5 Actionable Tips from Content Marketing World Speakers to Improve Your Marketing Now

austin copywriter content marketing world

Everyone walks away from Content Marketing World inspired. Many of the talks provide fascinating insights and share good ideas. But in my opinion, the real holy grail of a good conference talk is a specific, actionable step I walk out of the room knowing I can take when I get home.

This year I was lucky to sit in on a few sessions that provided such gems. Here are a few great actionable tips that are now on my to do list and you might want to put on yours as well.

  1. Write down your goals (and read them every day).

The first keynote talk of the conference came from Joe Pulizzi, the Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and it covered a subject he’s written about before and clearly believes strongly about: writing down your goals.

He provided examples from his own life of how meaningful it is to set clear goals and remind yourself every day what they are so you hold yourself to them. He recommended the goals you write down be ambitious, tied to specific dates, and serve others in some way as well as yourself.

And he named five categories that he urged attendees to write goals for:

  • Career/wealth
  • Family
  • Spiritual
  • Mental
  • Giving

I’m still working out exactly what my goals in each category will be, but I plan to put them at the top of the to-do list document I consult each day so I have a solid reminder of where I want to be and keep working to get there.

  1. Create (and use) your mission statement.

Does your company have a content mission statement? It should. If that sounds intimidating though, don’t worry. Andy Crestodina makes it easy with a simple template:

Our company is where [audience X] finds [content Y] for [benefit Z].

content marketing mission statement

Plug in the relevant info for your company and you’ve got a line you can do a lot with. Andy recommends sharing it far and wide. Make it the tagline for your blog or even your whole website. Put it next to your email signup form. Add it to your social media profile. Tack it onto your email signature.

Your mission statement tells people why they should care about your brand’s content. It’s a good, concise way to pitch everyone that encounters your brand on why they should follow you.

  1. Create a spreadsheet of microcontent.

Lee Odden gave a talk on influencer marketing which included this useful tip. Every interview you do with an influencer is full of quotes and insights. Why just use a quote from it once and be done? Instead, he suggested organizing all the valuable nuggets you get from your interactions with influencers over time into a spreadsheet.

In the spreadsheet, fill in each influencer’s details (name, company, position, link) so it’s easier to access those when you quote them. Categorize the different quotes based on what they’re about so you can more easily identify relevant ones to use as you create new content. And even if you don’t find the right quote for the new content you’re creating, your spreadsheet can help you quickly identify a good influencer to get in touch with to provide one.

This is useful for making your influencer marketing go further, but you can employ the same tactic for other types of microcontent as well. Add all the valuable statistics you find you may want to reference again to your spreadsheet (this is something I could definitely use). Pull in good examples of the types of tactics you write about and good social media status updates you may want to embed in future content. By having all this information well organized in one place, you can make your future content creation efforts more efficient while still always adding value.

  1. Use details to immerse readers in your content. Content Marketing World - Michelle Lazette

Michelle Park Lazette’s talk on writing more like a journalist included a number of good suggestions to bring better storytelling to your content writing process. A few of them related to this idea that getting detailed and specific in how you describe what you’re talking about can bring it more to life for your readers.

She suggested paying attention to the sensory details of any situation you’re in – adding in a mention of smells, weather conditions, colors, or the looks on people’s faces makes the reader feel more like they’re there.

She also recommended, as often as possible, replacing adjectives with numbers. Saying a company has been doing business for a long time means less than saying they’ve been at it for 37 years. Getting specific adds believability to what you’re saying and makes it more real for the reader.

  1. Do a validation audit of your content.Content Marketing World - Margaret Magnerelli

Margaret Magnarelli spoke on a topic I care a lot about in life as well as content: empathy. She shared the three phases that all empathic communication, professional and personal alike, must have:

  • Listen – Before you can do anything else, you have to actually hear what your friend or customer is saying. Listen to their complaints and pain points without inserting yourself into the story or trying to jump too quickly to solving the problem.
  • Validate – This is the step people most often leave off. After you’ve heard the person out, let them know you’ve listened and understood what they’re saying by repeating back to them what they’ve said. This shows them you were paying attention and get it. It’s an important step to them feeling like the communication is successful.
  • Suggest solutions – Only after the first two steps is it time to provide suggestions for ways to solve their problem.

You may already do a good job of addressing the problem and solution in your content, but there’s a good chance you’re skipping the validation step. Margaret recommends doing a validation audit of your content.

Go back through everything you’ve written to look for pieces missing the validation step and add it in. Doing this exercise will also help you get better at recognizing where and how to include validation in future content pieces moving forward.

 

My brain is spinning with all the ideas from the conference I need to now organize and put to use. Whether you made it to Cleveland last week or not, hopefully these actionable tips can help you create a plan to get something specific and useful out of Content Marketing World this year.

10 Lessons that Struggling to Communicate Abroad Taught Me About Business Communication

Sometimes you have a need that seems so simple, but you just can’t get out the right words to communicate it to the person you’re speaking to.

This isn’t an unknown feeling when you’re living in your native country, surrounded by people who speak your own language. But, it becomes an everyday occurrence when you’re in a foreign country that has just a smattering of people who speak the same language, and even fewer who are truly fluent.

Words I think I know are sometimes pronounced so abominably as to be unrecognizable to my audience, and attempts to describe what I mean when I don’t know the correct word are only occasionally successful. For a writer accustomed to using language with ease, struggling to communicate well abroad is a humbling and valuable learning experience.

Many of the challenges I’ve faced are extreme versions of communication challenges common in marketing and the business world in general. Here are a few key lessons.

1) There’s always more than one way to say something.

This is one of the first tricks you fall back on when struggling to communicate in a foreign language. When I get to the point in a sentence where I don’t know the word for what I want to say next, I talk around it. A ball becomes “a circular thing you use in a game,” an ATM becomes “a machine you use for change when all you have is a card.” It’s not elegant, but it gets the job done.

Flaubert reportedly re-wrote everything he put on paper extensively and repeatedly while working on Madame Bovary. He knew the best way to get at le seul mot juste was to try out as many different ways to say the same thing as possible.

When writing a business email or a piece of marketing copy, you’re not aiming for the level of literary masterpiece Flaubert was going for; but, you can still manage to produce a better, clearer piece of writing by taking a little extra time to think about alternate ways to communicate what you’re saying.

2) A little preparation goes a long way.

I went out one day recently with the primary goal of finding somewhere I could print out a boarding pass. As many technological terms in Italian are taken directly from the English (computer, for example, is “computer”), I assumed I’d have an easy time finding where I could print something.

Wrong. I had a completely unsuccessful conversation with a man at a local information office who thought I was asking where to go to buy a computer. Only with the help of his English-speaking colleague did I learn both the correct word for “to print” (stampare) and the closest spot where I could go to do so.

Had I taken 30 seconds to look up the word before I went out, I’d have been able to easily and clearly ask for what I needed.

The words you use, as an industry insider, aren’t always the same ones your target audience is likely to use and understand for the same concepts. Anyone who has thrown the title “copywriter” around to people working in different fields is used to having to give the added explanation “that’s copywrite, not copyright.” Knowing the right words to use with the right audience will save a lot of potential confusion down the line.

3) An interested audience will work to understand.

If you’ve already gained the interest of the person or people you’re communicating with, they’ll be happy to meet you halfway in understanding you and being understood. Communication works much better when there’s a buy-in on both sides.

The conversations I’ve had with the people hosting me, those interested in a friendly conversation, or, oh, Italian men who like the ladies, tend to go smoothly as they’re willing to put in the effort to follow what I’m saying, and help me understand what they have to say.

Someone who already has a good relationship with you or your company, or is coming to you based off of the enthusiastic recommendation of a trusted friend, will have a higher tolerance for any communication difficulties because they already like you.

On the other hand…

4) An uninterested audience will begrudge you for not making communication easier on them.

People at shops and train stations are often annoyed at the girl speaking broken Italian because having to communicate with me makes their jobs harder.

Someone not already convinced communication with you is worth the effort, or who has some reason to be unhappy with your company, is going to be much less patient with anything you say that’s hard to understand.

Imagine waiting for tech support on hold for 30 minutes, and then talking to someone who uses tech jargon you can’t follow. Your impulse won’t be to calmly ask them to put that in simpler terms, you’ll probably want to do some yelling.

For anyone that hasn’t already been won over to you or your company, it’s worth making an extra effort to communicate clearly and use a tone that can only be construed as helpful.

5) Context is crucial.

The difference between trying to have a conversation somewhere crowded with loud music playing or in a quiet park or restaurant is considerable. Just as who you’re talking to changes the way to approach a conversation, so does where you are, the subject matter being discussed, and the relationship you have with the audience.

In marketing, this point has less to do with being able to hear the words being spoken and more to do with thinking carefully about how people are coming to the information you’re putting before them. The words you use on the website’s product page will be seen by prospects at a different point in the process, looking for a different sort of information, than the words in your blog posts, emails, or that you share on social media.

The experience of the information you provide in these various formats differs and what you say, and how you say it, should reflect the knowledge of those differences.

6) One-on-one conversations work better than trying to participate in a group.

Hanging out with a group of Italians who are all more comfortable speaking with each other and for each other (e.g. quickly and naturally, with some slang here and there) means I’m less likely to actively participate, and more likely to quietly (try to) follow and learn from those speaking.

There are a lot of benefits to group communication. You have the opportunity to meet more people, learn from the questions and ideas of a variety of minds, and appreciate the difference in expertise and perspective presented.

Nonetheless, a more personalized, focused interaction one-on-one is often much more productive than a communique meant for a large audience.

7) The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Isn’t this just true of everything in life? My first week back in Italy, I thought I’d lost all of the ability I’d gained in my year here 6 years ago. But, the second week I realized my questions and conversations came a little easier, and by the third felt pretty close to where I’d been at the end of my year abroad.

Each conversation boosts my ability and confidence a bit more.

With writing and speaking, it’s inevitable that you’ll get better the more of it you do, especially if you’re mixing research into your practice. The words start to come more easily and confidently, you find yourself getting faster, and you get better at picking up techniques and wording that work.

8) Never hesitate to ask more questions.

The most egregious communication errors occur when people get complacent and assume they’re understanding each other just fine. I might feel awkward asking more questions of an annoyed ticket seller, but if I’m not 100% confident that I know which train to get on and where to get off for my connection, I’m much better off irritating a stranger than getting stuck in some small town in Sicily without knowing where to go next.

With clients, customers, vendors, colleagues, and, let’s face it, friends, family and significant others, you are much less likely to find yourself in conflict if you’re particular about clarifying terms and getting as much information upfront as possible.

You don’t want to learn that your customer thought your product had a capability it doesn’t after they’ve purchased it and are pissed. Or, that your client had a 20-page white paper in mind, rather than the 6-page one you sent in, and now wants you to do over triple the work for the same rate.

If someone gets irked at you for wanting more information and clarification from them, that’s their problem. You want to make sure you know what you’re doing and how to do it right, or what’s the point?

9) Being understood is more important than being clever.

I remember having a conversation with a fellow student in my abroad program years ago about the realization that it’s very difficult to communicate a distinct personality in a new language. Cracking jokes, or communicating personal quirks, just doesn’t have a place when you’re struggling to communicate at a basic level.

Humor and wit in marketing can often work fantastically and give your brand more personality. But, they should be lower on the priority list than communicating who you are and what you do effectively.

If you’ve got a good handle on that part, and someone in your organization is pretty adept in the humor department (there’s nothing worse than trying for wit and failing), then building up that personality around and within the basics can work fine. Just focus on clarity first.

10) You can’t always predict which concepts will be difficult to explain, and which will be simple.

With the Romance languages, many of the more formal and academic terms are very similar across the languages. But, the everyday common-usage terms are distinct. When the Roman Empire was imposing its language on all the territories it conquered, people deigned to use it for some business, scholarship, and writing; but when it came to talking amongst themselves and facing everyday tasks, they held on to their original languages more.

Thus, it’s actually easier to have an academic conversation with someone about great literature or history than to chat casually about the weather, food, or how your day went.

In life, we’re often not all that great at predicting what’s easy for others to understand, and what’s more challenging. Thinking back to the earlier tech support example, the guy on the other end of the line doesn’t know how adept you are with technology. Maybe you’re something of an expert and would be offended if he didn’t speak to you at your level, or maybe you’re the kind of person who really does need to hear that question that frustrates so many: “have you tried restarting?”

We have to be prepared to shift how we talk about our expertise based on the needs of the person we’re communicating with. Sometimes the concepts we think are a piece of cake may actually be those that make our audience want to bang their heads against the wall.

Want to be a Better Writer and Thinker? Learn Another Language


Learning another language is hard. For native English speakers living in a world full of people making an effort to learn English, it can seem like a waste of effort. Counterintuitively, the comfortable position of speaking the world’s dominant language puts English speakers at a disadvantage too few realize. Because we don’t bother trying to learn new languages, we lose the fringe benefits that come with the process.

A recent post on the Radiolab blog takes a look at just what some of those fringe benefits are.

Dr. Ellen Bialystock studies the cognitive effects of learning a second language, specifically during childhood. Her findings:

 Look, I will never say that bilingual kids are smarter…What we can say is that some of the cognitive processes that are part of intelligence are more developed in bilinguals.

On the neurological side of things, there’s actual, literal growth in the part of the brain devoted to vocabulary.

In practical, applicable terms:

  • Learning new, different ways to say things opens up the mind to different ways of thinking. It might not change what thoughts you’re able to have (as was formerly thought), but it does give you different ways of approaching and expressing those thoughts. For those in the business of communicating effectively, it lets you practice and play with methods of wording and structure you may not have considered before.
  • A friend of mine who was raised bilingual once told me she argued with an elementary school teacher who insisted there was one right answer to a question: in her world, every question had at least two viable, correct answers. Bilingualism makes it possible to better process ideas that don’t fit easily together, a valuable thinking tool in a complicated world.
  • Bialystock’s studies show the bilingual are better at tuning out distractions, an increasingly handy skill in the internet age.
  • Her research also suggests bilingualism could help with memory in old age — diminishing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Most people who have studied a second language at the most basic level are quick to comment that it forces you to learn the grammar of your own language better. In order to learn different tenses and parts of speech, you must gain a refresher in how to talk about grammar, something many of us have forgotten by adulthood, if we ever learned it well at all.

Bialystock’s research mostly focuses on bilingual children, and most of us missed the boat on learning another language as a child, when it’s much easier to gain fluency. Many of the neurological benefits do require fluency to begin taking effect, a state that’s extremely challenging to get to as an adult.

While only so many adults are capable and willing to take on the challenge of linguistic immersion often required to gain fluency, there’s still plenty to be gained by learning what you can. Learning another language tends to go along with learning about another culture as well. Even without reaching fluency, you’ll gain new words, new ideas about grammar, and a greater understanding of the ways other people think and live. It’s hard not to see how that will make you both a stronger writer, and a better thinker.

6 Tips for Effective Communication

Businesses, relationships, and most other things in life that involve more than one person are all dependent on effective communication. Any amount of time spent in a foreign country with a different national language than your own will quickly teach you how much more difficult just about every aspect of life is when basic communication becomes a struggle.

Even in a context where everyone speaks the same language, miscommunication is a serious concern. Many businesspeople have dealt with an email that included an embarrassing typo or a badly worded message that caused confusion and inefficiency. Avoid such failures with these basic tips to ensure effective communication.

1. For written communication: always proofread!

Have you ever gotten an email that just didn’t make sense because words seemed to be missing or were egregiously misspelled? It happens, but it’s so easy to avoid. Proofread everything you write before you send it. In addition to catching basic typos and any sentences that don’t make sense, you’re more likely to catch spots in your writing that lack clarity or could use better wording.

2. Method matters

There are varying benefits to using phone, online chat, and e-mail. A phone call allows for conversations in real time, where multiple people can bounce ideas off each other or make a quick decision in order to meet a deadline. Email correspondence has the benefit of keeping an easily searchable record, enabling attachments and link sharing, and letting the respondent review the email and get back to you on their own time. Chat offers some of the benefits of both: it’s in real time, but also makes it easy to keep a record, for example. To determine which communication method is best for your needs, think about what you need to communicate and the type of response you want.

3. Stay Aware of Your Tone

Try reading emails out loud before sending, sometimes the tone in your head isn’t the one the respondent will hear when they read it. You don’t want to come off as angry or scolding when you don’t mean to be. Be careful that the language you choose isn’t loaded and likely to be misconstrued. Be aware of context, an email to your client should probably have a different tone than one sent to your sister.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Arrogance and assumptions are the cause of too many errors. Don’t pretend you know what someone’s saying if you don’t, and don’t assume you do if you’re not sure. Few people are offended or bothered by being asked for clarification, and the type of person who does get bothered by it will almost certainly be more upset with you if the failure to ask leads to an inferior result. More clarity is always better.

5. Know Your Audience

Keep in mind the level of likely knowledge the person you’re communicating with will have. Correspondence with someone who has been working in your industry for years will probably seem prohibitively complex and have too much jargon for someone outside of the industry to grasp. Tailor your writing style accordingly, aim to make all your correspondence as informative and easy for the reader to understand as possible.

6. Read

One of the best tricks to get better at writing and speaking is to read often. You gain a better grasp of language and the most effective ways to use it. The more words and ideas you pick up from skilled writers, the more their techniques will slip into the way you communicate.

20 Questions Freelance Copywriters Should Ask Before Starting a Project

Post updated in January 2019

Being a copywriter for a living requires more than just knowing how to questions copywriters should ask clientswrite well. For your work to be worth it to clients, you have to deliver content that helps them achieve their goals. And a big part of that is learning how to communicate effectively with prospects before you ever start a new assignment.

Asking the right questions before you start working with the client can save you both a lot of pain down the line. Getting everything clear from the get go ensures you:

  • Can establish if you and the potential client are a good fit.
  • Gain a clear idea of what type of work they’re looking for.
  • Are able to provide an accurate quote for the project.
  • Go into the project with all the information you need to do it well, if you both choose to move forward.

It also makes you more professional when you go into the call clearly prepared and know the right questions to ask.

Many of the client relationships I’ve had that didn’t work out failed either because we didn’t do a good job of getting on the same page in this early step, or because I ignored signs in the initial call that the project or client weren’t a good fit—against my better judgement. (I suspect every freelancer does this several times before learning to trust our gut better).

Over several years of working as a freelance content marketing writer, I’ve come up with a good template of questions I use for early client calls. This starter list, along with a few minutes of research into the business before the call starts, goes a long way to starting client relationships off on the right foot and keeping these calls efficient.

The 20 questions provided below should be treated as a starting point. Every freelancer has different priorities and a different working style, and you may find it worthwhile to skip some of these or add in different questions.

Oh, and this list can be just as useful to anyone looking work with a freelance copywriter, to help you be more prepared when interviewing potential hires (especially when coupled with this post on good questions to ask freelancers).

Content

Most copywriters have a certain type of content they specialize in. For example, I stick with writing blog posts and longform content for businesses doing content marketing. Other writers focus on email marketing, or website copywriting, or landing pages. Your first step on the call is to establish the type of content a lead has in mind so you can make sure it matches what you do, and get a feel for the scope.

  1. What type of content do you need?

An obvious enough first question. Figure out what format they have in mind and where it will be published or shared. Blog posts are an entirely different type of work than writing a website or creating a print brochure.

  1.    What kind of length or scope do you have in mind?

For a website, figure out the number of pages they have in mind. For ebooks or white papers, ask what kind of the length they’re looking for. For ongoing work like blog posts and articles, find out if there’s a typical word count range they prefer the pieces to be in. Understanding the scope is crucial to making sure you price a project right and don’t commit to more than you can handle.

  1.      Do you have a style guide?

Style guides give you a lot of good information right upfront about what a business wants in the content you submit. Not all businesses have one, but if they do, you want it in hand before you start working.

  1.     Can you send examples of content in the style you like?

You can ask the lead what type of style they prefer, but I find it more helpful to ask for examples to look at. “Casual” or “professional” may mean different things to different people, but reading a few articles they particularly like—whether from their own blog or another site—can get you in the right headspace to deliver the style of writing they prefer.

Target Audience

You can not write effective content without knowing who you’re writing for. Everybody’s different and a message that works for middle-aged CEOs of small startups will be different than what works for teenage boys into video games.

  1.     Who’s your target audience?

Ask about who they’re trying to reach. What can they tell you in terms of their demographics, interests, and priorities? If the company’s B2B, what industries, job titles, and company sizes are they targeting?

In most cases, your target audience will be people they want to become customers, but not always. For some types of content, your target audience will be PR people, journalists, bloggers, or internal employees. Understanding that distinction is important!

  1.     Do you have a persona?

Personas help you picture the person you’re writing for. They provide a lot of good information on who the target audience is and what they care about. Not all companies have them, but if your prospect does, it’s something you want to see.

  1.     What do most of your current customers look like?

Understanding who buys their product now will help you understand who will buy the product in the future. Ask them to describe their current customers, especially those they’d consider their best or most enthusiastic customers.

  1.     Do you have data now on the kind of content and topics they respond best to?

This is a good way to learn more about who your audience is based on real data. Find out which of their content is the most popular with the people they’re trying to reach. They should have (or be able to find) data on which blog posts get the most views and shares, which emails get the most clicks and opens, which ebooks get the most downloads, etc.

Primary Goals

In marketing, every piece of writing should have a goal. No company will pay for writing unless they want it to accomplish something. And you need to know what that goal is.

  1.     What are your goals for this content?

Ultimately, every business wants to make more sales, but that doesn’t mean every piece of content is about making a sale.  In content marketing, some content is meant to be educational and build a relationship. Some is to improve a website’s SEO. And some will be about driving an action like signing up for an email list or downloading an ebook.

Ask what they consider the best metric for the success of the piece: how many people view it, how many websites link to it, how many people download it, how many sign up for more information, purchase a product, something else? You need to know so you can write content designed to meet that goal.

  1.  Is SEO a priority?

For any content that will be published on a website, this is an important question. When SEO comes into play, you need to be aware of the keywords your client is hoping to rank for and strategically use them in your headings and the body of the piece.

You’ll also want to clarify if they’ll be providing keywords and performing on-site optimization, or if that’s part of what they’re hiring you to do, so you understand the full scope.

  1.  Do you have a plan for content promotion?

I’d love to think that great writing is good enough on its own, since that’s the service I provide. But it’s not true anymore. For the content I provide my clients to do its job, they also need to put work into promoting it. So it’s always good to ask potential clients if they have a plan in place now to promote their content.

If content promotion is a service you offer, then this could be an opportunity to upsell and offer more than just writing. If not, you can at least do your due diligence in telling the prospect how important you think it is to their success and encourage them to make it a part of their content strategy.

Product and Business

Before you do any writing for a new client, you want to take some time to understand who they are and what they sell. You can get some of that initial information on your first call (and fill in the gaps with additional research after).

  1.  What’s your company’s unique positioning?

Every company should have a unique value proposition (UVP) that clarifies the primary benefits of the product or service they sell, and what sets them apart from the competition. If your prospect doesn’t yet have a UVP, this is another potential opportunity for you to help them develop it.

  1.  Who are your main competitors?

Competitor research is a good way to better understand the industry and a client’s place within it. Having a list of the three or four main companies they consider the competition will help you with your initial research.

  1.  What are your favorite industry blogs and resources?

If the prospect is in an industry that’s new to you, ask them what websites and blogs they trust most. This list will give you shortcut in finding reputable resources in your research, and help you get up to speed on the topics commonly covered in the industry.

  1.  Can you send over resources to help me get up to speed on the product?

Most companies will have both internal documents and marketing materials that provide information on the products they sell. Ask about case studies, product demos, customer feedback, and testimonials. And as previously mentioned, see if they have buyer personas and a style guide.

Working Style and Process

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in years of freelancing is how important it is to work with clients that are a good fit. That will mean something different for every freelancer, and the better you come to understand what it means for you, the more success you’ll have. For me, these questions are useful for identifying when clients are likely to be a good fit or not.

  1.  What does your process for working with freelancers generally look like?

This general question gives your prospect a chance to provide a description of their working style, which can provide a lot of good information. See if what they describe seems to match well with the way you work.

  1.  Will you provide topics and initial strategy, or would you like my help with that?

How to frame this question will depend on the type of work involved, but it’s important for clarifying scope. Many clients will have their strategy firmly in place, and only need you to do the writing part. Some content marketing clients will want you to pitch topics for content, do keyword research, or get your help with promotion. For website copywriting, they may want you to take charge of crafting a UVP or doing audience research as part of the project.

You need to know if you’ll be in charge of strategy as well as writing, so ask specific questions to find out what the project fully entails.

  1.  Do you typically plan out your calendar in advance?

This is an important compatibility question for me. I like to know what my calendar looks like going into the month so I can plan out my days carefully and avoid overloading myself, while some clients like a much faster turnaround. This question helps you figure out if you’re a good match when it comes to how you schedule assignments.

And a note here: if you’re a freelance writer who’s happy to take on projects with fast turnarounds, that’s a big value add! I encourage charging accordingly.

  1.  What’s your preferred form of communication?

Do they prefer phone or emails? Do they like to manage their communication with freelancers on a platform like Slack or Trello? This is another potential compatibility issue. Communication styles can make a big difference in how hard or easy it is to work with a client.

  1.  What’s your typical timeline and process for revisions?

Revisions can potentially add a lot of work to a project. This question helps you figure out how often you can expect to make edits and changes, and how to plan for them in your schedule.

What About Money?

A lot of freelancers advise also asking about budget. I left that question off intentionally here. I prefer following up the call with a detailed proposal listing out my rates, rather than discussing them on the phone.

That makes it easier for me to be thoughtful about what I quote, so I don’t underprice when feeling put on the spot. And it means I can provide information on the value I provide alongside the rates.

I usually go into the call with a minimum rate in mind, since the client will likely ask, and I have an internal rates sheet to help guide me. But I wait to provide specifics until after the call.

Asking these questions will both help you avoid clients who aren’t a good fit for you and enable you go into every new client relationship with the knowledge you need to do good work. Make that initial call worth it by being prepared with the right questions.