Five Questions to Ask your First Freelance Client

Whether you’re breaking free from traditional 9-to-5 jobs or adding a side gig, the time has come to begin your new life as an entrepreneur.You’ve done your research, honed your skills, and engaged your first freelance client.

Initial discussions with your first client establish a new professional relationship and set the tone for the project. Here are five questions you’ll want to ask upfront to ensure smooth sailing and make the most of your hard-won opportunity.

What are your goals for this project -- and how will you decide whether it's a success?

It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the client’s needs and the work that you’ll be taking on. Get a list of project-related duties in writing, whether in the form of a contract, a work agreement, or a simple email you can refer back to when questions arise. Ask to see previous examples of similar projects and discuss them in-depth — it’s the best way to find out what your client considers most important about the work.

When is the project due and how will it be delivered?

Meeting your client’s deadlines is crucial to your success as a freelancer, so make sure you’ll have enough time to do the job well without jeopardizing your current work or life obligations. How will you submit your work? Large digital files may require use of a file-sharing service such as Dropbox of ShareFile. If the project has a physical component, you may need to factor in shipping time. Preparation is key — you don’t want to leave the impression you are scrambling to make your deadline.

Who will serve as your primary contact and what’s the best way to communicate while working on the project?

Asking your client for a primary contact helps ensure that someone will be available to answer your questions. It also determines who has final say when colleagues offer conflicting advice, which can happen on larger projects. Establishing the mode of communication is vital. Let the client choose among phone calls, texts, emails, or whatever to address important issues in a timely manner.  

What are the terms of payment?

It’s best to establish a rapport and discuss the project at length before addressing compensation. This also means you’ll have the knowledge you need to evaluate an offer. Is there are an hourly rate or a flat fee for the entire project? If it’s an hourly rate, how many hours does the client expect you to spend on the project? When negotiating a flat fee, be sure to consider all the elements required to complete the project. You want to be realistic here and gently encourage your client to do the same.

Is this a one-time project or is there potential for regular or additional work?

Most clients don’t want to hear this question asked directly or upfront. It makes sense to evaluate your performance on your initial project before considering the future. If the opportunity arises, express a general interest in continuing your professional relationship, but let your work do most of the talking. Give your clients exactly what they need and they’ll likely come back for more.


Want to learn more ways to build a better Freelance career? Check out AndCo's Freelance Essentials: Your A-Z Guide from Contracts to Taxes now on Skillshare!