How a freelancer can answer the 4 key client questions

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In “4 basic questions a freelancer always needs to answer,” I talked about the importance of preparation in advance of a client meeting. Since every meeting, client, and freelance job is different — and your business is also unique — these aren’t “teacher’s guide” answers, but rather pointers toward formulating your own individual answers to key client questions.

A major caveat here: Your goal in a first client meeting is not to tell all about yourself and your freelance writing, design, or other services. It’s about figuring out how to help the client and making the sale, right? Ultimately, that’s about *asking* questions, which I’ll address in a future post.

What areas/industries/niches do you specialize in?/Tell me about your business/background. The key here is to be brief, not much more than an elevator pitch. It’s OK to talk about your breadth of experience as a freelancer, but no one wants to hear everything you’ve done. There are two ways to segue out of this segment: 1) Ask the client about themselves, or 2) Ask some specifics about the company or trends in their industry that show you’ve done your homework.

What’s your experience in my area/industry/niche (i.e., relevant portfolio samples)? It’s time to tell a story, illustrated by a portfolio sample if it’s appropriate. A professional speaker I recently interviewed, Bill Whitley, uses a fantastic concept called “client attraction stories” that provides a framework for a freelancer to accomplish that. If you don’t have something that’s an exact fit, that’s OK. Use the closest analogous sample and explain why it had a similar challenge/outcome to what they’re seeking, and why you think it could work for them.

What’s your usual process/how do you work? I’ll be honest, I hate this question. The little devil on my shoulder wants to answer, “How would you like me to work? That’s what I’ll do!” More prudently, I’ll talk briefly in general about brainstorming, outlines, approval processes, etc. — and then steer toward asking about their own expectations for the project.

How much do you charge/what’s your hourly rate/how do you charge? For me, the best positioning is to say that project pricing makes sense most of the time, and that I generally use a not-to-exceed estimated range. Inevitably, some ask about hourly rate. I prefer to answer directly, although I know some freelancers prefer to deflect back to talking about project fees. Whatever you answer, do it with confidence like you’ve said it a million times before.

These aren’t the only client questions you’ll get, but even with out-of-the-blue ones, the key is to always:

  • Be brief.
  • Illustrate with an anecdote about a successful client, and how you can do the same for your prospect; i.e., Whitley’s client attraction story.
  • Politely steer the conversation back to asking the client questions.
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  1. Anonymous says

    Good tips, but I still struggle with the whole hourly rate thing. I just feel like it’s such a potential turn off.

  2. says

    No one ever asks me about my “process!” Now I’m wondering why not. Everyone I talk to is obsessed with “how long would it take you on average to…?”

    I’m looking forward to your post on asking questions, which is an area where I could stand to improve. I definitely have the question version of l’esprit d’escalier.

  3. says

    Anon, I know — it’s difficult, but it gets better with time. The main thing, as I say in the post, is to give your figure with confidence. If the prospect freaks out, that’s telling you something.

    Valerie, I believe I just used a different phrase to express the same overarching factor: deadlines/timelines are a component of the process discussion, sometimes they’re the only thing the client asks about. (I suppose it depends on the complexity of the project.) It just happens that my most recent prospect had used that exact phrase so it’s what was stuck in my head like a ’70s song.

  4. says

    Great tips, Jake, and you’re so right — it’s important to try to keep the focus on how, specifically, you’ll help the client achieve their goals. And, I also favor using project rates. If the discussion warrants it, I’ll do the math to show how it looks using different pricing structures — and then explain the benefits of the structure I truly think makes sense for all concerned.