The relationship between a freelance content writer and his or her client needs nurturing. It needs mutual respect. It needs open conversation and a large dose of honesty. There are fake clients out there, some terrible and difficult clients with real work and some genuine jobs who will try to take advantage. Here are five key questions you should ask before agreeing to do work for a new client.
Please Give Me a Rundown of the Full Brief?
Forewarned is forearmed, so the saying goes. You shouldn’t start work, cost it up or agree to a contract until you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Even then, you will get clients trying to add on extra work and get more out of you. Either they conveniently “forgot to mention it” or “my boss left this on my desk and I need more from you.” Curveballs happen, you can’t avoid them, but it is best to be able to anticipate them and accept the possibility of change. One caveat: make it clear from the start that any extra work will require extra payment.
What is the Deadline?
Unless you are a new freelancer, the chances are you have several other clients against which you are going to juggle this new work. Even if you are new or have no other work on right now, it’s helpful to know precisely when they need it by. If they are not in any rush, a loose indication will suffice. You may need to negotiate, especially with short deadlines. You will find that some clients say they absolutely positively need this work done by Friday, but when you tell them you can’t get it done by Friday they will say the following Tuesday will do. There is usually a disconnect between what they want and what you can do, and another between what they would prefer and the actual deadline. Sometimes, they will ask for too much time because they have to clear it before passing it on as complete to their boss or another department. Negotiation will leave everybody happy or they will go on their way if the work really is tight.
How Do You Want Me to Bill You?
It’s important to get the particulars. If they are in the same country as you, they may prefer bank transfer. For international clients, it may be best (and cheaper for the conversion rate) to go through an ewallet such as PayPal or Escrow or any of the others. Some of these billing methods take a small cut as an administration fee. This is your chance to explain (and negotiate) how often you bill them and how much extra their bill will cost to cover the PayPal administration fees. At the very least, you need to know how often you will raise an invoice. It may be in your interest to bill high-volume clients weekly and others monthly.
Can I Use this Work in My Portfolio?
No matter how much experience you have, you need fresh content to show to other clients. The majority of clients do not offer credit and do not want you to claim credit for the work. It is best to know this from the start rather than decide months later that you thought it was a particularly great or useful piece of work that you would like to share with other potential clients to demonstrate the experience of working on that project. Your portfolio needs regular updates, don’t rely on old work and try to get as many as possible to agree.
How Many Others Will Have Input?
I prefer to deal with one person and one person alone, a second in exceptional circumstances. Too many cooks spoil the broth, as another saying goes. When you’re relying on multiple contacts to send information and when one person is breathing down your neck because you haven’t sent a draft by the deadline and the only reason you haven’t sent it is because a second person still hasn’t sent the relevant information, chaos can ensue. You will get annoyed with a disorganised or top-heavy client when all you want to do is get on with doing a good job. Don’t be afraid to point out the potential problems of dealing with 3-4 people.
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