“What’s your Problem?” And Other Questions Every Freelancer Should Ask
Your value is greater than the content you create.
We all go through it: that existential crisis when we think too hard about the clients we work with, the proposals we send, and the cold emails we write. We have no idea why someone would choose us over the swarm of other people who charge less…or create faster…or write more…or, or, or…the list goes on.
“Why would they choose me?”
- every freelancer ever, probably
We Are all Imposters
It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been at this whirlwind of life we call freelancing for a month or if you’ve been crushing it for years — that haunting ghoul of imposter syndrome still jumps out and spooks you more often than you’d like to admit.
Imposter syndrome is that funny little thought that says you aren’t actually as great as your resume, your portfolio, your LinkedIn page, your bank account or even your clients say.
It’s weird, really.
You’ve done the work. Made the phone calls. Put in the long hours and sleepless nights. Created fantastic work that your clients love and come back to you again and again — yet you can’t shake that self-doubting question.
The answer is simple: we are imposters.
And that’s what sets us apart. Your client is looking for a freelancer who can get inside his head, pick out the most important details about what his customers are looking for and bring it to life.
The best freelancers do it with such suave composure that what they produce looks like the work of a seasoned industry veteran — but most of us aren’t industry vets, of course. We have a different skillset.
Instead, we have the ability to quickly collect and organize information about our client, his business, his goals, his customers and the projects he assigns us. We take everything we learn and create something beautiful. Something educational. Something moving.
We are word wizards. Graphics gurus. Camera connoisseurs. Marketing magicians.
It may not make sense to you,
But your clients choose you over all the other candidates because they connect with you and you connect with them. You show them that you care about their business and have the ability to create something meaningful for them.
But your fear and self-doubt keep coming back.
“Do I really understand their business?”
“Will they actually like my work?”
The answer, of course, is YES! If you’ve had success freelancing you’ve found a way to connect with clients, understand their businesses and create meaningful content…and you can do it again, and again, and again. You just have to ask the right questions.
Three questions you should ask every client about every project
Question 1: What’s your problem?
We aren’t just creators. We are problem solvers. What sets the great freelancers apart from the bad — or even average — ones is the ability to diagnose and address client problems accurately and quickly.
Your clients hire you because they have a problem you can solve. It may be a simple as “ I don’t have time to do this,” or as complex as “I don’t even know where to start,” or “I don’t know how.” The faster you can identify it and show them that you’ve got everything under control, the better your chances of building long-term (and hopefully high-paying) relationships.
Question 2: Who are you?
Remember, you aren’t just working on a project. You are working for a person and for a business. You need to understand who they are, what they do, and how your butt-kicking, problem-solving, content-creating skills will help them reach their next milestone.
People need to be heard and understood. Nobody likes the guy who just jumps in and tries to fix everything without knowing the people he is trying to “help.” Don’t be that guy. Ask questions about your client and get to know them. Build a relationship, not a portfolio.
Question 3: Who are you talking to?
You have to dig into the weeds eventually (you knew it was coming!). Understanding your client’s audience is essential to creating content that matches his strategy and appeals to the people who will actually benefit from his business.
Nobody wants to be the guy that shows up to a black-tie in a Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts (really, nobody should wear cargo shorts EVER, but I digress…). You dress for the occasion — for the people you will be surrounded by.
You have to approach work for your clients the same way. Make them look good. You get to be their stylist picking out the perfect outfit for a big event. Are you taking them to a Fortune-500 fundraiser or a PTO meet and greet? Both events are great, but you need to know how to present your clients to the audience.
Question 4: What do you want?
Clients hire you for a purpose. They want to accomplish something through the content you produce. So, naturally, you need to know what they expect to gain from working with you.
Hiring a freelancer is risky business for business owners. They are making an investment and expect a return. Now, that return might not be monetary. Your client could just as well expect emotional or social value from your creation rather than money. You need to know what they expect to gain from your work so you can tailor what you make to that goal.
A Quick Word to Business Owners
Hey. If you’re a business owner reading this, thanks for sticking around. These questions are just as beneficial for you as they are for freelancers.
Before you put that RFP on LinkedIn or ProBlogger, think through these questions. Do you know how you’ll answer when a freelancer asks them?
Being clear on who you are, what problem you’re facing, who your audience is and your goals will make your relationship with any freelancer much more enjoyable — for both people. Everyone wins in an environment with clear expectations!
Are you ready to shake off that shadow of self-doubt and get back to crushing it with your clients? Remember, you’re more than the content you create. You’re a problem solver. A life improver. A business builder. Ask your clients these questions before every project then get out there and do what you do best: make something awesome.
Do you have other questions you ask every client? Let me know in the comments below. Maybe they’ll make my list too!