The Copywriter’s Tips for Effective Client Interviews

December 13th 2012       Sally Ormond       effective copywriting briefing questions, How to interview copywriting clients, interview questions for copywriters, questions all copywriters should ask

The first stop for any copywriter after receiving an enquiry is a client meeting.

The most effective way is face-to-face, but that’s not always possible so it may be by video call or Skype.

But however you do it, it is your one opportunity to meet the potential client, impress them and gather all the information you need to know about the project.

So where do you start?

Here are my top 20 must ask questions:

1. Project definition

What exactly is it they want you to do. This is essential to work out the complexity and extent of the work involved. Pin them down to as exact a brief as possible to avoid constant ‘tweaks’ throughout the project. If you’re not careful you could end up out of pocket because the changing parameters resulted in huge amounts of extra work.

A good way of protecting yourself is using their answer to this question in your proposal document (quoting word for word if you can) and then stating very clearly that anything above and beyond that will attract an additional charge.

You will also need to know the format of the project (print or online) as that will determine the skill set needed to complete the project and may have an impact on your quote.

2. Timings

It’s important to get this information from the outset: when do they want to start the project and when is the deadline for completion. If it’s obvious to you that their time frame will be impossible to meet, tell them. Don’t just go along with it because its a paying job, you’ll just end up giving yourself an ulcer trying to meet it.

3. Budget

Sometimes a client isn’t willing to tell you, but of they do it at least gives you an idea of whether you’re wasting your time there or not. Alternatively, if your fee for the scope of the work is outside their budget, you could always show that in your quote, but then show them what is possible for their budget.

4. Approval process

The saying ‘too many cooks…’ comes to mind here.

Any copywriter that’s worked for a large company where the approval of all directors has to be met will understand the importance of this question. Multiple view points mean numerous tweaks resulting in severely weakened copy. If it does have to go through lots of people try to find out who (if anyone) has the final say and aim your copy at them.

5. Interviews

For some projects it may be necessary to interview people outside the company, especially for case studies etc. If will be the case for this project find out whether the company will be setting up the meetings or whether you have to research to find relevant people to speak with. Again, this will have an impact on your final quote.

6. Topics

If the project involves writing blogs and articles, find out whether the company will be providing you with a list of topics, or whether you’ll be expected to come up them yourself.

7. Existing marketing materials

This will give you an idea of the company ‘voice’. If they hate their current materials, it’s even more important that you see them because that way you’ll know what they definitely don’t want.

8. Who is the target audience?

Vital. The audience is the key to the project, get your approach wrong and it will be a flop.

Ask them to define them to you; what are their issues – if they can’t answer that, ask to speak to their sales team to find out what buying objections they come across on the front line.

9. Market research?

Have they done any? If so, this could prove invaluable to you as it should give you all the information you need to see what makes their customers tick. But not only that, it should also show you the perception the customers have of the company.

10. How does the product/service solve their customers’ problems?

This is where you’ll get those valuable benefits from.

11. Unique selling position and competitors

If you’re going to make this client stand out from the crowd, you need to understand what makes them unique. Understanding who they are competing against will help you understand their USP.

12. Do they need any other help?

This is your chance to add value to the interview. If they need a graphic designer or photographer for example, offer to make an introduction for them – that’s one less thing they’ll have to do.

13. Portfolio

Ask them whether they’d like to see some samples of your work (and make sure you have some to show them). Of course, if you have nothing that’s exactly like they’re looking for, explain that the samples show your skills as a copywriter which can be used for any project.

14. Staying in touch

How would they prefer you maintained contact? If email or a phone call, that’s OK, but just be careful in case they think it’s OK to phone or Skype you several times every day at whatever hour suits them.  Define your working hours from  the outset so they know where they stand.

15. Exclusivity?

Another thing to ask is whether they expect you to be working exclusively for them during the project period. Most clients understand that you’ll have multiple projects on the go at any given time, but it’s best to check because if they do, that will have to be reflected in your quote.

16. Can I use it in my portfolio?

Again, most clients are happy for you to showcase the work you do for them, but there will be the odd one or two that aren’t – whether that’s because you signed an NDA or because they don’t want people knowing they used a copywriter.

17. When can you pay my deposit so I can get the work started?

Very important – make sure you get your 50% up front before work starts.

18. Amendments

Make sure they are aware that your quote will include 2 sets of amendments and that that’s OK with them. If they want provision for more, you’ll have to build that into your quote.

19.  Quote deadline

Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, find out the deadline for your quote and proposal and who it should be emailed to.

20. Who else have you asked?

There’s nothing wrong with finding out whether they’ve only contacted you, you and one other or multiple copywriters – at least that way you’ll know where you stand.

Over to you

That isn’t a definitive list by any means and, as time passes, I usually end up adding to it.

Interviewing clients is a constant learning process. Unexpected things crop up now and then causing you to refine your questions and add to them.

Are there any questions you ask that I’ve not mentioned here?

If so, leave a comment below and tell us – let’s see how many questions we can compile.







Tags: effective copywriting briefing questions, How to interview copywriting clients, interview questions for copywriters, questions all copywriters should ask
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