But what questions do you need to ask to make sure you’re not wasting your time? What information do you simply have to know before you start? In this article we’ll show you what a discussion with a potential client should look like before you start writing.
1. What’s the Budget?
This is definitely the most awkward question to ask, and perhaps it’s obvious, but it’s the most important thing you need to know. Money makes the world go round, after all. If you don’t have a good idea of what the client intends to spend, you might be wasting your time. There’s nothing more frustrating than a potential client rejecting your proposal because you’re asking for ten times more than they want to spend.
2. Who’s Supporting the Project?
Just as important as the size of their budget is where it’s coming from. You need to make sure that the person who’s paying for this project is involved in its conception – it may not be the person you’re liaising with. You also might want to make sure that the key decision maker, whoever that may be, has a direct line of communication with you.
3. How Long Do You Expect This to Take? Is There a Deadline?
You need to be sure that your potential client has realistic expectations as to the time it will take to complete the project. If you’re looking at something that will take six months, you don’t want to find out after you’ve sent the proposal that they want it done in six weeks.
4. Are You Familiar With Our Past Work?
This one’s an interesting one – you’re not asking about their company, but rather seeing if they’re familiar with yours. Knowing which of your previous projects they’re aware of can give you a good indicator of exactly what they’re expecting from you, and how the end result should look.
5. Why Us? What Do You Hope We’ll Do for You?
Along the same lines, it’s a good idea to directly ask why they’ve approached you in particular to carry out the work. What do they hope to get from you? It’s also a good opportunity to ask if they’ve approached anyone else for this project, to see if you have competition.
6. Who Can Give Us More Information?
There may be many people involved in the project on their end, or there may be just one. You need to know the names and contact details of anyone who might be able to give you more information or specifics as and when you need it. Asking this also gives you a scope of how big the project will be for them.
7. Who Will Be Our Primary Contact?
It’s important that you know who to contact first if you need to discuss anything about the proposal or the project. The person you’re speaking with right now may not be the person you have to deal with in the future.
8. Will We Be Working With Anyone Else?
Don’t assume that your company is the only one working on this project. If it’s particularly big or involves many different angles or aspects, you might be one of a number of contributors. You need to decide whether this is something you’re comfortable with, as it may mean you don’t get as much input in certain areas as you’d like.
9. Is Any of this Project Underway Already?
To have an idea of what you need to do for this project, make sure to ask how much, if any, has already been done. Are you starting completely at the beginning, or do you have a foundation to build on? Is there anything which is going well, or not so well, so far?
10. Do You Anticipate Any Problems?
This question will give you a really good idea of how realistic, and honest, your potential client is. There’s always something in any potential project that might pose an issue. If they can’t think of anything, they aren’t being entirely truthful with you – is there a reason they don’t want to talk about it? Or have they simply not thought it through very well?
11. Have You Allocated Any Time or Funding for Potential Revisions?
It’s extremely rare that the vision for a project remains the same throughout the process of its creation. More often than not, changes will need to be made, not only to the final product but also along the way. Have they allocated a budget – of time or money – to deal with these potential revisions? Or are they expecting you to do extra work for free?
12. Is There Anything Else You Think We Should Be Aware of?
This is a great open-ended question that will tell you a lot about your potential client. If they’re serious about involving you, they should be ready with a list of important things for you to know before you start – such as the target audience, the environment in which the product or service will be used, and their vision for the future. If they’re vague on the details, they may not have a clear goal or idea of what they want.
Of course, there may be other questions that you feel you need to ask before you begin, depending on the kind of project you’re dealing with. This list should, however, give you a great head start: you should now have a clear idea of what you’re getting into before you start work on the proposal!