Writers need to be prepared to answer a few basic questions that clients will almost always want answered. By anticipating these questions, and having good answers ready, you have a much better chance of instilling confidence in the potential client and thereby transforming them into actual, paying clients. Here are four questions you're likely to hear, and how I approach answering them. Your answers may be different. If so, let me know in the comments box how you'd handle the questions below differently:
1. What do you know about our company and the target audiences/customers we're trying to reach? How would you appeal to our audiences?
Knowing your client is the first rule of marketing, so do your research. Visit the client's website and read about their products and services. Check out their blog in order to gauge its voice and topical slant. Google the client's name and read up on recent news stories about it. The more you know about the client and its goals, the better you'll be able to answer this vital question.
When it comes to appealing to a client's customers, I put myself in the shoes of the client. I'm in the game of finding customer problems and solving them -- just like my potential client. Every client who's looking to hire a writer wants to use better communication to reach customers and audiences. The key to engaging your client's customers is this: understand customer problems and solve them. If your potential client is an insurance company seeking to focus its message on small businesses, you'd better be aware of the problems of small business owners. Talk the language of problems and solutions -- and be the client's (and its customers') solution.
2. How do you manage deadlines and competing priorities?
If you're an experienced writer, you're also by definition a good planner who organizes workflow far in advance. I use digital organizational tools like Evernote to plan my work schedule. I also use an old-fashioned planner book. I keep track of my deadlines and work schedule accordingly.
Writers must be disciplined about workflow. I work five days a week, every day. Writing is mostly enjoyable, but not always so. On some days when the muse isn't singing sweet music into your ear, you just have to grind it out. Being a professional writer means getting work out the door no matter what, having a strong work ethic and a proven writing process in place.
If I recognize that I may have difficulty meeting a deadline, I negotiate the deadline with the client when taking on the assignment or, in a worst-case scenario, contact the client and ask for an extension of an existing deadline. If an extension is impossible, I just work more time to meet the deadline. Working nights and weekend on occasion, but only when necessary, is part of the price you pay for having your own writing business. Like all skills, organization improves with experience.
3. What's your writing process like?
The client needs to know that you have a process in place, that you begin at point A and move methodically toward the finish line -- a well-written article that meets the client's needs. Begin by explaining how you work with a client:
- to understand the scope of the assignment: what the client expects.
- to research the topic in order to find sources of information to support assertions.
- to write a first draft, write a second draft, a third draft, and a fourth -- until the article is up to my exacting standards and meets the client's exacting standards.
- to submit the article and await feedback from the client/editor.
- to respond promptly when feedback arrives and changes are requested. My goal is to have the article work for the client's needs. It isn't about me, but about the client and the audiences we're trying to reach.
4. How do you apply best practices in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) into your writing?
More and more clients are concerned with SEO, so you should be ready to address this concern. I've been working with SEO for 3 years now, so understand how to work with a keyword and integrate it into my articles. It takes a lot of practice to get it right. If you're not so familiar with SEO, I'd recommend doing some online research or maybe watching a few instructional videos on YouTube. It's well worth your time.
Alright, that's it for today's blog post. How do you generally handle interviews with clients or (if you're on the client side) with content writers? Would you answer the questions above any differently? If so, I'd love to hear your comments below . . .