In a traditional job interview, 33% of employers claim to make a hiring decision within the first 90 seconds. While this statistic may or may not translate over to a client interview, it certainly shows just how quickly we can make a first impression!
Even more so than any employee, freelancers and small business owners rely on impressing clients to make a living.
Why, then, do so many fail to prioritize quality client interview practices? Or choose to skip the interview process altogether?
By answering just a few simple questions, you can learn whether a client is a good fit for you in just a few seconds.
Actually, with that said, maybe the statistic mentioned above isn’t so surprising after all.
Why You Should Never Skip a Client Interview
Interviews are one of the most uncomfortable aspects of professional life. Even those on the hiring side often feel nervous going into one.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that many professionals will go out of their way to avoid sitting down for an interview.
But if you’re a freelancer or small business owner, this habit could be doing you a major disservice.
You see, client interviews can make or break a project before it even begins. Here’s why:
Interviews go both ways
A proper client interview isn’t just about you interviewing the client or the client interviewing you. No, a good interview should go both ways.
Some clients will request a formal interview right off the bat. By doing this, they can learn a bit more about their chosen freelancers and decide who best fits their vision.
But if a client comes to you because they love your work or trust your reputation, they might not bring up an interview at all.
If you’re smart, though, you’ll ask to sit down with them anyway.
Because traditional interviews are so focused on the hirer getting to know the hiree, we often forget that questions should come from both sides. In other words, it’s in your best interest to interview your client — perhaps even more so than for them to interview you.
Not everyone is a match
When you conduct a client interview, you get to know a bit more about the client, their needs, and the vision they have for their project.
Yes, this is information you would inevitably learn at some point during the working relationship.
But wouldn’t you rather have this knowledge at your disposal before you decide to sign a contract and move forward?
Taking on work that isn’t a perfect fit might still result in a steady income. But it also means putting lackluster examples of your skills and talent out into the world.
As freelancers, we rely on our past work to bring in new clients.
Taking on mismatched clients could even stunt your professional growth in the future. If your past work isn’t an accurate representation of your business, future prospects won’t have a clear idea of your services coming in.
Portfolios don’t speak for themselves
Ideally, every portfolio should tell a story. However, there are some things that just don’t come across on paper (or a computer screen).
By sitting down with a prospective client for an interview, you can both go through your portfolio and dive a little deeper into your work.
Yes, the goal should be to show your prospective client how your skillset could benefit them. But it can also be an opportunity to learn you’re not, actually, both on the same page.
Again, this is something you’re better off learning now rather than when the project is already underway.
8 Questions to Ask During Your next Client Interview
Of course, getting to the client interview is only half the battle. Without the right questions at your disposal, you’ll leave knowing little more than you did walking in.
So, what should you ask a prospective client? And what, exactly, should you aim to learn during the interview process?
1. “How often do you work with freelancers/contractors?”
Before you start building a relationship with a new client, you want to know a bit about their background as a client.
No, this isn’t nit-picky or unnecessary. When it comes to the day-to-day work of freelancing, it can make a major difference in how you interact with your client.
For instance, are they veterans when it comes to the intricacies of contracts, invoices, and revisions? Or will you need to be a bit more patient when going through the technicalities of the project at hand?
It’s better to know these things before you make the wrong assumption.
2. “What is your main reason for pursuing this project?”
Rather than jumping straight into the details, consider starting out with a broad question regarding why your client is looking to hire you in the first place.
By offering something fully open to your interviewee’s interpretation, you have the best chance of getting a truly honest answer.
After all, nothing will derail a project faster than failing to understand your client’s needs.
3. “In your opinion, what would be the perfect outcome for this project?”
Are you going to be able to deliver a “perfect” outcome to your client? No, probably not.
But knowing what your client views as perfection can be a major asset going forward. And, again, asking a broad question such as this is more likely to get you a raw, honest answer.
4. “Who will be the main point-of-contact/decision-maker for this project?”
If your client is an organization or fellow business, there’s a very good chance you won’t just be working with one individual moving forward. Also, the person participating in your client interview may not even be the main point-of-contact for the project being discussed.
Staying in the dark about who has the final say on a project is a recipe for frustration, revisions, and miscommunication as a whole.
And if something goes wrong along the way, the last thing you want is to play phone tag with someone who isn’t even involved in the project.
5. “What are you most worried about when it comes to completing this project?”
Even the most positive client goes into a contract with some trepidation. The sooner you learn what concerns your prospective client, the better chance you have of preventing such issues.
Discussing your client’s worries is also a great chance to answer questions about their specific concerns. If you’re being considered for a project well outside of the client’s scope, their concerns might largely stem from a lack of knowledge.
Plus, you can take this time to show your industry knowledge and build a strong working relationship from day one.
If you can quell a prospective client’s worries at the start, they’ll be far more willing to trust you down the road.
6. “What is your projected budget?”
No, it’s not rude to ask about a potential client’s budget at the beginning. Instead, it’s remarkably practical.
In the world of business, everything comes at a price. If your client’s budget doesn’t line up with your current rates, then the relationship clearly isn’t a good fit.
That said, of course there’s a right and a wrong way to bring up the subject of money in a client interview.
7. “Are there any deadlines currently set for this project?”
Depending on the nature of your client’s proposed project, there could already be some deadlines set in stone.
It’s in both your and the client’s best interests to know whether you can accomplish these deadlines. If you can’t, then moving forward with the project is a waste of everyone’s time.
8. “How did you hear about my services?”
Whether you land the contract or not, this is an extremely valuable question to ask during any client interview.
With a few simple words, you can learn an incredible amount about your professional reputation, advertising efforts, and more. Even a client who’s not the right fit can offer plenty of insight.
Don’t Take What You Learn About Your Client for Granted
Conducting an effective client interview isn’t just for learning about your prospective client and their proposed project.
It can also inform how you interact with a client moving forward.
For example, if you learn that a client has never worked with a contractor before, you’ll want to offer a bit more patience and understanding when it comes to seemingly menial things like invoicing and payments.
With an easy-to-use program like invoicely, though, everything from estimates to payments is made simple for both you and your clients. Not only can you create and deliver professional-looking invoices, but your clients will be able to navigate payments without worry or confusion on their end.
Nailed a great client interview and ready to take the next step? Discover how invoicely can take your proposals, estimates, and, of course, invoices to the next level in mere minutes.