The phone rings, the email arrives or you find yourself talking to a potential writing client as a result of a cold call. One way or another you’re in touch with a potential client.
Here are some tips to help you decide if you want the gig and increase your chances of getting it if you do.
Schedule enough time – block out a full hour even though I usually spend less time. I want some spaciousness around our talk. If someone calls, I’ll chat just enough to determine they are a potential client than schedule a time we can talk without interruptions… sometimes the next day, sometimes the next week. I find potential writing clients appreciate the fact I’m willing to spend some serious time with them discovering how I might help.
Write down the questions you want to be sure to ask. Exactly what those questions will be will depend on the kind of writing you do and why they may want to hire you. Having the questions written down means you (probably) won’t miss any important information.
The interview is two-way. You and the potential client are sounding each other out. Sure, you want to ask questions, but you want to leave room for them to get their questions answered too. I often will actually ask, “What would you like to ask me?” Sometimes this will surface a hidden concern. I suspect at least half of the time we’re on the phone I spend listening.
Get a solid feel for what they really want. The initial conversation is where you discover what the potential client is thinking and what they want. It’s here, for example, that I will push to be sure they really want to write a book and are not being pushed by someone else. For other kinds of clients I want to know not only what they think they want me to write, but how they expect to use it. I’m not at all bashful about insisting on getting the information I need to decide if I want to work with this client or not.
This client is not your income source. Ideally you’ve got enough in savings so you feel little pressure to close a deal with any particular client. Even if you don’t, it will help if you recognize that the client you’re talking with today is only one of many clients you’ll talk with over your life as a freelance writer. This one may not buy writing from you, right now or ever. That’s really okay. There really are lots of writing clients out there – you want to pick and choose, and that attitude makes it easier to negotiate successfully. Talk clearly about the money, but know this person is not your only source.
If you want the gig, say so. Back in my headhunting days we taught our clients to say clearly if they wanted the job they were interviewing for. It turns out that perspective employers want to know if you’re engaged or not. If you want the job they’re offering say so. A simple “you know, I’d really like to work with you” said with real sincerity can go a long ways toward getting you hired.
Spell out the next step. Assuming you want the gig, spell out the next step. Often this means promising to send an email summing up the conversation and making a proposal. Sometimes the ball is in there court – if so, be bold and ask them what their next step will be. You’ll often get a clear idea where you stand in the hiring process. If it’s a gig you don’t want, say so and invite them to consider you a resource. Leave them knowing more than they did when you started and they may hire you a month or a year or more later.
Follow-through. At a minimum, you want to thank them for their time. If you promised to send them links or do a proposal by all means do so, and the same day unless you’ve told them it will be later than that.
Interviewing and being interviewed by potential clients is a major part of the freelance writing game and it’s one you can master.
What tips do you have for client interviewing?