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6 questions that will reveal your client’s real needs

client's real needsYour client’s real needs are knowable and they go way beyond the typical information they give you. For example, a client will often say something like “I need a 500 word blog about my business every Wednesday.”  That sounds fairly specific, particularly when you know a bit about their business.

If you know, for example, they have an online bookstore it’s tempting to think that’s all you need to know. Already you’re envisioning writing a book review, an author interview, a list of new titles and which books are on special each and every month, with who knows exactly what to fill in the months with 5 Wednesdays.

Wait! You don’t yet know enough to do a great job. You need to have the answer to these six questions if you’re going to do a spectacular job and meet at least most of their expectations.

Start by listening

The need to truly listen for your client’s real needs may seem obvious, but apparently it’s not. At least one study reveals clients refuse to hire a provider because as much as 38 percent of the time the client feels the provider doesn’t listen. My hunch is at least have of those complaints would show that the client wasn’t clear and/or complete in describing what they need.



It’s an easy trap to fall into. Both parties think they understand the other, and maybe they do on a surface level. You need to dig a bit deeper to find out exactly what the client is thinking. Since they usually have no idea what’s involved in writing something, and they often don’t know what they really want, it’s up to you to ask a lot of questions to help uncover what they really want and need.

6 questions that will reveal your client’s real needs

Why do you want this written? You need to know why the client want this piece written. In most cases the client will first tell you what they think is a good reason. This is a starting place only. The following questions will help them and you really understand what they need.

Who is your audience? Part of your client’s real needs is knowing their audience. Every client has one. Hopefully they will be able to define it. An answer like “my (product, book, talks, coaching, etc.) are for the world” really means they haven’t defined their target market. One way to help them get there without spending hours at it is to ask them to describe the two or three people they feel would most benefit from what they’re offering. Get them to put done a lot of detail and you’ll soon have a target market.

Why will they be interested? It’s one thing to know you’ve got… oh, a great hair product say. It’s quite another to understand why someone might be interested in yours. Usually it’s because the product will solve a problem. Another way to say this is the customer is in pain – identify the pain the product eases and you know why they might be interested.

Why on Wednesdays? Or why once a week, or why only once a month. You’re asking why they’ve set up the schedule they have. This ‘why’ works on any piece of writing. Why do you want your book written by a certain date? Why do you want an article written by a certain date? You get the ideal. Understanding their thinking behind a deadline will often give you helpful insights.

>>> What do you want them to do? <<< This is a key question! The client is looking for a result. It might be a sale, or a subscription, or sharing the article – it will be something. To do a great job writing you need to know what the client wants the reader to do as a result of reading what you’ve written. 

What will be the call to action? This is the actual action the client wants them to take. It’s the simple instructions or asking for the sale with a Buy Now button or a form to fill out.  It needs to be clear and actionable. Often you’ll have to help the client make it so.

As you get in the habit of discovering your client’s real needs you’ll find the writing is easier, your clients are happier, and you can soon begin to increase your fees.

How do you figure out your client’s real needs? 

Write well and often,

annesig.



{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Great tips – particularly deciding the date for delivery (and delivering ahead of time). But another great way to deliver a knockout project is to look at the client’s site so that you can become familiar with what has worked for them in the past. A little evaluation using some free SEO tools will show what content has been the most shared and commented on. Replicating that kind of content is bound to go some way to a happy client 🙂
    Dave Lynch recently posted..Even professional Writers are Making the Above MistakeMy Profile

  • If I’m ever uncertain about a client’s needs (or detect that they are uncertain!) I send them the following:

    Where will the piece appear?

    Who is the intended audience for the piece?

    What is your main purpose in producing the piece?

    What’s the key message of the piece?

    What specific points need to be covered in the piece?

    How many words should the piece be?

    Do you have any specific suggested source material?

    Any other instructions or guidelines?

    • Ah, yes… suggested source material… good one and I also ask that but left it out of the article… and love the last question, any other instructions… I might also end with Is there anything else I should ask or know… thanks John.

      Also, love your site – http://www.johnlisterwriting.com/ – and love your mixture of skills!

  • Your article caught my attention because I find it practical for what I am trying to do . I am new to freelance writing and am looking for new clients.
    Thank you for providing this handy tool.

    • Carlton, you’re more than welcome. Thanks for the feedback and feel free to ask questions here. And your blog address isn’t right… can you type it in for us?

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