Landed a New Freelance Writing Client? Ask These 7 Questions First

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 04/03/23 •  11 min read

Every freelancer needs to develop one essential skill: asking questions — especially for your clients. 

But way too often, new freelancers push that aside because they’re focused on the end game, the paycheck.

Look, I get that.

But here’s the reality: you may never get paid if you don’t get all those details set before starting a project.

That’s because it may turn out the client is a bad fit, you didn’t know the scope, or you couldn’t deliver because you weren’t sure of the deadline.

All this is stuff you need to know before starting any new work, and that’s why knowing the right freelance client questions to ask is so important as you get into your freelance writing career.

A Story of Two Freelancers

At Location Rebel Academy, we work primarily with new freelancers. They’ll land a potential lead or new client and want to dive right into writing, ignoring all the little details.

But that’s missing a super important part of the process: getting the details down. When you don’t do that, miscommunication makes it much easier to get into trouble. And suddenly, before you know it, there’s a falling out, and the client is gone.

Successful freelancers take the opposite approach. They’ll say, “Great, this sounds good, but before we work together, I’ve got a few questions.” 

These questions help ensure everyone is on the same page and that the new client relationship is off to a good start. 

See the difference? That’s what I want to highlight here, seven freelance client questions you should ask before you agree to work.

Pro tip: NEVER be afraid to ask questions. If you’re working with someone annoyed you’re asking too many clarifying questions? Run.

They’ll likely never be happy with the results regardless of how well-written your content is.

If you want to check out this post in video form, watch below:

Question #1: What’s your budget?

Let’s face it, we all want to know about the money, so deal with it upfront. 

Before taking on any freelance writing job, you should ask it. In fact, I try to get an answer to this question before I even hop on a call with prospective clients. 

If you don’t ask about the budget upfront, you risk selling yourself short and missing out on potential earnings. And it also helps ensure you’re getting paid what you’re worth.

Remember, this is a business deal. It’s okay if a client’s budget doesn’t fit your rates. If that happens, you can:

But don’t blow up your rates to match theirs. If it’s not a budget fit, it’s not a fit. Move on.

Not sure how to set your rates? This post will help.

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Question #2: What are your content needs?

Next, you want to get into the details of what the client needs. “A writer” isn’t an answer. This gets into what’s called the project’s scope, the general details the client wants. 

If you don’t know what they want you to provide, it’s much harder to price your services. So, some basic questions include:

Every client is going to have a different set of needs. So, it’s important to understand the scope of the job upfront to help you price it and see if it fits into your schedule.

It’s amazing how many freelancers don’t figure out the project’s scope early on. Instead, they get so caught up in someone wanting them to write they don’t ask any questions about the project’s details.

If it’s clear your client is looking for a lot of help across a variety of content channels, then this post about content repurposing will help you be the one to get more work.

Question #3: What’s the timeline?

Next, you need to figure out the timeline of the project. It helps you figure out if the project works for your schedule, gives you an idea of the turnaround times, and helps you set expectations.

If you find out the client has unrealistic expectations for quick turnarounds; then you can tell them it’s not possible or charge them more for delivering work faster.

So you’ll want to know:

These answers vary depending on the client. 

For example, you may need to turn your work around quickly in some gigs, like more news-orientated or daily content sites. But many B2B brands have longer turnaround times, where you have a week or more to work on your content.

So make sure you’re on the same page with your client with timelines and deadlines. 

I like Asana for managing my calendar and deadlines. But there are a lot of different project management tools you can use to make your life easier.

Question #4: What are the guidelines?

A lot of new freelance writers don’t think about this question. And frankly, many brands don’t do a great job of communicating it. But knowing brand guidelines can be really valuable because it makes it easier to deliver what the client wants, which can cut down on back and forth and edits.

So ask the client if they have a writer’s or style guide for the type of content they want. The guides usually have the following information:

So before you start, make sure you have this information. It will make it so much easier to write.

And here’s a final hidden tip. If a potential client doesn’t have a writer’s guide, offer to create one for your client.  

Question #5: What is the writing and submission process?

We covered a lot of the general stuff, but now it’s time to get into the details. These questions help you learn about the actual writing process and how it will work between you and the client. 

So here are some things to find out:

With this information, you can feel much more comfortable about the process. And what you can expect from the client, since that’s an important part of a good working relationship too.

Question #6: How are you getting paid?

Okay, let’s get to the money part. Before diving into anything, you want to know how you will get paid. I’ve seen many freelancers jump into taking on a project only to find out later they have no idea if or when they are getting paid. 

We want to avoid that. So, let’s look at some questions to ask:

One last thing with payment, if you’re using PayPal, be prepared for transaction fees. In a lot of cases, you may have to cover these, not the client. So raise your rates slightly to help make up for those costs (it’s usually about 3% of the total).

I think it’s a good idea to accept a couple of different ways of payment to make things easier. So if you sign up for a business PayPal account and then something like Stripe and offer to accept direct deposit, you will cover your bases.

Question #7: What are the next steps?

By now, we’ve covered almost everything most people will encounter. But, depending on the client, there may be a few other steps to the onboarding process to take care of before you’re up and running.

Here’s what to ask:

The goal is to understand what’s expected from you and the client during the onboarding process. 

Clients who work with freelancers regularly will have all this information down pat. And in most cases, they’ll provide it to you. But, if you’re working with a company that hasn’t hired many freelancers, having this information from the jump can ensure you’re both on the same page.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

One last thing…if you aren’t sure, ask questions! So many times, I see people too afraid to ask these questions upfront. They worry that if they ask a question, the client will get frustrated or annoyed and not want to work with them anymore.

But trust me, that doesn’t happen. Most of the time, the client is happy to answer questions and clarify things. They want you to ask rather than guess and get it wrong, which adds time and effort to the process. 

And if the client does get annoyed? Well, then, that’s a red flag. And you may not want to continue working with them.

Plus, asking questions upfront shows you take your job seriously and are professional. It shows you want to make sure you have good communication with the client and want to do a good job. 

Those are all positives in your favor.

So please, do not hesitate to ask any new client these questions to give yourself as much information and clarity on the job as possible. You’ve got this!

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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