All the questions writers need to ask clients before taking on a new project
Updated: Mar 30
Just what you need to base your decision on
Last year, as a newbie who was just a few months into the freelancing scene, I had a bunch of heartaches with a couple of clients. An inevitable scenario in the freelancing world, of course, but one that warranted some serious soul-searching.
And that’s when it hit me: I had been such a despo that I was taking on projects & clients without even vetting them.
Not only that, I didn’t even have the basic information to draft my own contracts. Nor did I care to buy time after our meetings or discussions.
The result: rush jobs, late nights, scope creep and whatnot. I won’t really blame my clients here.
After several days of Google searches, I finally created this list of questions I now subject every client to. Admitted it’s a huge list, but it’s better to be meticulous than mess up. I also request a 24-48 hour period from my clients so I can let my subconscious ponder over their answers and decide accordingly.
Do these questions help avoid the heartaches? Not entirely. As I said, they’re inevitable in the freelancing world. But their answers still safeguard you, especially legally.
So, here’s what you need to ask your prospective clients. Remember, the clearer the water, the better you can see the things in it.
1) Please explain the project in detail.
2) What is your vision, mission, and purpose for the project? How do you see the final result, and what’s your expected takeaway from it?
3) What’s your estimated budget for the project?
4) Do you foresee any potential stumbling blocks or problems for this project? What have been your learnings and takeaways from previous projects? What were your challenges at the time? How would you have done it differently?
5) How long is the project? What is the duration of my role? Please share exact dates.
6) Who’s your target audience? What are the problems they’re facing? Have you done any research to find out? How will this project help solve their problems?
7) What will be the tone and style of the content?
1) What will be my exact designation? How will my day be from the time I start work till pack-up?
2) Quantum of work + number of days per week + working hours per day + possibility of all-nighters and weekend work + how many pieces of content are we looking at in total + print, digital and social breakup + publishing dates?
3) How often will you need new content? Do I have to create all content by myself, or will you share the material? Will I be working with another freelancer? Can I outsource parts of the project if needed?
4) Will I be given specific project instructions and even training?
5) Will you communicate deadlines in advance? How soon? What kind of deadlines are these—timely or rushed? How concrete is your timeline?
6) How will you measure the quality of work I turn in? Can we have feedback sessions?
7) How often do you want me to share updates with you? Through what medium: email or phone?
8) What will be my place of work: home or client office?
1) Who all will be part of the project team? What’s the hierarchy?
2) Who will make the final decisions and approvals and be my sole contact point? Will they also edit my written work? Who will edit other writers’ work—that person or me? How available would this person be in case of questions and doubts? What’s the best time of the day to contact them? What’s the best medium—phone, email or WhatsApp? What’s the expected response time?
3) Who will be the second in command in case this contact point is unavailable?
Payment & rights
1) How much will I be paid for the project? What will be the break-up of the payment structure? Will there be any deductions? What will these be? What about the payment for any revisions?
2) How will you be paying me—cheque or bank transfer? (I’d prefer the latter instead of waiting for a cheque.) What would be the frequency of payment—end of each month or some other schedule? Would it be possible for me to get at least a 50% advance for the month at the beginning of the project? What expenses will I be reimbursed for? When do you expect me to invoice, and do you have a particular format you need me to use?
3) What are my rights to my work? Can I use it on my online portfolio? From when? What’s your embargo period? Will I get a byline? What about the work that is not used—do I hold the rights to it or will I get a kill fee?
4) Will I be able to take leaves during the project? For health or other reasons, including travel? How available do you want me to be?
5) If all goes well, will this project lead to more assignments for me after completion?
1) Why do you think I’m worthy of coming on board? What are you expecting me to bring to this project?
2) Am I the only one being offered this, or are you talking to other freelancers too? What will your selection decision be based on?
3) Have you worked with a freelancer in the past? If yes, how was your experience?
4) Are you also looking for a graphic designer? (You can either recommend yourself if you’re one, or a relevant contact so you can take a shot at earning your referral.)
What are the questions you ask prospective clients? Tell me in the comments.