Mary Kate McGowan
What to Ask Your Client Before You Start Writing
Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Recently, I have been fortunate to have several conversations with potential clients. These clients range from international companies to solopreneurs, but the conversations are similar.
Regardless of the size of the company, understanding the potential client is vital. Whether the direct contact is the owner or a marketing director, getting to know the company and its voice is the only way to write for a business.
As a classic introvert, talking to a stranger can be anxiety-ridden and exhausting. But actually talking to a client—especially one I’m going to write for—is crucial. During these talks, I ask potential clients about their goals and business. I learn how they talk and what words they use.
As a creative entrepreneur, talking with my clients is helpful and necessary. These brief conversations create a framework for your project and assignments. I have refined a few tricks that help me during these introductory conversations.
Here are some things I’ve learned that could help any creative entrepreneur improve their introductory client calls.
Understand Their Why
Creating a firm foundation for a new working relationship is invaluable. Getting to know your potential client’s wants, goals and ambitions can help you write better for them. Knowing how the copy you are writing for their website connects with their social media captions helps create cohesion for their readers.
When someone is looking to buy your client’s services or goods, they want to see consistency. They want to know what they get out of their products, and they want to know what to expect.
Creating a cohesive content strategy for your client is important for their business. To create an accurate content strategy, you must understand their “why.” Ask them why they started their business; why they invested in a copywriter or a content writer; why they are deciding to go down a certain path.
Find out what makes them work so hard.
Before you ask about their “what” and “how” and “where.” You must know their “why.”
If you have a question, ask the question.
When talking with your client, ask all the questions! While you have their attention, make sure you get all the information you need to write. Of course, you can email with follow-up questions, but it’s often easier to get all the information you need at one time. That way, your notes are all in one place.
Before you get off the phone/Zoom call, make sure you know the why, how, what, when and where of the project.
Also, make sure you know how to spell their name and their product/service. Trust me.
Take notes during your conversation. This will help you remember and give you information to refer to again later. Ask them to pause if you need more time to take notes. They also want you to have accurate information and know what they want as you get started!
As you’re taking notes, also write common phrases or words they’re saying. These words can help guide you as you write in your client’s tones and voice. Knowing what they sound like when they talk can help you write copy that matches their cadence and natural communication style.
These short phrases can help you write clearly and effectively in their brand voice.
Before you talk to this potential client, practice asking the money question.
Asking the “money” question can hard and awkward. I have stumbled over this question many times. I have recently found a way for me to better ask the question.
Instead of saying, “What were you think for compensation?” I have asked, “What is your budget for this project?”
Their answer gives you an idea of what they had in mind. Now, instead of guessing, you know their budget. If you don’t like their answer, you can graciously say, “My usual rate is $x/hour/$x for this kind of project.”
And then the negotiation begins.
When you’re done with the phone call, send a follow-up email with your notes.
Regardless if you have a formal contract with your client, having shared notes gives both sides more clarity. These notes help clarify the scope of work and expectations for the working relationship.
Being open and honest during your introductory conversations with potential clients sets the partnership up for success. Starting the partnership with trust helps throughout a project. You can more easily communicate with each other, which is invaluable—and erases some awkwardness.
These calls can be avoided with client intake forms and emails, but knowing what your clients sound like and how they talk helps you write for them. Yes, phone calls and video chats can be awkward. But starting a partnership this way prevents more awkwardness from popping up during a project.
Plus, getting to know your clients gives you an idea of if you want to work with them again and vice versa. These conversations help open you up for recurring work, and who doesn’t love that?
If you have some tips for introductory client calls, I’d love to hear them. Comment below or DM me on Instagram.