We are almost there. Here is the ninth rule in “The 12 Rules of Freelance Writing“. What a journey so far. Today we are going to learn all about WHY we need to know a potential client, and how we do that.
One absolutely critical element as a freelance writer is to understand your client, their wants, their needs and their business. Why? Because it makes us better writers! It means there will be no misunderstandings and what your write will truly capture the image and voice of your client.
Now we know WHY it is so important to get to know your client. We need to move onto the HOW.
HOW do you get to know a potential client?
If it is a business or company you have pitched, you obviously already know the basic information about them. (I am sure you researched potential clients before pitching to them??)
If it is someone who has approached you, then you will need to find out basic information (what is their business, what they need, does it fall into your niche and skillset?)
After exchanging a few emails or a phone call, you will gather some more information. This will help you in beginning to form a Creative Brief.
What questions should you ask initially?
Other than the obvious question about the actual project, some other initial questions you need to ask:
- What is the timeline?
- Do you have a budget for freelancers? This may seem silly as you haven’t formed a quote yet, but many a time I have been caught out by going through the process of getting to know a client, writing a creative brief and producing a quote only to be told they don’t actually have a budget, or can only afford to pay peanuts. So, it is a good idea to ask this question up front.
- Will this be a once off or ongoing work?
Once you have established these questions, and you have a better understanding of the scope of the project, it is time to move onto a more in-depth discussion. I do this two different ways, depending on the project.
- Who is your intended audience?
- What is your tone/style of voice and brand?
- What are your intended goals from the project?
- Will I receive an author byline or is it to be ghostwritten?
However, if the business or company would like an ongoing working relationship, or if it is a more complicated project like an eBook, I like to take a thorough creative brief. I send this through as a document and have my potential client fill it out so we both have a sound understanding of the project and it helps to lay out expectations for each other. This, in turn, will help develop a writers contract or LOA.
What is involved in a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a great document to outline the project or package you will be providing for your client. It is away for you and your client to get to know one another and ensure that your expectations are aligned.
A thorough creative brief answers all those key questions before the project even begins!
What should be included in a Creative Brief?
Much like a writers contract you can add in or subtract any elements you believe will help this process. At a bare minimum, this is what I would include:
Describe your company/business.
You can have your client explain their vision, founding philosophy and business objectives here so you can gain a deeper understanding of whom you are writing for.
I always ask them to add any background material they believe would be helpful here too.
Summarise the project.
Article? Blog? EBook? Product Descriptions? Website content?
You may be able to fill this out for them after your initial questions from above have been answered.
Objectives of the project.
What do they hope to achieve from this project? Do they want to increase their website visibility? Create new lead generations?
Who is the target audience?
Just as important as knowing your client is knowing whom THEY are targeting.
What is the tone and style?
This is all about their “brand”. Do they use a professional tone? Conversational? Humorous? Technical?
What is the look and feel of their website.
What is the timeframe?
It is important to set out milestones here for larger projects. For example, if it is a long eBook you can set due dates (with payments) for each chapter, or perhaps an outline, rough draft and final draft.
What is the budget of the project?
Again, this is so important to establish before you provide your client with a quote. You do not want to be wasting either of your time if there is no money in it!
Will there be recognition?
This is where your client will let you know if it is to be ghostwritten or if you receive credit.
Lastly, I have a section for any additional information or comments a potential client may think is relevant.
Again, the Creative Brief should be tailored to you and your potential client. It should be used to trigger an in-depth discussion so you both are on the same page about the project and expectations.
To help, grab this FREE Creative Brief Template. Feel free to change it up to suit your freelance writing business.
What is your client like to work for?
As all this back and forth happens between you and your client you will be getting a feel for what they will be like as a client.
How do they respond to your phone calls or emails?
Are they friendly? Snappy? Quick to respond or continually ghost you?
Do they expect you to be answering emails in the middle of the night or all weekend?
This will help you form an opinion on WHO your client is and if they will be a good client, or a toxic client.
And don’t forget that they will be forming the same opinions of you; so make sure to always put your best foot forward!
Do not take on board anyone you feel the slightest bit dicey about. It only leads to stress, frustration and toxicity. You deserve so much more than that! Your time is precious, don’t waste it on clients who are not worth your time and effort.