Imagine this scenario: you have a prospect call lined up, and you’re excited. You’ve showered, you’re camera-ready, and you’ve researched the company. A few minutes before you log in to the meeting, an email pops into your inbox. Sorry! Need to reschedule!
So, you reschedule, but you’re a little deflated. You’d gotten yourself all excited about talking with this person, and now… well, now you’re less enthusiastic. They’ve let you down a little.
You’ve also spent time preparing for the call. That’s time you could have devoted to something else.
Let’s pretend you have the call a day or two later. Everything seems to be going well. You’re building a rapport, they have a project you can help execute, and then you get the financial part, and unfortunately, you’re far apart on budget expectations.
Now you’re disappointed again.
To make matters worse, you’ve invested an hour or two at this point in meeting prep. Wouldn’t it have been better to discover that things wouldn’t work out BEFORE you got to this point?
Experienced freelance writers say, “yes.”
Yes, they would like to know more about the prospect and their potential project before they invest their time and energy.
In sales and marketing language, we call it “prequalifying.” It’s a way to ensure what you have to offer and what the prospect wants align.
After all, I think you’ll agree that the best way to have a happy client/freelancer arrangement is to communicate and agree on expectations.
Here are a few questions you can ask to prequalify prospects and set the stage for a productive working relationship.
7 Questions to Prequalify Prospects
As you gain more experience, you’ll get messages that ask a variation of “How much for…?” Sometimes, these messages come two or three at a time and sit in your LinkedIn box, winking at you like a boxful of puppies at a Saturday afternoon adoption event. You were on your way to the supermarket, but it’s hard to ignore cute puppies!
That’s how those messages feel to me in my inbox. They often don’t work out, but occasionally, they’re gold, and my curiosity gets the better of me.
Since they’re often so broad, you need more information. No one can accurately answer a generic “How much is” question regardless of the industry.
A few clarifying questions can help you decide if this is a good prospect for you or not.
1. What type of content do you need?
Are they looking for long-form blog content, landing pages, emails? A professional prospect will have an idea and be able to give you some guidance. If they’re vague, they probably aren’t ready for a writer.
2. Do you have ongoing content needs?
Building a sustainable freelance business requires a reliable workload so you can plan your schedule and cash flow. I’d rather have a regular client at two blog posts a month than a flashy “we need all the things in the next three months” type of client. Your preference and work style may differ.
3. What type of industry are you in?
I’m not the best fit if they’re looking for a Crypto expert. That’s just one example that comes to mind, but there are a whole host of topics I have no knowledge of and don’t write on. It’s a much better use of my time to write for industries I’m already familiar with. It cuts down on research time and allows me to write with confidence.
4. Do you have an existing content strategy?
My best ongoing clients have a content strategy, and my role is to write on assigned topics. Suppose they don’t have a content strategy or a marketing person. In that case, my experience is they’re often disorganized, don’t have a process for working with freelancers, and will disappear once you submit your work because they’re overwhelmed.
5. Can you describe your assignment and submission processes?
Some clients give excellent, detailed documents complete with outlines and key takeaways. Others might give you two or three lines. Either can work, but it depends on the topic and how long I’ve worked with the client. If it’s a new client, I’d prefer more detail.
Once they receive your submission, do they have one person who’ll oversee working with you on revisions, or is it a case of once you send it in, it’s done? Or is it a case of multiple people piling on in the shared Google doc offering conflicting views? Trust me; you don’t want the latter.
6. Do they require interviews?
If so, will they supply Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), or will you need to build in time to find them? This can take a couple of hours or more unless you have existing relationships with SMEs or those who can connect them with you.
7. Let’s talk money.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable. However, the sooner you get comfortable with the business side of freelancing, the better. If you’re a seasoned freelance writer and typically bill $600 or more for a reported blog article, then you’re not going to want to put a lot of time into a prospect who can only offer $75. That’s just business.
Now, you may be wondering if I really ask all these questions at one time. After all, seven questions are a lot, and people may not answer them. I’m more likely to ask one or two and then another, and so on, in a series of back-and-forth messages. And, truthfully, sometimes I don’t ask all of them. Instead, it’s on a case-by-case basis. But asking a few questions can help clarify the prospect’s expectations and give insight into how they’ll work should you choose to work together.
With this background information, you can get a feel for the prospect’s professionalism. Are they organized? Do they have clear expectations? Do they have a professional budget?
When the answers align with your expectations, the prospect is prequalified, and you have a good chance of starting a terrific relationship!