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How to Create a New Client Questionnaire

When you land a new client, they might be well-established in their production workflows, are clear with expectations, and offer set rates. Other times they might be fine-tuning what they want you to do for them. It might be a smaller company that doesn’t have a huge budget, are working on a new kind of project, or might be working with freelancers for the first time.

So what can you do to make sure both parties are on the same page?

One solution is to create a new client questionnaire. A new client questionnaire is pretty much what it sounds like: a list of questions to help get to know a client’s needs and expectations. It’s similar to an intake survey you would fill out if you were visiting a doctor or personal coach for the first time, except for potential freelance clients.

It helps make sure you are a good fit for the client and vice versa. It’s also an opportunity to figure out what you are comfortable offering to any given client and to set your rates for specific tasks. It’ll ensure you’re prepared, organized, and ready to answer any questions that comes your way.

Here are some tips on creating one:

List General Questions
You can create easily create a short questionnaire in Word or with Google Forms. Google Forms is great because it keeps all your information in one place. Plus it’s stored in the cloud, so you can access it from anywhere.

Although you probably have already made contact with the potential client, think of the questionnaire as similar to going on a first date with someone. You don’t want to turn them off with a lengthy interrogation, but you do want to get the important stuff out of the way.

For example, if you are a freelance writer, some questions you can include are:

  • How frequently would you like me to post?
  • What is the length of the project?
  • What is the rough word count?
  • What is your budget?
  • Would you like me to provide graphics (i.e., images, infographics, charts, graphs)  
  • Do you need social media management?
  • What do you hope to accomplish with this content?

If you are an app developer, web designer, or motion graphics artist, or working on a one-off project, you’ll want to include specific questions on the time frame and the scope of the project.

Include Services You Don’t Offer
Although this may seem counterintuitive, you might want to include questions about tasks that aren’t in your wheelhouse. This helps ensure the client doesn’t assume you will naturally be able to provide a certain service. For instance, if they are a smaller client they might think that you will not only provide content but will also design infographics and manage their social media channels.

This also creates an opportunity to refer people who can provide these services. I occasionally have clients ask for referrals for social media managers and designers who can do book layout or logos. Having a solid roster of referrals in related fields will come in handy. The more connected you are to fellow freelance professionals, the more valuable you are to the client.

Conversely, if you find that you are coming across more and more clients who are requesting SEO-focused content or social media management, you might want to pick up some of these skills and in the future charge an additional fee to offer these services.

Keep It Short
We all know what a turn-off lengthy questionnaires can be. By no means does this have to be extensive. I jotted down questions I could ask a new client and came up with 30, but I ended up whittling it down significantly. You can always get into specifics later.

You can also create multiple forms on different topics with more specific questions. For instance, if you’re a writer who can also provide a separate form for SEO research and another one for social media management.

My friend and mastermind group buddy Alan suggested I create one after it became clear me and a client I had started working with weren’t a good fit. And after creating one I am so much better prepared as a result. A new client questionnaire not only helps you learn about a potential client’s expectations and see if you are a good fit for a given project. It will prevent you from second-guessing yourself and from figuring things out on the fly, which can lead to time wasted and regrets.

Personal Finance Writer
Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer that helps readers navigate the crazy world of retirement. She gives tips and tricks to retire early, save more money and become debt free.

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