Preparing for your initial client assessment interview

“Don’t try to be what you’re not. If you’re nervous, be nervous. If you’re shy, be shy”. - Adriana Lima

So now you have your questions, it’s time for the Initial Client Assessment. But jumping on a call with a potential client can be an uncomfortable experience, by anyone’s standards. Nerves set in and your mind goes into overdrive. But these initial interviews are crucial to the success of your proposals, really.

The Overeager Creative

When I first started in the freelance world, I’d jump on any “Dear Designer” email that came my way. I did this because I needed the work. But of course, do this enough times and you soon realise that you’re throwing billable hours down the drain.

If you’ve never seen a “Dear Designer” email, take a look at this example. I’m sure they exist in every creative sector:

Dear Designer,

I was searching for web designers when I came across your portfolio. I really like your work and I’d love to get a quote from you for my upcoming project. I’m looking > for someone to help me redesign my current web site which is looking pretty dated. Here’s a little info about what I need:

  • Redesign of current site: www.somewebsite.com
  • Should include:
  • Portfolio/gallery page
  • Contact
  • About
  • Home
  • Be responsive
  • Have links to my social media accounts.
  • Be flat :)
  • Be live by the end of the month

I’m not sure what this should cost, so I’ll be talking to several designers. I’d love to get a price from you as soon as possible.

Thanks, A potential new client

Back in the day I would have opened up InDesign, whipped out my snazzy proposal template and jumped straight in. I’d write a quick “job spec” fill it with line items and send it off before the day was out. I WANTED THAT JOB!

Of course, by doing this I was competing with all the other Joe and Janet Freelancers who worked the same way. Nothing I could do here would set me apart. I’d be judged on the sum total of my line items and little else. So if most freelancers are willing to jump straight onto any new work that lands in their inbox, how can you be different? What can you do to stand out?

You can start by learning more about what your client needs. There’s no way on earth you could have enough information about a client’s project from the above email. It’s impossible. Even if you were to be chosen, there’s every chance the client would be disappointed with the outcome. Why? Because we have no idea what the outcome should look like. A feature set won’t hit any goals if you don’t know what those goals are.

Get on the Phone and Talk

Talking to clients is how any successful project starts, not via email. I’d even say that 99% of your proposal is “written” in this very first chat. If you can spend enough time talking to your client and learning about their business, you will seriously increase your chances of writing a more compelling proposal.

There’s no bigger waste of time than a back-and-forth email conversation trying to book a meeting time—especially if time zones come into play. So do yourself a favour and set up a SavvyCal account to help you organise your meetings. Your client will even comment on how cool it is and you’ll immediately score brownie points.

Add the times that you’re available to meet, and send your personal SavvyCal link to the client. As soon as they choose a time that suits, you’ll get a nice little email notification and an updated slot in your calendar. This seemingly minor detail (of including an automated booking service for your meetings) gets you a proverbial tip of the cap from your client for having a professional contact process.

Make sure to include your Zoom or Google Hangouts details before the meeting time. Those last minute “What’s your Zoom meeting address?” emails can lose you a couple of points on the client satisfaction scale.

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Next chapter

The moment arrives: managing the call

Learn the basic rules and principles that will help your client interview go smoothly and comfortably as you navigate the hard but necessary questions and discussion.
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