How to Ace Your Next Freelancing Job Interview

Most people don’t realize it, but freelancers frequently face interviews.

Unlike a traditional employee, who may go years without being interviewed once they have been hired, a freelancer may face an interview nearly every time a prospect considers them for a project. So, good interview skills are an important part of a freelancer’s arsenal.

In this post, I’ll provide some tips to help freelancers prepare for various types of interviews that they might face. I’ll also identify some good answers to tough interview questions that freelancers get asked.


Preparing for the Interview

Often, freelance interviews are conducted by phone. However, if you are located near a client’s office, then you may be asked to participate in a face-to-face interview.

Here are some general tips to help you prepare for all interviews:

  • Research the client as thoroughly as possible before the interview. Try to learn about their business as well as what is currently going on with their organization.
  • Go with a positive mindset. Remember, the client is choosing to spend the time to learn more about you. This means that they’re more than likely serious about hiring you.
  • Have a “cheat sheet” available with pertinent information such as links to your samples and contact information for your references.
  • Ask for the business. Enthusiasm counts. If you want this work, be sure to tell that to the client.
  • Follow-up. One of the biggest mistakes that freelancers make is not following up after an interview. It’s perfectly acceptable to send an email the day after the interview thanking the client for their time and asking if they have any additional questions.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for face-to-face interviews:

  • Dress professionally. Yes, freelancers are known for their extremely casual dress, but the freelance interview is one exception. Make sure that you look as professional as you are.
  • Arrive on time. Map out the route in advance and allow yourself extra time if you will be travelling to the client’s office during peak traffic times.
  • Bring your business cards. Not only will this give your prospect a handy way to contact you, having business cards also adds to your image as a freelancing professional.
  • Bring your tablet. Your iPad or other tablet can be a great tool at an interview. You can load a slideshow of your samples, discuss the client’s website, or even look at examples of other websites that the client likes.
  • Be prepared to take notes. The client may wish to start discussing the project details with you. If this is the case, make sure that you are ready. You may be able to use a Notes app on your iPad or you may prefer pencil and paper.

Although, interviews may be uncomfortable, remember that the client is deciding whether they want to spend money on your services. It’s important to help them feel good about doing that.

Now that you’re ready for the interview, it’s time to think about some of the questions that you may be asked.

Answers to Six Tough Interview Questions

If you’re a freelancer you may face some particularly difficult interview questions. Here are some answers to those tough interview questions:

  1. Can you devote all of your time to my project? Unless the project is full-time and pays enough to support you while you are working on it, you probably will be working on other projects while you work for this client. However, your answer to this question should address what are probably the client’s underlying fears. Try saying, “I am known for meeting my deadlines despite juggling multiple projects. If you have any questions and concerns I can be reached at XXX-XXX-XXXX.”
  2. How long have you been in business? This question could be difficult for new freelancers to answer. However, once again the key to an effective answer is to deal with what the client is probably wondering and not with what the client said. Basically, the client wonders if you are qualified to do the work. A possible answer could look something like this, “I bring over five years of graphic design experience to the table–four years working with an agency and one year as the principal of my own graphic design business.” If you’re a new graduate, you may want to focus instead on your education. That answer might look like this, “I recently graduated at the top of my class in graphic design. While working on my degree I had the opportunity to intern at ABC Company.”
  3. What is your biggest fault? (A variation of this question might be: What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?) If you substitute the word “challenge” for the word “fault” or “mistake,” you’ll get a good idea of the best way to handle this question. By describing how you overcame a challenge you avoid running yourself down. You can turn a potential negative into a positive.
  4. How much do you charge per hour? It’s best to quote a project by the job, if you can. Try to get an idea of what sort of budget the client has set aside for the project. If you don’t know enough about a project to provide a quote, say something like, “I’d be happy to discuss the details of your project with you and develop a customized quote.”
  5. What is your preferred means of communication? This question shows that the interviewer may be afraid that you will become unreachable. You can answer this by reassuring them that you can easily be reached. Say something like, “Although I prefer to receive emails while I am working, I’m usually also available by phone, Skype or instant messaging.”
  6. Do you work from home or do you have an office? Many nonfreelancers can’t envision working from home because they don’t have a dedicated space at home where they could get work done. Reassure the interviewer that you will be just as effective at home as you would be working elsewhere. Say something like, “I have a room in my home dedicated to just my freelance writing business. During working hours, I find that I get more done there than I did when I worked in a corporation.”

Your Turn

What was the most difficult freelancing interview you ever had?

Without naming names, share how you aced your difficult interview. How would you have answered the questions above?

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic. I really like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise.

  2. KJ says

    We were interviewing as a team of three. The one doing the interview was leery of me as the graphic designer, because she figured I’d be a “flaky artist” type. She felt better after learning that I was an ex-newspaper writer used to deadlines.

    The real clincher, though, was unexpected. The talk turned just a tad more casual after a bit and I said something about being a fan of the Grammar Girl blog. It was like instant success. She suddenly felt that I must be a kindred spirit, as she was also a fan. I guess sometimes it’s the little stuff.

  3. says

    Are you saying that an employee is never considered for a new project by the employer?
    Example: The corporation lands a new project and needs to put together a new project team to work on the project.

  4. says

    Thanks Maria!

    KJ–Great example. Deadlines are definitely something that clients worry about, since many have heard horror stories about a freelancer who didn’t meet theirs. That’s neat about both of you liking the same blog. Sometimes it really IS the little stuff. :)

    Gold, I was in the corporate world for many years before I became a freelancer. While I’m sure that sometimes there might be internal interviews (especially if you are up for a promotion), I can’t recall ever being required to do one. Of course, YMMV.

  5. says

    I’ve had many interviews with potential clients. Personally, I think all contact with a client, whether a formal interview or not, constitutes the same.

    Therefore, any contact you have with the client on Twitter, G+, FaceBook, or elsewhere, works, in part, as an interview of sorts. However, the post talks about the more formal type of interview. Yes, I’ve had many and all went very well — even the ones where the client and I decided not to work together.

    One client didn’t hire me because of my political and religious affiliation (this client was a political party in D.C.). Another assumed I was Jewish, due to my Jewish last name (hubs is a Jew) and didn’t hire me. Other than those instances, my interviews have been rather smooth. I have so much more to write, but hubs (the Jew) is beckoning me from the kitchen. :-)

  6. says

    Really valuable information here! It’s so true you can get a lot more from a live or phone interview – but they take much more time. Especially if you have to drive a distance for a live interview, seems like it’s only worth it if you are getting paid pretty decently. That said, I agree that body language can say so much more than you’d ever get via phone or email.

    When I was reporting for an environmental newspaper (and often short on time because I did EVERYTHING), I often found myself resorting to email to save time. But my quotes suffered. I also realized that part of the reason I was doing this was because of that irrational fear of calling the interviewee. But – once i made the call, it was so always just fine!

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