Questions to Ask Your New Freelance Writing Client

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Landing a new client is pretty exciting, regardless of whether you’ve been a freelance writer for a few weeks or a few years. Your main responsibility as a freelance writer is to make your client completely satisfied with your work. In order to do that, you’ll need to know exactly what your client wants to accomplish with the project. Here’s a breakdown of the common questions freelance writers ask their clients to nail down the details of each assignment.

What would you like to accomplish with this project?

Some clients have only a bare bones idea of what they want, while others will be able to give you solid direction. Spend some time reviewing what the client has sent you so far and doing your own research on the subject. As you go through this process, you’ll surely find some areas that need clarification from the client.

For example, let’s say that you’ve been hired to write a skyscraper article (10,000+words) for a travel nursing recruitment agency. You already know that the article should provide step-by-step directions for getting started with travel nursing and making the most of each job. Based on this, it seems like the article should be geared toward nurses who are thinking of becoming travel nurses, but you’ll want to confirm this with the client before getting started. You may need to ask the client the following questions to get a firmer sense of what he or she wants to accomplish with the article.

  • Should the article emphasize the benefits of travel nursing and downplay the disadvantages?
  • Due to variations in internal policies among different agencies, should the article specifically reference your company’s policies as appropriate?
  • Should the article include “salesy” language encouraging nurses to sign up with the agency, or should it be more of a soft sell?

What is the scope of your project?

Once you know more about the client’s content preferences, it’s time to hammer out the details of the project. You’ll need to know the client’s preferred word count range, for instance. You could also ask the following questions:

  • Tell me about your brand voice. Should the tone be formal or informal? Entertaining or purely informative?
  • Should I include free, open license images?
  • Will this content be downloadable? If so, who will be responsible for putting the content into the correct file format?
  • What’s the deadline for this project? If a specific time is given, ask for the time zone.
  • How would you like the content delivered? Via email, Google Docs, or the client’s own CMS (content management system)?

Where does this project fit into your overall marketing campaign?

You probably won’t have to ask this question for every project. But for clients that hire you to write certain types of content, such as static pages, email blasts, or eBooks, it can be helpful to know about your client’s intentions regarding the overall marketing strategy. As an example, let’s say you’ve been hired to write one video script. You’ll need to know if the client intends to create a series of videos, or if the script you’re working on is a stand-alone product. If you’re writing a script intended to be part of a series, the script might need to include references to the previous videos in the series and hints to viewers about upcoming videos to encourage them to keep watching.

Can you show me any examples of similar content?

Sometimes, even after asking the client lots of questions about the project, a freelancer might have trouble figuring out exactly what the client wants. Perhaps there is confusion about the formatting requirements, style, or tone. Instead of repeating the same questions, ask the client for examples of similar content. You could ask the client to send you any marketing material from the company, for example. You could also ask them to point to a competitor’s website that they’d like to emulate.

Are there any topics or specific phrases that you prefer to avoid?

You can get a good sense of the client’s preferred writing style and tone by reading through the client’s website and any other available marketing materials. However, it’s still a good idea to ask if the client wants you to avoid mentioning specific topics, products, or services. Be sure to also ask if the client prefers to avoid certain phrases. As an example, a client that runs a daycare center might prefer that you avoid using informal words like “munchkins” or “kiddos,” even if parents themselves might use those words.

Do you have any internal or external linking requirements?

Some clients may want you to include at least one internal link, which is a link to a page of the client’s website. They may also want you to include one or more external links to other websites. If the client doesn’t want external links, and your content will include statistics, you should save the links to the references you used and pass those along to the client separately. In your content, be sure to attribute the statistics appropriately, such as by writing “According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 33% of baby boomers have had Botox” (FYI, that’s not a real statistic).

Would you like to include a CTA?

A call to action (CTA) refers to any writing that encourages the reader to take a specific action. It might encourage the reader to call to request an appointment, fill out an online contact form, or download the client’s eBook to learn more. CTAs are traditionally positioned at the end of the content. However, shorter CTAs or references to the client’s services are sometimes scattered throughout the content. The CTA is an ideal place to include a geographical keyword phrase for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. For example, you might write, “Ready to get your taxes done? Call (123) 456-7890 today to schedule an appointment at our tax prep office in Scottsdale, AZ.”

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