask once I snagged a client.

I read a few books and numerous articles trying to polish up my skills.  I wanted to have a list of questions ready to ask so that I was on the same page as my client.  It was also important to know what to ask because I needed to present myself as a confident professional who took on assignments all the time.

Each time a new project is started, I always have a few questions that need to be answered such as time frame for the project.  Even if I have done several assignments for the same client, there will always be at least a few inquiries.

Below is a list of the questions I typically ask.  To this day I keep a list handy in my portfolio.  I review it every now and then just to make sure I don’t miss a question that could keep me from understanding my client and the project at hand thoroughly.

Questions To Ask Each Time You Are Offered An Assignment

1. When will you be ready to start this project?  If the project will be a few months down the road, the potential client might be more interested in a, “meet and greet” than actually assigning you the project they have in mind.

In this situation, the best you can do is stay in touch and hope something develops down the road.

2. What is the deadline for this project?  Hopefully you are juggling other assignments and need to figure this new project into your schedule. Either way, you do need to know when you are expected to complete the job.

3. What information can you give me about this job?  If research is involved, ask if there is any documents on the subject that you can look over.  For copywriting jobs in particular, you need to know as much about the company and their product or service as can be provided.  You might need links to their website or a detailed description of their product or existing marketing material (for example).

4. What is your budget for this project?  This is a standard question to ask when it comes to very big projects that have many components.  For small projects like an article, press release, sell sheet and so forth, I go off of my price list.  I do make sure that the price list has been in the clients hands well before we begin talking about the assignment if at all possible.

5. Who is the target audience?  This helps you gauge how to write the piece and who to aim it at.

6. What tone would you like the piece to have? If you are writing an article or a blog post it is critical to know how to write it up.  Does the client want a conversational tone or more of a “just the facts” type piece?

7. How does the product or service help the targeted audience?
This is an important question because the answer can fill in many gaps for your outline of the piece.

8. What is most important for me to convey in this piece?  The client is sure to have specific points that they want expressed in the assignment you are putting together.

9. How is your company, product or service different from the competitor?  By asking this question, you are looking for that edge which will set your article apart from the competitor.

10. How will this project be distributed?  If you are writing a press release for example, you need to know if the client expects you to submit the release to the news outlets or if the company will be handling that task.  I state up front that I will do the write-up, but do not do any of the distributing.

11. Will I be have a byline for my article or will it be a ghostwritten piece? If you are writing an article or blog post, it makes sense to know if you will receive credit for what you are writing.

12. Who should I be contacting with any questions?  It’s important to know who you will be dealing directly with during the time you are on the project.

There are a few points that I will discuss up front when in negotiations with a prospective client.

Here are some additional points that should help you out when you are negotiating your services.

1.  The client gets a price list up front that details what I charge.  Research, meetings and interviews are also priced out on my list so there isn’t confusion about what I charge.

Even so, I state on the list that this is an estimate only.  Every project is different and some projects will cost more to do.

2.  I go over the price with the client and make sure we are on the same page. I make sure the fees are discussed and agreed upon before I begin working.

3. I send an email after our conversation to review what was discussed and to make sure that everyone is on the same page and in agreement with each other.

4. PayPal is the way I charge for my services and I will not do a second project until I have been paid for the first one.

What have I missed?  Are there some important points you would like to express?  Maybe you have some valuable tips that you would like to share. Please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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2 thoughts on “12 Questions to Ask a Prospective Client

  1. Hi Wendy,
    Thanks again for the information provided- took notes as usual.
    A quick question:
    What happens if after our first draft or the second, the client tells us, he does not want to use our work ? Do we still ask to be paid ? Or is it gone for ever ? Remember the article we have written is with them and they could potentially use it .
    Regards,
    Susie

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