Has this happened to you?
You sit at your desk and open your inbox to see the flood of new emails pop up. You notice a reply from a pitch you sent out not too long ago, asking for a phone interview.
You smile, give yourself a pat on the back and begin to research everything and anything about this prospective client’s business.
When it’s time to interview the client, you seem to have forgotten what to say or what to ask.
Before ending the conversation, you feel there’s no way the client is going to hire you and you hang up your cell phone, crushed at ever thinking you could’ve pulled the interview off.
If you are a new freelance writer, landing your first client is exciting, but nerve racking.
In addition to brushing up on your interview skills, new freelance writers have to portray themselves as if they’ve been doing this for years and that this client is just another gig in their portfolio.
It can be a recipe for disaster, but it doesn’t have to be.
My blog series, Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies, is for the new freelance writer who is navigating the journey to getting their first high-paying client, acing the client meeting and determining their rates.
For those of you that aren’t new to freelance writing, you can benefit from this blog series, as well.
My first blog post in the series, Landing Your First Client, talks about what I did to grab my first high paying client.
In this post, 10 Questions to Ask A Prospective Client, I’m going to tell you what you should ask when talking to a high-paying client.
As freelancers, you’re in control of who you want to collaborate with and having a set of standard questions will help flush out clients from those who undervalue your services and from clients who know the importance of quality content.
Any questions I have are usually typed up and easy to access when I’m meeting with clients over the phone or in person. It helps, but I find that my nerves often get in the way.
For me, I need more practice meeting with different clients. The more I talk about my services and what I can offer to a company, the easier it is to sound credible.
What Do New Freelance Writers do When They Get an Interview?
Just to clarify, you are interviewing the client to see if their company is a good fit for your services.
We are not employers; we are entrepreneurs.
So what happens when you suddenly get a “call back” on a pitch you sent? For a new freelance writer, how do you know what to ask?
You want to sound like you know what to say, but your nerves and your lack of knowledge leaves you in a vulnerable position. The client may pick up on this and decide to go with another freelancer.
The good thing is you can have your notes in front of you and, if you have time, you can rehearse the interview beforehand.
So before you answer that phone or accept a Skype call, take a look at the 10 questions to ask a prospect.
1. How Long Have You Been in Business?
2. What Does Your Businesses do?
3. What’s the Budget for Your Project?
This is an important question to ask because it will tell you right away what clients value in written content. It also tells you whether or not they can afford you.
This is an easy negotiating tactic and should be asked at the beginning of your meeting. Some clients will be vague about the budget and tell you the entire budget for the project and not your direct part in it. If this is the case, let them know your rates at this time to see if it scares them off.
Always remember, if they can’t afford you, then they aren’t the right client for you.
4. Who is the Target Audience For the Project?
It’s important to know whom you are writing for. Who will be reading the blog? How old are the people purchasing your product? Do you find one gender gravitates towards your product?
Your writing will benefit from knowing the specifics of the client’s audience.
5. What is the Tone of Your Article or Blog Post?
Businesses have a brand that is conveyed through the tone of their website. In order to capture their brand, freelance writers must know the tone, or feel, businesses want to show their audience. Some clients want you to write in a conversational tone. A lot of freelance writers view this as easy (like me), and it’s often easier to convey.
Other clients require a more formal or technical tone for their content. You may have to follow specific style guides like MLA or Chicago Writing Style. One of my clients wants me to follow the Canadian Press, or CP Writing Style.
6. Do You Want Your Content to be Optimized for Search Engines or Social Media?
Sometimes your client may not know the benefits of either editorial SEO or SMO. It is our job to educate our prospective clients on the benefits of both SEO and SMO.
If you find that your client relies heavily on SEO tactics, then you know that keyword density is a focus in each article or blog post you will write for them.
On the other hand, if your client values SMO tactics, then you know gaining social media attention is their main objective.
7. Will I Have a Byline or Will it be Ghostwritten?
As a freelance writer, I want recognition for my writing, so it’s important for me to know before I take on a new client, whether or not I will have a byline or my name attached to my content. I usually offer a small discount as an incentive when the client includes my name.
8. How Often do You Need Content?
Knowing how much time you will be devoting to a particular client can help gauge whether or not you will take them on.
Since I’m a mom with twin toddlers, I have limited time to devote to my business. I want to make sure that the clients I have fit my schedule and that I don’t end up burning out from the constant pressure of meeting deadlines.
9. How Many Words are Needed?
For articles, press releases, blog posts or white papers, it’s nice to know how many words are required for the written assignment. It also helps in judging how much you are getting paid per word.
10. Do You Have an Editor on Staff?
If you aren’t working for a magazine or print businesses, there’s a good chance you won’t be submitting your work to an editor. It’s good information to know beforehand.
While every freelance writer edits their own work, if you know your work is going to a site manager instead of an editor, you might want to pay more attention to your work.
In my next post for Freelance Writing for Newbies, I’m going to talk about setting your rates as a freelance writer. This can be hard when you know there are freelance writers who will work for pennies while others work for dollars.
How do you decide your rate? Find out in my next post!
Until then, what have you found to be the deal breaker when talking to a prospective client?