4 skills to use on your next client discovery call

Feb 09, 2021

Maybe you’ve cold called a company or had a referral. Either way, you have a scheduled time on the calendar to talk to a company about a freelance project.

Here’s the thing… for your own mental & financial wellbeing, it should be a good fit for both parties. Here are the skills you need to figure out whether this job will work for you.

Hone your Spidey sense

Your first step is to look for the red flags. In other words, make sure the company you talk to about your services is qualified for YOU before you start talking about the project. You'll know if they’re worth your time if:

· You are talking to the decision maker

· The timing of the project is reasonable

· The budget works for you AND them

· The company actually wants/desires/needs your services

· Anything that could stand in the way of the project is clearly defined and manageable

Over time, you’ll develop a spidey sense for BS and for companies that just want to waste your time or are just seeking pricing to negotiate with someone else. Both red flags.

By asking uncomfortable questions, you get right to the root of why a company is looking for a freelancer. You must talk to the decision maker usually, this means you go to the CEO, if you're working with a smaller company. Because they are very busy, they generally won’t BS you about their needs.

Sift them out

So, let’s say you get an email asking to chat about your web design services. Great. You should have a Calendly account integrated with your video meeting service (this costs less than $25/month) to handle that. In Calendly, you get 10 questions to ask the person making the appointment at the time they request the meeting use those questions to get a feel for the user/company.

For a web developer, the questions should be:

· Name

· Company

· Title

· Phone number & extension

· Email

· Current website

· Why are they interested in a new website?

· What timeline do they expect for completion of the project?

· Estimated budget

· What are 3 keywords they would like to rank for?

For other freelancers, think about the needs of your industry and tailor these questions as needed.

When you get the Calendly alert and their answers to the above don't match what you're looking for in a project, just email them back that you're not interested.

Once you have a meeting booked, you want to send 2 reminders to the person who scheduled with you: an email 24 hours in advance and a text reminder 15 minutes before.

The 24-hour reminder can be Calendly's automated reminder, but it should include one of your testimonials. Warm up the person with a testimonial from their niche your customers end up selling your own product for you to your target audience. Boom.

By the time they get on the call with you, they are completely warmed up (assuming they’re serious) and receptive to you and your ideas… before the meeting even starts.

Don't be that person

When you have a meeting set up, use the information they provided and do your due diligence. Look into the person, the company, the company website, the data and keywords. I’d even look into their competitors. Have all of this information researched before hand and ready to go.

On the call, have all of your research and a few past project examples open in other windows so you can refer back to them.

When starting the meeting, build rapport. Ask questions. Then ask more questions. Listen and write notes. During the first ~25 minutes of the call, the client should be doing 90% of the talking. You are listening, taking notes, and asking questions. Here is when you qualify: when you identify the "Why." Why a business wants this service done now. Perhaps their sales have dropped… or shot up. Perhaps a competitor is crushing them with a new product or they want to rebrand. Whatever it is, you need to hit that button and get them emotionally invested.

From there, qualify them. Ask them what the timing is and reference the timing they put on the Calendly field. “So, in a perfect world, you are looking for the new website to deploy in 6 weeks, is that right?” Remember, telling isn’t selling. Ask open-ended questions and let them tell you. It’s more profound when the other person tells you rather than you tell them. This in turn, keeps you in full control.

Be a detective

Ask the uncomfortable questions now. By this point, you have demonstrated that you have your act together. Ask about budget, timing, and what (if anything) would stand in the way of you working together. Now is when you show them your process, share a previous project and how you got there. Refer back to the “Why” you identified earlier. For example, with a new product launch, tell them that you’ll dedicate a new page just for the product and integrate testimonials when available. Then show them a past example. It’s important at this point to mention that because you’ve niched down, you can speak their language and have a knowledge of the industry.

By following these steps, you'll get the answers you need — not what they need. This is a meeting to see this project will work for you, not the other way around. You’re not a commodity; you’re an expert and have a high bar with the clients that you choose to work with. If they balk or get weirded out by those qualifying questions, you're probably not talking to the decision maker, or the meeting was scheduled just to suss you out.

You want to protect yourself from BS clients who say they’re “in” for the project then don't give you the tools you need, don't respond to your questions, request all kinds of extra work you hadn't agreed up, or don't pay up at the end. Learn to qualify your clients early and spend time on the ones that make the most sense.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Charlie Hernandez

Former advertising sales ninja turned freelance web developer. Landed a big client as my very first client ($20K USD gig) and now teach freelance web designers how to do the same.