How to qualify a potential client for your work

How to choose a client - looking for a creative with a magnifying glassNot too long ago someone asked me, “What’s your standard price for an article like this one?” he asked gesturing vaguely at the screen in front of me. It was this blog and was one of my casual, top of the head pieces about choosing clients,

Yes, we have more latitude than people thing to choose or refuse a client.

I answered, “It depends. But for something like this I generally charge between $1 and $2 dollars a word. What do you want the article I write for you to accomplish?

I always want to know why someone may want to hire me. If I’m to create something that works for them I need to know what they want to have happen. Will they use it as a marketing piece, a love letter, or asking for a refund. Or maybe they want a whole book ghostwritten.

In this case the post he pointed to was one of my top-of-the head pieces on how to hire the right writer. They are usually between 500 and 1,000 words. I wanted still more information before I gave him a firm quote. I continued to ask questions like:

  • How will you use it?
  • Specifically what are you hoping to achieve once the piece is written to your satisfaction.
  • How soon do you need it?
  • What kind of writer do you want?
  • What sort of background do you want them to have

I’m first trying to figure out if he knows what he wants, needs and hopes for.  If he doesn’t I can help him figure that out if he’s willing.

I’m also listening closely to see if a) I can do the kind of writing he needs. I’m rarely the one he wants if he’s hoping for a piece that will work in academia. or a specialty that requires a different education than I have, b) I also want to know if this person feels like someone I can work with and probably would enjoy working with.

I also try to determine if the prices I suggested are acceptable, unless I find he will need more research by me and really should have a series or something else.

Part of my job is to help the client get the best possible result I can deliver even if that means I will get paid less. For example it’s not unusual for a prospective client to start by asking for a book when, after some conversation, we discover what she really needs is a series of one page flyers.

I’ll usually I’ll also ask if I’m they first writer they’ve talked with. And if not, I’ll ask them to tell me their experience with other writers. Mostly I’m looking for both an understanding of how much experience, if any, they’ve had with hiring writers. I also listen for  more general clues about how well I think we might work together. If I don’t feel comfortable about our ability to work together I’ll suggest they find someone else. Sometimes I’ll refer them to a writer I know and sometimes I’ll make a suggestion about where and how to advertise for someone.

Life is simply too short to let myself be hired when I suspect we won’t get along and/or that they can’t or won’t pay me.

That’s true for all creatives. The more you  really understand what the potential wants to accomplish by hiring you the more you’re likely to succeed in meeting their expectations or you’ll find you probably shouldn’t agree to take on their project.

Being willing to turn down clients is part of the way to earn a solid word of mouth reputation, and to continue to enjoy your craft whatever it might be.

Every time I’ve broken my own rules and gone to work for someone I know in my gut I shouldn’t I’ve been sorry. Your job is to do some deep thinking about both your idea client and the one you should turn down.

Write and create often,


This article was written by annew43

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