42 Questions Every Freelancer Should Ask Their Clients

Taking a gig as a freelancer is often times much more than a temporary decision. A freelance project can involve working with someone for a potentially long period of time, and both you and your clients can have a lot at stake.

If you take a freelancing gig that doesn’t really fit with your skills and abilities you have a much higher risk of winding up with a dissatisfied client or bad client. You could also wind up working much harder and making a lot less money on the project.

It’s important for freelancers to get to know every prospective client before taking on a new job. That’s why I’ve created this list of 42 questions for freelancers to ask prospective clients during the interview/briefing process.

(You probably won’t have to ask all 42 questions to each and every client. Most clients will volunteer a lot of this information, and you’ll also find some of the answers as you do your own research on the client.)

As you examine the answers to these questions, look for differences between the way that you work and your client’s expectations. If you find that there are many differences, you should consider it a red flag and consider referring the project to someone else. If you do decide to proceed with the project, do so with caution.

Here are 42 questions every contractor should ask their clients:

Company Background Questions

  1. What kind of business is your company in?
  2. How long has your company been in business?
  3. What is the size of your company?
  4. What is the company’s reputation?
  5. What is your typical customer like?
  6. Who are your competitors?
  7. What is your address?
  8. What is your phone number?
  9. What is your e-mail address?
  10. What is the best way to contact you?

Questions About Work Philosophy

  1. What is most important to you, quality or speed?
  2. How often do you want updates on my progress?
  3. Do you hire freelancers very often?
  4. Is your preferred work process structured, or unstructured?
  5. If necessary, would it be okay if I used subcontractors or outsourced parts of the project?

Project Specific Questions

  1. What is the purpose of this project?
  2. What sort of background do you expect a freelancer working on this project to have?
  3. How technical is this project?
  4. Describe how you envision the finished project?
  5. How many (words/pages/screens) are needed? (Modify this question for your own specific field.)
  6. What are the specific project instructions?
  7. Do your customers have any special requirements or needs to be met by this project?
  8. Can you show me an example something like what you have in mind?
  9. Who will be my contact for this project?
  10. How available are you (or the contact) to answer questions during the course of the project?
  11. If necessary, will I have access to (your website/company-specific information/etc.)? (Choose one.)
  12. Is it necessary to have any special (equipment/software) to complete this project? (Choose one.)
  13. Do you envision any potential problems with this project?

Work Agreement Questions

  1. What is the budget for this project?
  2. Who will own the intellectual rights to the finished project?
  3. What is the deadline for this project?
  4. How will you be making your payment?
  5. When will you pay?

Follow Up Questions (After a Project)

  1. How do you think the project went?
  2. Do you have any suggestions?
  3. Do you anticipate having any other projects based on this one?
  4. Will this project need to be updated or revised at some point?
  5. If the project needs updating, do you consider the updating or revisions to be a separate project?
  6. Are there any other projects that I can do for you?
  7. How often do you need the services of a (writer/web designer/programmer/consultant)? (Choose one.)
  8. Can I use this project as an example on my portfolio? (If the project has gone well.)
  9. Would you be willing to give a testimonial on my work for my web page? (If the client is pleased.)

Do you interview perspective clients? If so, what questions do you ask?

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Comments

  1. says

    great list. most of them go into my Project Planner worksheet that I have potential clients fill out. Also you have a typo. It says “roject” instead of “Project”

  2. says

    This is a great list! You suggest many more questions than I have been asking my clients. Following your advice is sure to improve the freelancer-client relationship. Thanks.

  3. says

    Hi John and Peter!

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.

    Building a strong relationship with your customers is important. The more information that you have, the more likely that is to occur.

  4. says

    Great bunch of questions. As you say, depending on the job and the company you may not need to ask all of these, but many should be part of any initial conversation and into ‘contract’ agreement.

    Some of these questions can be answered with the brief introduction chat. But too many times our clients may assume that we know more about them than we do and may not give answer to these questions without them being ask.

  5. Julian says

    Thanks for these great questions Laura. I wish I had known about them 2 months ago when I started getting all these clients.

    I’ll definitely be using them on m clients.

    Thanks again!

  6. says

    another good question could be what is your tagline or is there a general pitch that everyone uses. Kind of general but will help when you need to design marketing materials.

  7. says

    Hi Laura,

    Great list of questions! I need to be more professional from now. I generally take things for granted that the clients knows all the formalities, but in most cases it’ not the case.
    If you ask some clients what’s the deadline and budget, they’ll cringe. When we ask about pay, they think we’re greedy! And they back out, telling we have someone who’ll do this job. Maybe we need to gain some experience on this.
    Thanks for enlisting these questions and it’ll be in my folder all the time!
    Solomon

  8. says

    Many Many Thanks Laura,
    I was searching for this information so long.
    As soon as I read the title of the post I added it to the delicious bookmark & then read it on.

    Great List of questions. Its a perfect guide for the beginners who are in search of the projects. They will find it very useful and it is very important to ask some of these questions, as we are working on clients project we should be aware of who we are dealing with.

  9. says

    Very nice list! I do find that most of these questions are answered during the course of an interview with the client, but it’s good to keep these things in mind in case something doesn’t organically come up.

  10. says

    Excellent list – I’ve bookmarked it for future reference. It is equally useful for a prospective employer to see whether their prospective freelancer is asking smart questions ;).

    One I’d add: For some names of previous contractors they’ve used that you can contact. Knowing how the client is to work with, and whether they pay on time and as promised, are good things to find out if you can do so.

  11. says

    Great list Laura! I have bookmarked this for future reference. I tend to forget follow up questions other than…” Thanks X I’ve enjoyed work with you”

  12. says

    My client profile/needs analysis form keeps changing as I try to discover the best questions to ask and the most relevant information…

    …this post just made my life a lot easier!

    Thanks for a very useful post.

    Gordon

  13. jim says

    correct me if i am wrong…you are the one looking for a freelance project right?
    if so, then no need to ask those questions.

    just present your detailed proposal (not too detalied that they can do the job themselves) and your cost. then ask :

    1. when will they decide to award the work whether to you or another freelance
    2. most important of all – mode of payment

  14. says

    Great additions!

    Ken – I like the additions of “what is your tagline?” That could be helpful information.

    Solomon – You are right that it can be difficult to ask questions. Sometimes you can find the answers just by listening carefully or paying attention to the job posting. Other times you will have to ask. If you have trouble asking, picture another professional asking the questions of you.

    Damon – I think your addition of “What is the core driving principle/philosophy/mission that guides your business?” It gets to the crux of what makes your client tick!

    Arlene – Asking for previous contractors they’ve worked with is a great idea. I’ve actually done this (one particular instance comes to mind). Of course, sometimes you are the first contractor they’ve hired.

    Jim – I hear what you’re saying, but often clients don’t write clear specs or give detailed instructions. If you don’t understand what the job is your proposal could wind up being inaccurate or even lose you money. It’s definitely important to discuss timeframes and mode of payment, though.

    Waylon, I like your question too – although I’d probably modify it to “what is the best way to get in touch with you?”

    Keep the suggestions coming!

  15. Andrew says

    Great post! As someone just starting to move into freelance design and writing this will be very helpful. Thanks, Laura.

  16. says

    It’s great to have a list, have it memorized, and ask methodically and firmly.

    I would make a couple of changes, though.
    ‘What is more important to you, Quality of Speed?’ This says ‘if I do it quickly but do a poor job, is that ok?’. Clients want quality AND speed, especially if you are charging by the hour. If freelancers built Rome, the empire would have requested delivery by lunchtime.

    ‘When will you pay?’ YOU tell the client when they are paying! The invoice should have a statement like Due on Receipt. If you are offering terms, tell them. If you want a deposit and periodic payments, you tell them . Clients always respect businesses that are firm about money and don’t treat the project as a favour being done for them. And don’t act surprised when they do pay you. A simple ‘thank you for your prompt payment’ is enough.

  17. says

    Media Designer – Good points. I actually put “due on receipt” on most of my invoices.

    The quality/speed issue is an important dilemma freelancers face everyday. Thanks for highlighting it.

  18. Grant says

    I have freelanced many times during my long career in advertising and design.

    I would be very careful about asking many of the Company Background questions you offer up. Many companies looking for freelancers expect that you are going to do some research on the company before you talk to them. Just like in a job interview.

    Asking them for information that can, many times, easily be determined through quick research on the web makes you, as a potential contractor, look like you haven’t really taken an interest in them as a client.

    This can be a negative and set you off on the wrong foot with a potential client. Especially if they are a larger company.

  19. says

    Grant,

    You’re right, of course. That’s why I recommend that you do your research first and then ask any unanswered questions that you didn’t find the answer to in your research.

    Most of the time you won’t have to ask every single question, but you should know the answer to most of these before you start.

    Thanks for bringing that point out.

  20. Bruce Robertson says

    “Do you interview perspective clients? If so, what questions do you ask?”

    Uh, that would be “prospective”.

  21. waylon says

    Laura – ‘What is your phone number?’ was not my question – it was in your original list. That – among some of the other questions – strike me as something an un-resourceful person would ask. One could research these things on their own and know them going in. Asking some of the questions in your list may give the potential client the feeling you are … I don’t know, wet behind the ears.

  22. says

    I’d definitely specify my own terms of payment, not ask them when they’d pay.

    Other things to ask:

    Is your website/project launch based on a specific date or event (ie – grand opening, product launch, or holiday)

    Will you need a logo designed in conjunction with this project (or a business card or a press release written…whatever other job might compliment this one…a good way to get extra work out of a project).

    Please provide a budget range for this project (this would go on a pre-quote questionnaire. always good to know so you can pare down or increase bells & whistles you would offer the client).

    List a few adjectives of how clients SHOULD perceive your company. (in design, if perception should be ‘fun and exciting’ instead of ‘professional and clean’, the colors/fonts, etc would be completely different…so this is good to know)

    Great list!

  23. Alastair says

    It’s a good list.

    Personally I wouldn’t ever ask “Can I use this project as an example on my portfolio?” as I consider that to be my choice to make. After all, it may be their project, but it’s my work, and I consider that I have every right to advertise that fact, and that they have no right to object.

  24. Ironosity says

    You left out the most important question….
    “If there ever comes a time when we disagree are you prepared to submit to my will as the clearly supierior voice of reason?”

  25. says

    @Ironosity LOL. That’s a really funny question. I don’t believe the client should agree to that, but they should understand that they are hireing you for your skill and should listen to you. I hate it when clients try to design the website themselves :P

  26. says

    This might be the most useful & helpful post I’ve ever read. I have my own list that I add to over and over, but this honestly covers it all in a very organized order so that the client won’t feel like he’s in an interview or the principals office. Many thanks!

  27. says

    Freelancers might want to use this as an opportunity to reassure the client that you are going to be around once the project is finished.

    After all, the buyer might want to make changes, tweak what has been done, or add to what is there.

    Sometimes it is a question of hand-holding, but sometimes the work is so technical that the buyer would be lost without someone they feel they can rely on.

    Think of the times you yourself used a professional and appreciated their ability to speak plain english and felt reassured knowing they would translate that into whatever was needed using their skills.

    Think of how you might feel if you were phone that professional one Monday morning only to hear that he/she is no longer there…

    From the buyer’s point of view, knowing you are hooking up with someone who is going to be around for follow-ups is important.

  28. says

    An excellent list of questions.

    I present my questions to clients using a form, giving them easy yes/no options or multiple-choice answers, with an optional “notes” area at the bottom of each section so that if needed they can give me additional info. This works well for me, and client’s are more inclined to give me the info I need than if I just give them a list of questions.

    Interviewing clients using a question list in person or over the phone is also a good idea – the trick is to be flexible. Not everyone wants to sit and type or write out answers to questions, and other people prefer to use an easy-to-complete form.

    When I started out as a freelancer I had begun to realize that most client’s don’t want to do too much ‘homework’. My advice is to make it as easy as possible for clients to give you the proper feedback you require, be flexible and adaptable.

  29. jennifer says

    This is a very good list.

    It is pretty much exactly what I do and ask. I decide if I take on the project by what they tell me when I first contact them. Once they choose me and I them, I then send them my contract and ask when we can sit down and go over it.

    With my contract I layout everything I offer and the price. They just go through and check it off and fill in things like contact info, website info, “what is you project?”, “number of pages needed?”, “date to be completed” and so on. I sit down with them, because not every person is tech savy, so asking “doing you need flash?” can be lost on people.

    I’ve noticed from my year of freelancing, that it’s easier to sit down in person and hash everything out, clarify questions and just get a good feel for what your client wants and needs. And definitely take notes and make sketches to make sure you are on the right track way before you leave so neither party gets frustrated.

  30. says

    One question I always ask: “How will we measure our success?” By asking up front…and hopefully getting some objective metrics…it is easier to ensure that we all stay on the same page throughout the project.

  31. says

    Hi Laura

    As usual, great post! It’s really important to ask lots of questions (and expect questions back). Doing so really helps the relationship and it shows you care.

    I find it’s also a great way of ‘factoring’ price (esp the philosophical questions) – we can understand future potential but also make moral decisions. For example, I turned down a big piece of work for an outsourcer who serviced a tobacco giant. On the flipside, I offered a large discount to an organization who were provided at-cost services to a cancer charity.

    Simon

  32. says

    I’ve been freelancing for a while now and think that your list is a great starting point with regards to approaching each project. I’ve found that some clients want to fill in forms,some only want a quick and factual discussion and other prefer longer chatty conversations about their project and life in general. It’s great to be familiar with a list of questions, I keep a small list in my project meeting book to refer to during a meeting to use if need be and try to gather all the information required.

  33. says

    These are applicable to so many different professions. I could definitely use most of them for photography jobs—thanks for putting the list together, Laura!

  34. says

    Great list, I would add one note though in this day and age of e-mail and IM’s. Make sure to actually talk on the phone at least once (and better yet meet them in person too – if it’s a big project especially) before committing to the project, this will help make sure you get a good feel for the client’s personality and competence.

    I say this out of personal experience in relation to a simple illustration project that should have taken no more than a month or two, that has stretched to over seven due in large part to waiting on the client to figure out what they want. Though this list would have probably prevented that issue for the most part, I still think a phone call is good to have to give you that greater understanding of the client.

  35. says

    Great list Laura and I will be trying to ask most of your points next project. One of the things that slips me up as a freelancer are payment terms. With most companies the accounts manager writes the cheque at the end of the day and are used to holding back as long as possible.

    So you have spent a month working on a project and then have to wait another month to get paid – not good!

    Always try to get half the estimate / budget up front or invoice on a weekly basis. Afterall your entrusting your time with them.

  36. says

    Good list. I came here looking for some Follow-up Questions. And noticed you didn’t ask any about your service. I would think you might want to include:

    Do you have any suggestions to improve my/our workflow?

    What did you like or unlike about working with me/us?

    What are some strengths and what are some of the weaknesses from working on the project?

    You should be open to criticism and learn from it. You might discover something that will help in the long run from the other site of the coin.

  37. says

    Try this as well..
    Only 10 Questions

    1. What is the exact text of the logo?
    It is very important that you establish the exact that the client would like to see in the logo. You will have to explain to the client that changes to the wording could have an effect on the concepts and therefore the client would need to nail down the exact words in the logo before any design work begins.

    2. Any Slogan or Tag line?
    It is also vital to find out if the client wants to see a slogan or tag line in the logo and the level of integration they are hoping for. Some client prefer to see the tag line as a separate entity and placed some where below the actual logo design. Yet others might want the tag incorporated into the design itself.

    3. What is the Nature of the business, service or product?
    This is a more usual question that all designers would be made aware of but I included it here for sake of completeness.

    4. Who is the Target Market?
    This is a very important piece of information and would help the logo designer understand who this logo would most likely be exposed. This would then help the designer try and envision the kind of message that might be appropriate to that target audience.

    For example, if you have two companies called “Black Hawks Construction“ and one caters to the residential market and the other to the commercial market, the two logos would have to be quite different in terms of the usuage of colors, fonts. icons and the layout. A corporate looking logo with possibly an iconic representation of a hawk might be appropriate to the commercial market whereas a more friendly version with an icon representing a house or a tree or perhaps even line art of a construction worker or a construction hat might be more appropriate to the domestic market.

    5. Any Competitors?
    It is useful to find out who the client thinks are their direct competitors. Of course a logo designer would also have to conduct their own research in terms of looking at as many corporate identities as possible in the same market to understand what the current trends are.

    6. Any Creative strategy?
    This is the tricky bit. A lot of clients might not have thought about their logo at all and would not be in a position to tell the designer what they are looking for. Often they might shrug their shoulders and say “I am not a designer! That is why I have come to you”.

    Fair enough. However often we obeserve that after a few concepts are presented to the same client, they would then come back saying that they had actually expected some thing else. It is better to find out before hand what that “some thing else” is. You should explain to the client that it would help a lot to understand what look and feel or logo style the client might prefer. Or they could perhaps tell the designer what kind of images or icon they believe might look good. This leads to the next point.

    7. Any examples of logos the client likes?
    Following on from the last point, it would be very useful to find out what logos your client likes. This could be from your portfolio or perhaps from out there. Invite the client to spend some time on the web and list a few logos that they fancy. This help the designer understand the style the client prefers.

    There are many styles of logos our there. You have the simple iconic logos, the illustrative logos, text based logos, line art logos, 3D logos, web 2.0 logos and more.

    8. Any examples of logos the client does NOT like?
    Knowing what the client does not like is a good way to prevent working on styles that might ultimately get thrown out by the client. However the logo designer must also use his or her judgment and not be afraid to show an concept which might use an icon or image the client said they did not like. Perhaps with the proper treatment, the designer could show the client a new angle or perspective and help the client understand how that particular image or icon might actually help the brand.

    9. What are the Preferred colors?
    It is also important the client has some idea of the colors that they would like to see in the logo concepts. Agreed, the client might not be in a position to appreciate the importance of the various colors in terms of how people or consumers might respond or behave towards, but it would help if they indicate a preference to a few colors.

    10. Where will the logo be most used?
    It is also quite important to find out where the client is most likely going to use their logo. The medium of usuage helps in making decisions regarding the use of gradients, defining the layout and more.

  38. Kyleigh says

    Besllin – yes! loving your logo job questions, lots I have used myself but I’ve kept your list for logo work in the future, as there’s some gems in there!

    Laura – love the questions, thank you – I think its definitely worth doing your homework beforehand, so as not to ask *ALL* of the questions

  39. says

    I already interviewed my clients but this list has so many questions I didn’t think to ask and it’s so well structured!

    Thanks very much! Great resource.

  40. says

    Hi there,

    Thank you for these great questions, and the great content of the blog, anyway !

    I’m a freelance in Paris, and I needed some new questions for work. So know that your questions have been translated in French :)

    Merci !
    R.

  41. says

    Hi, thank you for sharing the question.
    I am new in this area, so i really need this list of questions.
    I googling itu, and i find you, so luck for me..:)

  42. Adel Joubert says

    Dear Laura
    This was very helpful, but I’m not in the Freelance Business but in more in Client Relations officer/Manager. I desperately need a list of questions to ask clients upon visiting them. I don’t know what to ask them. I’m new on this sort of thing and need help. Some of this questions i can use but the majority is not for Client Relations. If someone out their in cyber space can help me – would really appreciate it

    Kind regards

  43. says

    It’s been over two years since I first saw this post and I come back to it every time before I start working with a new client and after I end a contract.

    Laura, this post has done me very well!

    Thank you for the second time :)

  44. says

    This list is absolutely perfect…
    Takes me from hammering rocks in the stone age to present with one click of the print button.
    Thank you so much!

  45. says

    I believe it does vary from customer to customer, from some customer you might need some additional info according to their vertical / industry and from other customer you might not need to ask all the questions above but overall it is very well written and informative.

    Thank you.
    Fakhar

  46. says

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  47. Cartoon illustrator says

    Great list, but as much as we may like to fire off 42 questions, none of us would have any clients if we did. Most clients would be put off by long forms. My advice is to tailor questions to a need to know list only and keep it brief. This is a great list for a pick an mix of questions…but don’t advise asking them all.

  48. says

    Wow this is very good article looking very interesting & attractive.I LOVE TO READ YOUR ARTICLES.I got some ideas on website development from your article.Thanks for posting such a valuable information.

  49. says

    I believe, asking about their previous experiences with other freelancers and companies does sound like an excellent option to understand their in-depth knowledge about the process.

  50. says

    It is in point of fact a great and helpful piece of information.
    I’m happy that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  51. says

    What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this website daily,
    this web site is truly fastidious and the viewers are genuinely
    sharing pleasant thoughts.

    Ute

  52. says

    These are some fantastic ideas to ask clients, I think the problem with some free lancers is that they do not ask questions where possible. But in the end of the day you need to ask questions to get the client involved in the project.

  53. says

    Top post, Laura. I’ve done a truck load of freelance SEO copywriting myself and I’m here to tell you that it’s a minefield out there, and a solid check-list like you’ve laid out is freelancing gold. Much better to have everything about the freelancing gig clear up-front, that way everybody is on the same page moving forward and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.

  54. says

    Every freelancer and client should know up front what each side should be doing and offering.
    Clarification is the main thing, so every question you can think of on both sides is key.

  55. says

    As a freelancer from Sydney, Australia, I always make sure I understand my clients requirements before I even decide to build or host their website. The best thing you can do is create a proposal and then get them to sign it off before you start the project. This not only helps you to understand exactly what they want, it ensures that you cover yourself.

    I’ve had a couple of clients try and swindle me and get free hosting for their website, but once I show them the proposal and what they signed off on that’s the end of it!

  56. says

    I agree with Greg… there is nothing worse than having to answer to multiple contacts within the same organisation! The question is, do you turn down a project that will be difficult to manage or up the costs?

  57. says

    hi, this is good stuff, I’m delighted My spouse and i made itself known yet about this write-up cos my partner and i ended up being looking for something such as this due to the fact last night. very much treasured!

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