30 Jun

Questions, questions…

I guess this is a kind of follow on from yesterday’s gripe, but with a more positive spin.

Another issue I noticed with freelancer sites (PPH, Elance etc) is that buyers/customers don’t really ask questions of the professionals they’re aiming at, or give enough detail.

For example, things like the client’s budget, the deadline on which the work is to be delivered, the tone of voice, how much research is required – these are often missing on the above-mentioned sites.
All of these details are necessary for the freelancer to know, in order to provide the work that the client wants.

Also, these questions (or, an entire brief) are there to protect  both the client and the freelancer.
They give something for both to stick to, so that the work is delivered at an agreed time, sticking to an agreed budget, and it matches the main objective(s) that mark it out as being a successful project.

I ask a whole bunch of questions before I start a new brief. In fact, I will not start a project without clarification on these questions, as I want to produce the best piece of work possible for the client, and their answers will enable me to do so.
They also mean that the goalposts cannot be moved halfway through a brief (which has happened to me before), so neither of you can say ‘actually, you haven’t done this’ or ‘I want all of it rewritten in a brand new tone of voice’.

Here are some questions you (the client) should think about in advance of hiring a freelancer, to ensure you get the most out of their work, and the finished product is exactly what you wanted (the questions do lean towards a copywriting brief, but can be made more general):


What is this campaign/advert/marketing literature about?

What do you hope to achieve from it / what are your main objectives?

What one message must this work absolutely contain?

Who are you aiming at? Who’s your ideal target audience?
(age, sex, social status, interests, where they hang out – both online and off line)

Who are your competitors in this sector? Name three / give me their websites.
(I’m looking for your judgement as to where you think you sit in your market, and I’m looking to mark you out as different from them. I’m also looking at common parlance for your industry)

Who do you benchmark yourself against? (names / websites)
(Again, I’m looking at your judgement as to where you think you sit in your market)

What marketing have you done in the past? What did/didn’t work? Why?

What tone of voice would you like this written in? How would you like to come across?

Do you want this work/idea to be media neutral i.e can be represented just as easily across content, a marketing brochure, a series of radio scripts, a video?

When does this work need to go live by?
(This is very important in working out deadlines and allowing your freelancer to give you realistic timescales for e.g receipt of first draft)

What’s your budget for this project?
(Again, this avoids any nasty surprises and allows the freelancer to be realistic as to what they can offer within that budget)


These aren’t all of the questions that I ask, but they’re probably the most important ones.

So, before you look to just hire someone, or dip your hand in your pocket, make sure you know the answers to all of the above: you’ll get more for your money if you do.

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