When negotiating with potential freelance clients, there are several questions that a freelancer needs to ask before they accept a new project. These questions will allow the freelancer to know who they are dealing with, why this client wants to work with them, what project they will be working on, why is the project important for the client and more besides. By knowing the answers to these questions, a freelancer can then judge whether to accept work from the client or move on.
I’ve listed 10 questions you need to ask your potential freelance clients before you start working with them here. Of course, you don’t have to ask all 10 in an interview. Some questions the client will already answer for themselves and there might be other questions you might want to ask, depending on specific freelance clients and projects, but in any case, I’ve found these 10 to give me the best picture.
1. Is This Your First Time Working with a Freelancer?
There are two main reasons to ask potential freelance clients this particular question. First, it will tell you what their experience, if any, is when working with freelancers in general. If you are the first freelancer they ever worked with, expect a lot of start-stop during the course of the project, mostly because the client may not know in a lot of situations how to proceed himself. Write it down to his inexperience in other words. Personally, I don’t prefer working with freelance clients who don’t have any experience with freelancers, simply because the communication may not be the best and it may take a longer time to complete even a relatively simple project with them.
The second reason why you should ask potential freelance clients this question is to gauge their satisfaction with their previous client and to learn why are they making the change. Did they change a lot of freelancers before they came to you? What is their relationship with previous freelancers? You should try to find as much as you can about the relationship the client had with the freelancer before you and also, if possible, learn the other side of the story from the freelancer himself. Naturally, the client will sugar-coat everything about themselves and the project, but the previous freelance may have a completely different tune to sing, one that involves a non-paying or an otherwise bad client.
2. What is the Budget for This Project?
Asking freelance clients this questions will first of all let you know if your price meets their budget at all. It’s important to insist on this question, rather than simply asking “how much will I be paid?” since it will tell you how serious the client is and whether you should even consider working with them or not. If the client refuses to talk about the budget or doesn’t give you at least a ballpark budget range (these things constantly change, the client may get more funding in the meantime for the project for instance), my advice is to skip that client.
Beside freelance clients who refuse to discuss their budget at all, you should also be careful when someone is offering to pay you considerable more than your usual fee. These clients may be scammers and you should definitely stay away from them.
3. What Does This Project Mean for You?
It’s important to know why the client has decided to start this project in the first place. What does he expect from it? Is it a top-priority project or a side one? Also, ask them how they envision the final product should look. The more you understand about the client’s expectations for the projects, the better your understanding of the stakes will be.
By answering this question, the client will also in a way answer another unposed questions you might have and that is: “do I have what it takes for this project to be successful?”.
4. Can You Show Me Examples of What You Need?
It’s easy to get the wrong idea from what the client tells you about the project. Rather than rely on their clarification, which especially if they’ve never worked on a project like this, can be faulty, you should ask them to give you some examples of what they are looking for. For example, if they need blog posts, ask them to point you to some sites they would like your posts to be similar to. Or, if they are looking for web design, what web pages on the Internet are most like what they want.
Of course, bear in mind that each client wants something unique for themselves and blatantly copying the examples they give you is not the way to satisfy your freelance clients.
5. Who Will be My Contact During the Project?
Trust me, you want to ensure that your communication with freelance clients is as streamlined as possible. The more people you need to communicate with over the course of the project, the less chance it will be run well. If one person is sending you topics to write about and you have to ask another one to approve your content, and yet another one for payment, don’t expect anything good out of that project.
Always insist on one contact person for all aspects of the project. Also, make sure to also ask what the best way to contact that person is. Is it by email, Skype, phone or some other way, as well as their availability. You’ll want to know when is the best time of the day to contact them if you have a project-specific question and need a clarification about something.
This, of course, will be the person you can go to not only to approve your work, but also in case anything comes out during the project that needs further clarification.
6. What are the Payment Terms?
If you ask this first, don’t hope the interview to last very long. By asking about money first, you’ve already lost most freelance clients interest in hiring you for their project. Always first ask about their company and about the project itself (such as why the project is important to them?). How much you will get paid is, admittedly an important question, but one that needs to wait until those have been answered.
Of course, you don’t want to just know the figure, but also the terms of payment. Is this a fixed or hourly project? Is payment received when you send the final draft or when it is approved? Or perhaps you need to wait till the end of the month? All of these will tell you how well your efforts will be rewarded by this client.
You should also ask how the client will make the payment and if it will be through PayPal, bank account or in some other way.
7. How Long Do You Expect the Project to Take?
All good things eventually must come to an end and it’s the same with any projects you may be working on with freelance clients. This question also encompases many sub-questions in itself that will be also important for you to get answered, such as for instance, if the project has a specific deadline, are there any penalties for missing out this deadline, how many pages or posts the client requires, etc.
The deadline may not be fixed and if the client decided to extend the project a little further, that’s a good thing for you. After all, you want a long-term relationship with your clients, rather than working on small, one-time projects. It will also tell you how much time you need to allocate for the project and when you should start looking for new freelance clients to replace this one.
8. How Often Do You Need Updates on the Project?
Collaboration is the key to a successful project and updating your client on the progress you’ve made is an important part of that. This really depends on the type of the project, so for some projects you may be asked to deliver an update every day, while for others it will be enough to do it once per week. You should also know how you should update the clients and whether this will be via email, Skype, Slack or some other way.
Also, stay away from clients that constantly ask you how far you are with the project and generally seem like they are pushing you to finish it as soon as possible. I once had a client who Skyped me every 30 minutes to see if I’ve finished an article and it was not worth the trouble. In the end, I turned off Skype while I was working and turned it back on to tell her that the project is finished.
9. Will the Project Lead to More Work or is it a One-Time Thing?
As freelancers, you should aim for repeat business and to keep clients for as long as possible. After all, if the client is happy with your work, pays you well and respects you, why change him for something unknown? Why you occasionally do need to get new clients, keeping your old clients is important as well.
This is why it’s important to know from the beginning if the project you are presented is only a one-time thing or is it something that will potentially lead to more work in the future. There is nothing wrong with short projects, but that also means chasing new clients, negotiating your terms every time and spending valuable time trying to establish a good communication with new clients. With old and repeat clients, you already know all of this and the project can alsmost run on autopilot.
10. Who Will Own the Intellectual Rights?
Reputation is really everything for a freelancer and the best way to establish your reputation on the Internet is by having your name featured on a post you’ve written. That way, when other potential freelance clients read an article you’ve wrote for this client, they’ll want to hire you. Keep in mind, however, that most clients will want to keep intellectual rights for themselves and that’s entirely okay. but if they’re okay with letting you have them, you can use this to build up your reputation.
Whatever their answer may be, always ask if it will be okay with the client to let you use your work for them for your online portfolio.
Negotiating with potential freelance clients can be difficult and it may take time. You sometimes might be tempted to rush everything and simply accept a new project, but without knowing exactly what you are stepping into you can hardly know if you will be able to deliver what the client needs or not.
What do you ask your freelance clients before you start working with them? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this post and subscribe to my blog.