You decided to start a freelance writing business. Then you worked hard perfecting your pitch and trying to find paying gigs. And now the time has arrived – you have a potential client who wants to hire you. It’s an amazing feeling. But, before you accept a freelance writing gig, you need a little more information.
You must take the time to ask the client questions. These questions will make sure the gig is a good fit for you. They also give you the insight you need to do a great job completing the gig.
And when you’re trying to grow a freelance writing business, turning in quality work is key.
To help you do just that, here’s a quick list of the five questions to ask before you accept a freelance writing gig.
- Who is your target audience?
- What is your objective of this piece?
- Do you have a style guide?
- How would you like this delivered, and when do you need it by?
- What is your budget and payment process?
Ready to learn why you should ask each one of these? Let’s dive in a little deeper.
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1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
You need to know who you’re writing for. Once you learn who the target audience is, you can think about what they would like to read.
Are they okay with informal, conversational writing? Or do you really need to be professional and align closer to the formal side of the continuum?
The more you know about who you are trying to serve with your writing, the easier it will be for you to write well.
2. What Is Your Objective for This Piece?
You could also ask, “What is your primary goal for this piece of writing?” The purpose of it is to help you ensure you’re writing matches the client’s goal.
Try to learn what the purpose of this piece will be. Is your client trying to drive traffic to a particular product? Or do they want to encourage people to sign up for their email list?
Perhaps they are using it as an educational piece, to help move their potential leads closer to realizing they need a service.
When you know what the goal is, you can create a stronger piece of writing. You will know what the target is and aim more accurately at it.
This will help you ensure that your call-to-action is aligned correctly. You can also verify that the word choices you make help inspire the reader to do what the client is hoping.
3. Do You Have a Style Guide?
There are so many websites out there. And they all do things slightly differently. Some companies adhere closely to APA style. Others embrace MLA. Or a different formalized style guide.
There are companies that want every post to start with a question. And those that like to integrate stories throughout. Some prefer bullet points. Others want shorter paragraphs and subheading every 250 words.
In a global sense, there’s not one right way to write a blog post. Or anything else. But, to your client? There is a definite right way. And if you don’t abide by their style guide, you are wrong.
Not every company has a written style guide. In that case, do your best to spend time researching a little more carefully. Read their existing content and look for patterns that stick out.
If you are given a style guide, read it carefully. Then read it again once you’re done writing. Look for areas where you can improve to better match the style guide.
This will take longer the first few times you write for this client. But you will eventually learn to match their style without having to think about it. And, the effort will be worth it when you submit a post the client doesn’t have to spend time reformatting or reworking to make it match.
4. How Would You Like the Content Delivered, and When Do You Need It?
I know, technically this is two questions. But they go together so well I didn’t want to separate them.
How are you delivering this piece to your client?
Do they want a link to an editable Google Doc? Or a Word document? Should you send it as an attachment in an email, or upload it directly to the backend of WordPress?
And, when do you need to have it to your client by? This is your deadline and it’s essential. Do not miss your deadline. Especially don’t miss it without communicating with your client.
Emergencies sometimes pop up. Life happens. But do everything in your power to get that client work done on time.
A quick word about deadlines. You need to be realistic. Think about all your life responsibilities and what’s going on between now and the deadline.
When do you think you can have this piece done by? Once you have a date in mind, try to give yourself one or two extra days as a buffer. That way if something comes up, you aren’t late.
And one more thing…clients need to be realistic too. If they demand a super tight turnaround (like within 4 hours or even 24 or 48), you can really learn more about this client. Their response about how long this “should” take you will give you insight into how much the client values the process.
Your deadline is an important part of the gig negotiation process, so definitely take the time to ask about it.
5. What Is Your Budget and Payment Process If I Accept this Freelance Writing Gig?
You launched your business to make money, not to write for free. Even though it may feel uncomfortable at first, you must ask about payment before you accept a freelance writing gig.
You need to know if this assignment is going to be worth your time. If you’re writing for pennies per word (or even less), you aren’t creating a sustainable freelance writing business. You will get burnt out more quickly, and stress more about the financial aspect.
Not earning enough may leave you wondering how freelance writers ever make a real living. Underpaid is a frustrating place to be, so don’t let yourself stay there.
When you ask about money, also take the time to learn more about the payment process. Does your client have a preferred method of payment that you can use when you invoice? Do they have a certain invoicing system you need to follow?
You don’t want there to be any surprises when it comes to payment, so make yourself an informed freelancer.
Not Every Client Is a Good One
When you’re first starting out, you may be tempted to accept any freelance writing gigs that come your way. Please don’t.
Take the time to learn more about each opportunity. Ask these five questions.
As you get the responses, listen to your gut. If you get a sense that something is off, walk away. Red flags are red for a reason. You are not obligated to write a piece just because someone asked you to.
There are good clients out there. So, don’t waste your time working for the wrong ones. You can make a good living from home, as a freelance writer.