What do you do when someone contacts you? How do you know if they are a good fit for your skills and business? Here are are direct tips to know what to ask the potential client to fit out if they are a good fit for you.

This is all about creating a good first impression.

You want the potential client to have a good overall first experience with you and your brand, regardless of if they became a client. Make sure no matter how they contact you whether it is by email, by phone call or they were referred by another person, remain professional. Be courteous, respectful, and don’t make too many assumptions. One of the main goals of this interaction is to make sure the person feels like you care about what they have to say. Do not be quick to dismiss them but be quick to listen. Who knows, maybe they may come back to you in the future or they may refer future clients to you.

Appreciate their interest

Thank the person and appreciate their level of interest. There are millions if not billions of people in the world. Out of all the freelancers and creatives in the world, the potential client chose to contact you. That speaks volumes of your skills and that also speaks volumes to their potential. Genuinely thank the client for contacting you and start off on good ground and to show you do actually appreciate the fact they contacted you.

Research the potential client

In the process of qualifying a potential client, you’re definitely going to have to research them at some point in time. This means whether they give you a phone call or fill out an online form you want to make sure you, at least, get their name or business name and perhaps their website address. This information is needed to do your own recon and research in finding out a little bit about the client because you may discover certain things that may not be a good fit.

I remember I was working with a client and I did not do research prior to moving forward with them. The client was referred by a previous client and I took their word for it and when forward. Later on down the road in the project I started having difficulty getting payment from the client which stalled the project. It was during this time that I finally did research on the client. I discovered the person had been arrested in the past for financial fraud.

I’m not saying someone doesn’t deserve a second chance but what I am saying is the project involved building a website, perhaps the website could have been used to deceive others and my brand would have been attached to something that is not only morally wrong but also illegal. I admit this story is an extreme example but it’s also a reminder to do your research. A simple Google search on a client goes a long way.

Can they afford you?

You do not want to spend a large amount of time speaking to someone who simply cannot afford your services. This is not really a money conversation more so than a value conversation. You never want to do anything that diminishes the value of the work you provide and working at a rate that is lower than what you’re worth lowers your value the standard you have set for your brand.

I personally do not believe in talking about pricing in the first interaction because there’s just too many variables that need to be done prior to setting a price. However, one thing that I will do is I will give a range or an average of the work that I do and the price that I charge this helps them to realize based on my rate if they want to move forward with me or not. You can also say “my work begins at $____”, and give a starting price for your services.

Just because the potential client cannot afford you that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak with the client. I have found though some clients cannot afford my services through conversation I was able to provide consulting and strategic advice to them and still get payment for it. I didn’t provide my primary service however I did provide a lesser service which in turn still led to a paying client.

What are their deadlines?

Before diving too deep in a conversation with a potential client it’s important to know what their deadline is. Perhaps their deadline is in a couple of weeks or even a couple of days. If the deadline is too soon then you won’t be able to work with the client. Keep in mind that the potential client may have some unrealistic deadlines set and through having a conversation with them you may be able to discover what was needed in one week will truly take a month to complete.

Know your limits. Have an idea about the estimated amount of time it may take to complete your work. Also, be honest with yourself perhaps you can work with a rushed deadline if so, charge a rush fee. If the deadline is too aggressive and it cannot be changed politely decline the work.

Will they submit to your process?

If you already have a process in place you let the potential client know that by showing it on your website or explaining to them what your process for every project is. Pay attention to the person’s reaction to your process if they’re trying to skip steps or do things out of order then it may be someone who’s interested in you but not necessarily someone you need to work with as they may prove difficult later on.

One thing that I’ve found effective is to have a qualifying questionnaire. This is a questionnaire that asked all of the questions I mentioned earlier and asked about deadlines, if they can afford me , questions about their company, and so forth. To a certain degree, I view a potential client as pre-qualified if they’re willing to fill out the form that shows me some level of seriousness.

If someone decides to call me on the phone I break out this very same questionnaire and ask those questions on the call. If they’re willing to talk with me and talk through those questions on the phone I definitely view that as a pre-qualified client.