Questions To Ask Prospective Copywriting Clients (reader question)
I received a Tweet from Twitter buddy Dennis Demori this morning. You can read it below:
Essentially, it was asking whether I had a set of questions I ask prospective clients. I do.
He then asked me if my questions were like Copyblogger’s “40 Questions You Need To Ask Every Copywriting Client.” They aren’t… for the most part.
In this article, I’ll give you an overview of my general approach, but first I’ll talk about what is wrong with the Copyblogger article.
40 Questions You Must Ask Every Copywriting Client
Let’s start with the title.
40 questions is overkill. If you ask a potential client forty questions before you begin, they will be bamboozled, irritated and they’ll probably go somewhere else. Remember they are offering to give you money here.
You can ask more than a handful of questions, but you have to do it in stages; and even then, forty is too much. That’s annoying and a lot of the questions on this list are redundant. I’ll get to that in a minute. Before then, let’s talk about the second half of the title.
“Every copywriting client.”
Sometimes, a client is going to say, “Can you write a 500 word article for my new email list?”
Why are you going to ask forty questions to that person?
Equally, someone might come to you and say, “Look… I work for a marketing company and we have 350 clients. Our copywriter has run off to Chiang Mai to start a dropshipping store so can you help us?”
“Every copywriting client” is going to cover neither those two situations nor the myriad of other situations you can come across.
Copywriting is about knowing your audience… and when you’re a copywriter, you’ll have different audiences coming to you. You need to treat them differently.
The Content: A Lot Of Those Questions Shouldn’t Be Questions
I don’t know if I was built differently to the majority of freelancers, but I see a lot of freelance questions that shouldn’t be questions.
The Copyblogger article is a prime example of what I mean by the above sentence.
“What’s your timeline for this project?”
“Do you have a hard deadline?”
Those questions are pretty weak. I wouldn’t ask either of them outright. I certainly wouldn’t separate them.
Together, those questions read as though you’re saying, “What’s your deadline… but what’s your real deadline in case I can’t make that deadline.”
A deadline is a deadline. You set yourself a hard deadline and it’s always in front of the soft deadline.
“Do you want me to work exclusively for you?”
“What’s your expectation for my availability?”
… And other work related questions.
Why are you asking these questions? They aren’t your boss. Those things are never on the table as far as I’m concerned. If they wanted an employee, they’d hire one.
“Are there restrictions/can I use this in my portfolio/etc?”
“Have you done any market research?”
“What are five words that describe how fluffy your office cat is?”
“What are you thinking of budget-wise?”
…Let me talk in general terms about why these questions shouldn’t be questions.
You’re supposed to run a business if you’re a freelancer of any kind. These questions shouldn’t be questions because you should already know the answer to them. You certainly shouldn’t ask endless questions about a budget, and you shouldn’t ask about the market or competitors or anything like that. It’s your job to know these things.
You know how much it costs you to produce a 500 word article, right?
And you know how to look up a company on Google and see what they’re up to?
You know how to describe a business or service?
And you know your rights for using the material, don’t you?
Phrase these things as part of your offer.
Don’t ask, “What’s the timeline for this project?”
Write in your proposal, “I will do this in X time.”
Don’t ask, “What are you thinking of paying?”
Write, “The cost of this service is usually X.”
Don’t ask, “What’s the market like and what do your competitors do?”
Do the research yourself. Find out what the competitors do and do it better.
Most of these things can be summed up by a single question; “Is there anything else you’d like me to incorporate?”
Payment methods, payment schedules and the like – “I accept these forms of payments due at this point.”
If you write these things as statements, then nobody is realistically going to query them. If you add, “If any of these things present a problem, let me know,” then your client will let you know if they can’t pay you by a certain method or they need the work done quicker than your schedule.
When you ask endless questions, you’ll end up getting paid less and doing more.
One Final Question That Really Shouldn’t Be On Any List
The majority of these questions would be OK if they weren’t in one great big list. Maybe that kills the subtlety and I’m being overly harsh.
However, the last question is just bad.
“If you’re considering turning me down based on price, could you let me know so I can consider rebidding?( If you’re worried about whether you’ve bid too high and you really want this client, this question could keep you in the running.)”
Why on Earth would anyone write this to a client?
You’re saying, “I might be charging you too much. If that’s the case, let me now so I can lower my prices.”
I really hope that everyone can see why that’s a bad idea. If not, let me know in the comments.
Alright… What Should I Ask Potential Copywriting Clients Then?
You should ask what you need to know.
This will depend on the client’s project and how the client came to you. In general, split up your potential clients in a manner like this:
- Cold client – someone you’ve approached.
- Cold client – someone who doesn’t know what they want or if you’re going to do it.
- Warm client – someone who knows they want you but needs a little guidance
- Warm client – someone who knows what they want and how they want it.
- Big client – someone who is looking for you to give them an ongoing, long-term plan.
You’ll know immediately what you’re dealing with. The difference between them is that you’re not going to sell to the warm clients. They’ve already done that… you just need to not mess it up. The cold clients need a little selling.
Generally, keep it all simple and straightforward.
Then split up your conversations into three stages:
- The sell (to cold clients)
- General information (what’s the project, who are the audience, what’s the goal?)
- The details (What you’re doing, when you’re doing it, how you’re doing it and the general project stuff)
- The technical considerations (When you get paid, how you get paid, etc.)
Notice I put “conversations” and not questions. Like I said above, a lot of these things shouldn’t be questions. When you take on a client, they’ll have goals, you’ll have goals and it’s a discussion.
Only ask questions you need to ask.
I haven’t given my actual process in this article, because it’s an individual thing (and I’ve frankly spent hours developing my various funnels… and I’ve learned recently that you shouldn’t give your entire system away.)
Still, you should be able to put together decent proposals from this article. Remember some key rules:
- Only ask what you need to ask. (The details of the project.)
- Things like deadlines and availability for the project are your decision and your responsibility. Don’t let the client dictate those things nor bear the weight of them.
- Budget is negotiable obviously, but it’s generally similar to the above
- Ask what you need to in order to complete the project, everything else should be stated with room for negotiation on the part of the client.
- Don’t ever say, “I might be charging too much, would you like me to do it for less money?”
- Set up templates so that you can deal with the different types of clients you’ll be dealing with and different stages of having them agree to the service.
Do those things and you’ll get clients. What’s more, you’ll get everything you need to have the project done, you won’t scare anyone off and both you and the client will leave the transaction happily.