You wake up – just like any other morning – sit down at your computer and start sifting through emails.
You have a new project inquiry!
Hi, I’m looking to have a logo designed for my new business. We’re starting to grow and it’s time we figure out this branding stuff.
Is this something you can do? How much would you charge to design our logo?
This is a very exciting moment for you! However, from this email, you’re not left with much insight. You don’t know one thing about this person, other than their interest in a new logo.
You can’t give a price for the logo, because you have no idea what all the project entails. They might want a simple text-only logo. But what if they’re actually looking for an entire branding package?
This applies to every project inquiry, whether the client is looking for a new website, t-shirt design – you name it.
Your next step would be to reply and ask a few questions to pinpoint their goals and expectations. This back and forth can take days or even weeks — email after email, trying to build a meaningful relationship with this “price shopper”.
It’s time to take control of your work process — skip the introductory emails, and start each project off on the right foot.
It’s worth your time to invest in an automated onboarding process to land potential clients.
Think of the best client you’ve worked with, or the ideal client you’d like to work with. Now imagine only designing for that caliber of people from this day forward.
You can achieve this by carefully crafting a questionnaire that identifies your ideal clients.
Why you need to craft a questionnaire
A great questionnaire does two things for you:
- It sets the tone of the project moving forward.
- It gives you everything you need to determine if it’s the right project for you.
With the questionnaire responses from the client, you can get a look into their professionalism. Are they excited about their own project? Are they interested in working with you specifically?
Chances are you already have a contact form on your website. This is a wide-open door for anyone and everyone to get in touch with you. That’s great – but it also leads to a lot of precious time wasted that you can use elsewhere more effectively.
Running a successful freelance business is all about refining your process to help you work better, faster, and smarter. Crafting and putting questionnaires on your website can be one of the best business decisions you’ll make.
By putting a questionnaire on your website rather than a simple contact form, you’re investing in professionalism and immediately filtering out the non-serious, unpassionate clients – the wrong clients. A questionnaire allows you to be selective, which means you spend your time creating the kind of high quality work you’re most passionate about.
What to ask in your questionnaire
The first thing to determine when crafting a questionnaire is to ask yourself, who’s your ideal client?
Then you can structure your questionnaire around your target audience, and figure out how to ask the right questions to minimize the errors in your process.
For example, is your questionnaire for logo design, t-shirt design, or website design? Just knowing that will help you determine what questions to ask.
The more specific you can get with your niche, the more specific you can get with your questionnaire, which will give you a better response from clients.
Off the top of your head, what crucial information do you need to know to start a project? (Without asking too many questions of course. Only the crucial stuff!) For example, what key questions do you consistently spend time asking clients through email?
Your questionnaire should cover several topics:
- Getting to know the client
- Getting to know your client’s target audience and their goals
- Diving into the specifics of the client’s needs (design and functionality related)
To help get you started, here are four essential questions you might consider asking:
- Essential contact info: Name, Email, Website, Business Name, etc.
- What does your business do?
- Who are your competitors or what other businesses offer services or products similar to yours? Why should someone choose you over them?
- Who is your target audience and what are their needs?
What not to ask in your questionnaire:
- Don’t ask for the client’s budget! The most important not to ask question. (I’ll get to this shortly.)
- Don’t be ambiguous or vague. Ask your questions as clear as possible to get the best response.
- Avoid abbreviations or jargon. The term SEO seems so obvious, but not everyone knows it means “search engine optimization” or even what that entails.
- Avoid unrelated, unneeded questions. Only focus on the things you absolutely need to know upfront. The less questions, the easier it is for the client to not feel overwhelmed, fill out, and submit.
Creating the questionnaire, and the best way to deliver it to your clients
You can deliver your questionnaire to the client in various ways, but the most effective is to place it directly on your website. This cuts out any additional emails you’d have to send, and overall makes it easier for your clients to immediately get the ball rolling on their project.
Whatever form solution you choose, the goal is to make it easy to fill out and use it to filter out the wrong clients — leaving you with the ones that are interested in working with you specifically.
A look into how I’ve built my dynamic questionnaire:
As I previously mentioned, I use a form service called Gravity Forms – an advanced forms solution for WordPress websites.
I use this to generate an all-in-one contact form on my website. The form is dynamic, which means it changes depending on which option the client chooses. In my general contact form, I ask a simple question, “What can I do for you?”
From there, the user can select the exact reason for why they’re contacting me:
- Just reaching out (basic contact form)
- Logo Design (generates logo questionnaire)
- T-Shirt Design (generates t-shirt questionnaire)
- Interview (generates interview specific fields)
If you’re not on WordPress or don’t have money to invest in a form service like Gravity Forms, no worries. Try a form service like Wufoo or even Google Forms. After you’ve created your questionnaire, you can send the link in your email response back to the client. Takes more time and the client may never reply back, but it’ll achieve the same end result.
Refining your questionnaire
Don’t let insecurities hold you back from putting a questionnaire together. It’s an ongoing process you can continually improve. After getting to understand your clients better, and knowing what questions are best for you to ask, you can easily add, remove, or reword things.
Nothing will ever be 100% right out of the gate, so don’t be afraid to launch at 90% and iterate in public.
At what point do I ask about the client’s budget?
Since you’re investing in professionalism, you don’t ask the client for their budget.
In reality, the right clients don’t care about how much a service costs. They’re only interested in solving their problems. And ideally, they specifically want your solution. They’ll be interested in the project’s cost when you bring it up.
This is a hard concept to think about if you’ve always asked the client for their budget.
The only reason a client’s focus will be on “how much does it cost” is if it’s the first question you bring up. Focus on the value first, then propose the cost for that value.
If you were to develop a new website for a client that would help them generate $100,000 worth of extra revenue, and you charged them $20,000 for the solution, they’d be saying, “Where do I sign?”
What if the client asks upfront for a cost without filling out my questionnaire?
If the client reaches out to you directly asking for a cost before filling out your questionnaire, simply respond with:
Thank you for reaching out with your interest to work with me on your new [logo]. I’d be happy to give you an estimate for your new logo, but I’ll need to know a bit more about you, your business, and your needs specifically.
If you’d like to get an accurate cost, take a few minutes to fill out my [logo design] questionnaire. With that information, I’ll be able to give you an exact estimate, and it’ll ultimately help the project go as smooth as possible.
If the client responds negatively with “I just want to know your rates”, or doesn’t want to “spend the time filling anything out”, then this should raise a red flag. If they can’t spend a few minutes to explain their own project, then they aren’t a quality client to work with.
Next steps following the questionnaire
With the information you’ve gathered from the questionnaire, you must decide to either reply back to get the project started, or you turn it down.
When you reply back to start the project, you can further discuss the project’s goals to determine the amount of work needed and how much value you’ll be providing, or you can jump right into presenting the project proposal – going over the defined project goal and costs.
Here’s a sample response I like to stick to when reaching back out to clients:
Thank you for taking the time to fill out my questionnaire. You’ve given me some great information to work off of, and everything I need to get started on your new [logo]. This will certainly help for a smooth process.
[Insert additional information about the client and their project specifically. E.g. your thoughts on the info they provided, how you can take their ideas to the next level, and ultimately show how much value you bring to the table.]
I’ve attached the [logo] project proposal. Please review, and if all looks good, let’s get the ball rolling!
Next Steps: First, if you have any questions whatsoever, please let me know. If all looks good with the proposed project, you can review and sign my simple design agreement. Once I’ve received the signed agreement, I’ll send the invoice [via my Freshbooks account] to begin the design process.
Make note of the “Next Steps” section. You always want to end your email with a call-to-action! This will greatly increase your chances of a response.
Create a questionnaire and reap the benefits
When I used to have a simple contact form on my website, I’d receive many inquiries, but majority of the time, they were inquiries from the wrong type of clients. People that were price shopping, leaving me with no information, or asking for ridiculous requests.
As soon as I put a questionnaire on my website, the amount of inquiries I received dropped significantly. However, the ones I were receiving, were coming from my ideal type of clients!
I went from spending hours a week filtering through emails, turning down nonsense requests, to landing more quality work – all because I invested in professionalism, and put a questionnaire on my website.
There’s an infinite amount of ways you can run your freelance business – especially regarding how you bring in and land client projects. This may be all new to you, so whatever unanswered questions you might have, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help.