That first cellphone name with a brand new consumer is a nuanced maneuver that’s equal components fact-finding, checking for skilled rapport, and understanding the scope of the job. It’s type of like a primary date: What’s every celebration hoping to get out of the connection? Are they in search of one thing long-term, or a short engagement? Does everybody have comparable or complementary methods of working and speaking? How a lot are they prepared to put money into the partnership? And — most significantly—do you need to see one another once more?

Like most issues, that is an effort that will get simpler with follow. And to that finish, we’ve requested seven profitable freelancers and unbiased employees what they’ve realized from their years of touchdown new enterprise. Right here’s what they needed to say.


Get a great understanding of the dedication. 
Melissa Liebling-Goldberg, founder, Bureau De Femme advertising and content material consultancy

“In my expertise, a very powerful inquiries to ask up entrance are round dedication, each by way of what the consumer expects from you and what you’ll be able to count on again from the consumer. Understanding who your contact will probably be and his/her availability will enable you to sort out the venture appropriately. Additionally, ask as many questions as you could! Don’t really feel you’re bothering the consumer. When you absolutely perceive the scope of the venture on the primary name, I like to recommend codifying it in writing with deliverables, timeline, and value so everyone seems to be in settlement earlier than work begins.”

Speak funds—it saves everybody’s time.
Annie Tomlin, author and content material strategist

“I’ve realized the exhausting manner that I want to speak funds first. I’ve wasted too many hours making ready for and attending conferences, solely to seek out out that the potential consumer is providing a small fraction of my regular fee. It’s a poor use of everybody’s time and it’s time that I’m not incomes. Now, I’ll often say one thing like “I’d love to fulfill with you! I simply need to make sure that my charges align along with your funds. My fee is often $XX-ZZ vary. Does that give you the results you want?” If it does, or it’s within the normal ballpark, nice! If not, then not less than everybody is aware of and might transfer ahead accordingly.”

Ask a whole lot of inquiries to completely perceive how they need your assist.
Anne Gomez, product and program supervisor

“For me, the primary dialog at all times focuses on attempting to grasp the potential consumer’s venture, perspective, and what drawback they’d like my assist with. I usually ask a whole lot of questions and verify my understanding alongside the best way. That is for a number of causes: to ensure we’re on the identical web page and to see if we will have an actual dialogue. I discover that this strategy sells. Individuals need to know that you simply get them and can dig deep—not that you simply’re simply going to use a one-size answer to no matter venture comes your manner. And sure: speak about charges within the first dialogue. Additionally dig into working fashion to learn the way a consumer desires to collaborate.”

Preserve quiet!
Diana Kelly Levey, author, editor, and content material marketer

I can recall a number of prospecting conversations I had with potential shoppers early on in my freelancing profession the place we talked about my background, what they have been in search of, and the venture they have been engaged on. I’d take diligent notes and go so far as sharing concepts and methods that may assist them execute the venture. On the time, I used to be doing it to ‘promote’ myself as a contender for the work, however I later realized that I’d really been freely giving my IP and expertise free of charge! I used to be sharing companies and concepts I may provide as a part of the venture proposal {that a} consumer would pay me for. Now I give attention to listening to what the consumer desires and letting them know if the work is one thing I’m thinking about and will execute. Then I follow-up with a recap electronic mail and provide technique work as a part of my consulting payment.”

Present that you simply care. 
Rebeka Morales, freelance graphic designer and internet designer

“To have a profitable first dialog with a brand new consumer, I attempt to make two issues very clear. One, that I care that the precise end result of the venture matches the consumer’s desired end result, and two, that readability = time, which means the clearer the consumer can convey their imaginative and prescient for the venture, the quicker it may be achieved. This framework places among the accountability on the consumer to streamline their preferences when talking with me. 

I restrict the primary onboarding dialog to at least one hour, after which I follow-up with an electronic mail together with three attachments: Worth sheet of companies provided (some costs are negotiated relying on the venture), contract draft outlining the scope of labor based mostly on preliminary onboarding dialog, and a design brainstorming type. The design brainstorming type is one thing I created to assist the consumer, who’s possible by no means thought as a designer earlier than, clearly convey their concepts. For instance, one query is about fonts—it reveals varied font types and asks the consumer to verify which they like. This follow-up achieves each of my aforementioned targets: that I’m striving to realize their desired outcomes and that I’m environment friendly in doing so.”

Be form, be thorough, and ask for assist for those who want it.
Valery Rizzo, meals, life-style and portrait photographer

At all times be constructive, open minded, and sort. It’s a working relationship they usually additionally need to take pleasure in working with you personally in addition to creatively. 

Since there are at all times completely different variables, I like discussing the small print and scope of a venture first, which then permits me to formulate an applicable fee—and it additionally reveals my curiosity within the work. Relying on the task, there could also be journey, gear leases, assistant charges, and different varied issues to contemplate when discussing charges. Moreover, I’ll usually ask what sort of funds the consumer is working with. As soon as I completely go over all this data, I get again to them with a quote. And at all times put the whole lot in writing, so everybody is aware of the phrases and what to anticipate. 

Yet one more thought: The largest mistake starting freelancers make is low-balling themselves by not charging sufficient for the work, and that by no means feels good. If it’s one thing you’re unfamiliar with, which is most frequently the case, attain out to a fellow photographer to assist information you in the fitting path, which actually, ultimately, advantages the business as an entire.” 

Be sure that the consumer feels heard.
Marcia Layton Turner, enterprise e book ghostwriter

“Be sure to sound and energetic when speaking on the cellphone. I’ve had a number of individuals remark that different writers they interviewed lacked any type of vitality or enthusiasm. Sound such as you’re within the work! A part of doing which means asking questions in regards to the consumer, the venture, the expectations, and the rest you need to find out about. This demonstrates curiosity and reveals you’ve accomplished this earlier than, which conveys confidence and expertise. It additionally helps you consider whether or not the work is an efficient match to your background. You’re additionally assessing whether or not you need this work, in any case. So come ready with questions. And on an analogous word: Don’t make all of it about you. In the event that they ask about your background or expertise, reply the query however don’t go overboard speaking about how nice you’re. I at all times attempt to be sure that I’m speaking a lot lower than the consumer, in order that they finish the decision feeling like they have been heard and that I used to be thinking about their venture.”

Our takeaways:

  • It’s okay to speak cash and funds—even earlier than the decision if wanted. There’s no use losing everybody’s time for those who’re not in the identical ballpark. 
  • Pay attention effectively. Be sure that the consumer looks like they’ve gotten their level throughout—and that you simply’re not freely giving the products free of charge. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s essential to have readability. 
  • Perceive the ask. Be sure to have an intensive understanding of the duty at hand, your required position, and key gamers on the workforce so you’ll be able to plan accordingly. 
  • Get all the small print so you’ll be able to value accordingly. Are there many rounds of edits? What number of contacts will you be coping with? Is there journey or different bills concerned? And don’t underestimate your self!
  • Ship a follow-up electronic mail that outlines the venture mentioned in addition to subsequent steps.


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