How to Nail an Interview: 10 Good Interview Questions to Ask

Good interview questions to ask is what you need for your interview preparation as a new freelance writer.

Yikes – but you’re all new to this.

Hey, has this happened to you?

How to Nail an Interview: 10 Good Interview Questions to Ask

You sit at your desk and open  your inbox to see the flood of new emails pop up. You notice a reply from a writing 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 ask those good interview questions, 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 for a freelance writing job 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.

You really want to nail an interview the first time, right?

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, How to Nail an Interview: 10 Good Interview Questions to Ask, I’m going to tell you what you should ask when talking to a high-paying client.

Yes, you are interviewing the business.

As freelancers, you’re in control of who you want to collaborate with and having a set of standard interview questions to ask will help flush out clients from those who undervalue your services and from clients who know the importance of quality content.

Any good interview 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.

And, yes, there isn’t a lot to do for your interview preparation.

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.

How to Nail and Interview: Process

To prepare for an interview and nail it with a potential client, there are a few things to consider.

First, do you have proof of the type of writing this business is asking?

I do recommend my Writeto1k course students to pitch to anything and everything in the beginning to gain experience and a job.

But, if you don’t have proof of your writing niche, it will be hard to sell your writing services.

If you need help writing that first sample, I do have have the Writing Sample Starter Kit for you.

The next thing for to nail an interview the first time is to gain the confidence of your value as a writer.

Businesses may have the upper hand on the price for what they want, but it’s ultimately up to you to convey your value as a writer.

Be firm with your writing rate and be prepared to walk away.

Finally, you need to right tools to have a smooth interview process. Make sure you have

  • Good quality webcam
  • Proper lighting
  • Zoom to conduct your interview
  • Distraction free room and background
  • A notebook for notes

Since these interview will be conducted online via Zoom, having a background free of distractions and people is important.

Okay – let’s get into the popular interview questions to ask so that you are prepared to land that freelance writing job.

10 Good Interview Questions to Ask

To nail your interview as a new freelance writer, you need to be clear about what you are offering.

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 writing pitch you sent? For a new freelance writer, how do you know what interview questions to ask?

With your interview preparation, 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 freelance writing client may pick up on this and decide to go with another freelance writer or copywriter.

The good thing is you can have your notes of good interview questions to ask in front of you and, if you have time, you can rehearse the interview beforehand as a way to prepare.

So before you answer that phone or accept a Skype call, take a look at the ten good interview questions to ask a prospect.

1. How Long Have You Been in Business?

The longer a business has been “in business” the more successful they are, and more money they have to hire a freelance writer.

Part of your interview preparation to nail it successfully is to research the business that needs a writer beforehand. See if they have a Facebook page, email list and you can even get a little sneaky and go to Similar Web to see how much traffic they are getting and where that traffic is coming from.

Similar Web traffic for Grammarly
Similar Web for Grammarly traffic source

By knowing these aspects of the business you are interested in writing for can help you prepare the right job interview questions.

And a popular interview question to knowing how many years a business have been in business. Start ups typically don’t have the budget to pay writers a fair rate.

2. What Does Your Businesses do?

Understanding what a business does will help you with your writing for them. Knowing their brand and more importantly, their brand message, will help you infuse their message in your writing.

While this is a common interview question to ask, it is necessary to write for them. During my sales calls on Zoom, I always have the business owner tell me in their own words what their business does and who they help.

From this I can glean what is the most important aspect of their business is and use that as my foundation for their copywriting projects.

3. What’s the Budget for Your Project?

This is an important interview 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.

And to really nail an interview, you need to learn to negotiate and stand by your rate.

This is also an easy negotiating tactic and this interview question should be asked at the beginning of your meeting.

Some clients answer by being vague about their 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.

While this is a good interview question to ask, it isn’t always necessary. If a business already has a blog, it is enough for me to read their blog for me to understand their tone and not ask the business owner personally.

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.

So, part of your interview preparation is 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.

If you need more help about SEO I do have a budget-friendly course to help you:

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.

It’s up to you if that’s what you want to do, but if you do have bylined content you can build your portfolio easily.

So, make sure to ask this common interview question!

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 twins, 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.

During the interview process, I learn that the potential client not only wants weekly blog content, but they also want me to:

  • Source blog topics
  • Find places to guest post
  • Respond to comments

For me, I usually don’t take these types of freelance writing jobs. They are too exhaustive for me and all I want is a client that needs blog posts on a weekly basis.

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.

If the potential client doesn’t let you know this, make sure to ask this good interview question.

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.

Run your work through multiple grammar sites. I use the grammar checker in MS Word, Ginger Grammar Checker and PaperRater.

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?

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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28 Comments

Elna, every post you write I learn something. This is amazing. Becoming a freelance writer is something I would like to do. I am stumped by things like where to start to build a portfolio. But I am learning from you. And now I know what questions to ask. Thank you!Reply to Jane
Hi Jane! That’s awesome! I’m so happy you are leaning lots! Here’s a post to help you build your portfolio: https://elnacain.com/blog/freelance-writing-portfolio/Reply to Elna
Thanks for your useful suggestion you gave me. And I would also like to say that keep up with the good work ELNA as your blog is an eye-opener for Free lance writers like me. Regards Ikrant BhatiaReply to Ikrant
Thanks so much! Glad you found some tips on this post 🙂Reply to Elna
Thanks Elna for writing such a beautiful post. I have been struggling to get a client as and once the client took 3 contents from me of 1000 words each and did not even pay for the same. What to do in such cases as the client demand to see the work on their topic and say they make payments monthly and stuff like that. Can you tell me some portals where I can find genuine clients who require freelancers to write for them. Thank youReply to Ikrant
Hi! Thanks for coming over here 🙂 Freelance writing job boards are the best way for new freelance writers to get clients 🙂 Good luck!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Thanks so much for this post! I received an email from a potential client after cold emailing a bunch of tech companies. I scheduled a phone interview this Thursday, and have been fretting over what to say. xx, ChristianReply to Christian
Hey Christian, That’s great and it sounds promising, but don’t worry! You’ll do great.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I have become a fan of your writing; it is clear, concise, and most important—sympathetic. I am really enjoying the step by step tutorial of freelancer journey.Reply to Abhishek
Thanks so much! It’s important to ask these questions for new clients 🙂 Good luck.Reply to Elna
Thanks for opening so many eyes Elna! And it definitely seems like your excellent ten questions, will prepare practically any freelance writer , (but especially) a fairly inexperienced newbie,effectively compete in the marketplace. And no doubt, you have potentially shaved years off of their learning curve! Thanks for sharing some really practical tips!Reply to Mark
Elna! Such great information! I finally got things organized enough I’ve got some time to come and start reading your series and I love this article, really. It’s so scary to step into doing something you’ve never done, it’s nice to have this information to sort of hold my hand and walk me through it.Reply to Kelly
Hi Kelly! Thanks for the comment. I posted my last blog post for this series, but February is a new series that I hope my readers will enjoy. Stay tuned! ElnaReply to Elna
Excellent article. However, I would not ask your number two question. “What Does Your Businesses do?” In my opinion, this makes it sound as if you didn’t even check to see what their company does. I know you stated earlier in the article, “You smile, give yourself a pat on the back and begin to research everything and anything about this prospective client’s business.” But, some “newbies” might just write down the ten questions and forget that you also stated, indirectly, they should research their prospective client prior to the interview. I signed up for your newsletter and I am looking forward to your next segment. Thanks StephenReply to Stephen
Thanks Stephan for replying and singing up! I can see why you wouldn’t ask “what does your business do?” It does sound as if you have no clue going into the interview. I just feel it’s a formality is all. It gives the owners time to tell me exactly what type of business they are and who their clients or products are. They offer a better insight than if I had researched them online.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Great article for newbies. I’m excited to read your next post since I’m curious how you deal with clients who compare your services or rates to bid sites or content mills.Reply to Jun
Hi Jun, I haven’t been approached by clients who deal with content mills. I assume businesses who seek low paying writers, don’t expect quality (and when I tell them my rates, I’d be surprised if they stuck around). I’m trying to teach new freelance writers to look beyond content mills and bid sites and to roll up their sleeves and do a little marketing work. I never got work off Guru or oDesk. My rates may have been a bit too high, I don’t know, but am glad I never got hired. Writing for content mills sours your writing and can make you lazy (i.e. not want to to the leg work for quality content like researching, interviews and fact-checking). Hopefully my series will direct newbies in the right direction of better paying gigs. Thanks for commenting. My next article will be on determining your rates. How does a freelance writer know what they are worth?Reply to Elna
I am so happy to see you are educating newbie freelancers what questions to ask their prospective clients, Elna – to my regret, many freelancers (newbie or not) don’t ask any questions at all. It’s a pity… If I may add one question which everybody should always ask a prospect – “what do you expect of me”? This helps the freelancer determine what your client’s expectations are. The way this question is answered tells you a lot about the client, too – how much he knows about working with writers (in your case), work process, writing process, and so on! Hope this helps, Diana 🙂Reply to Diana
Diana, Thanks for leaving a comment! Asking questions to prospective clients can be an anxiety-provoking situation. I know I bombed the first of my interviews simply because I didn’t know the right types of questions to ask. I forgot to ask about their target audience or when the turnaround time is. I also failed to ask about their company, their competition and how prevalent they are in their niche. I do have additional questions for those who sign up to my newsletter, so I will make sure your question is on there! Thanks. PS, your blog is one of my go-to blogs for learning about the business of freelance writing! ElnaReply to Elna
Thanks for the kind words, Elna – I am glad my blog is helpful to you! As you know, I am not writers’ focused (as I am not a writer) – I wouldn’t have a clue how to show starting freelancers how to conduct expert interviews or how to craft the perfect pitch letter for a magazine. But there is so much more to freelancing than the profession specifics – be it writers, designers, programmers, marketers, or whatever else comes to mind. And that non-profession specific information is equally (maybe even more) important. As you may be a brilliant writer but if you lack personal qualities and traits, or time management skills, or a million other things, you will still not succeed as a freelance writer… So I thank you for your support and appreciation 😀Reply to Diana
I’m bad at interviews. Need to work on it. :pReply to Lem
Hi Lem, Having interviews can be overwhelming. I know when I first started interviewing for this profession, I was extremely nervous and didn’t say much. It’s only with practice and getting yourself out there that you start to relax and enjoy meeting new people! I hope my questions eased any feelings you have towards interviews! Good luck. ElnaReply to Elna
Hi Elna, Your posts are informative and very helpful. I look forward to your upcoming posts. Happy New Year 2015.Reply to Kashmira
H Kashmira! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you feel my questions are helpful for freelance writers. For me, I always get tongue-tied when I’m speaking to a prospective client, so having questions handy really helps take the edge off the interview process.Reply to Elna
These are great and should help people get more jobs 🙂Reply to Julie
Thanks Julie for your comment! Really appreciate it. I believe these questions can help freelance writers weed out prospective clients that know the value of content from those that don’t.Reply to Elna
I like your idea of having a series on your blog, Elna. I can’t wait to read your upcoming posts! 🙂 I hope you had a great holiday and are ready to tackle 2015 with gusto! I am! Talk soon, maybe at Starbucks again?Reply to Lorraine
Hi Lorraine, Glad you are keeping up with my posts! I will be doing a few more posts on the Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies. I’m enjoying writing the series and I hope it’s something my readers and subscribers want to learn. Thanks for leaving a comment! My holiday was great! And I’m busting to get out there in 2015. I hope your 2015 will be prosperous and exciting. How was your holiday? Starbucks again sounds like a plan. I’ll let you know when I can!Reply to Elna