When a client is interested in hiring you, they normally offer you a brief. This brief should be as detailed as possible, outlining the job’s purpose, target audience, language preferences, key words and tone. But often clients provide extremely vague briefs that tell you little-to-nothing about what you’re supposed to be doing. And that’s frustrating! To maintain clarity and ensure you stay on track, there are 3 simple questions you can ask. Any client worth keeping will be more than happy to answer them, and by doing so, you’re both ensuring you remain on the same page as one another.

Now, some of these seem obvious, I know. But often the most obvious questions are overlooked!

Question 1

What is the purpose of this content?

Clients don’t pay money for content with no purpose. Blog posts and articles aren’t designed purely to litter the internet. Everything that is written is written with a purpose. But when it’s your client’s vision you’re projecting, it’s important to ascertain exactly what they have in mind. For example, let’s say you’ve been asked to write a blog post about green smoothies. Does the client want green smoothies to be seen in a good light by the reader? Or are they criticising the hype about the supposed power of green smoothies? What will the typical reader be like? Does the client sell a product that he or she wants you to incorporate into the blog post? These are important questions, all of which should be answered when confronted with the basic question, ‘What is the purpose of this content’? Notice how this question is entirely open. This forces the client to give more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Question 2

What is the deadline?

A simple question with a simple answer. If your client wants a 24 hour turnaround, it’s crucial you’re aware of this. If you’ve got 2 weeks to finish the task, you’ll be able to schedule it in with your other work appropriately. If a job is particularly appealing, for example, if the pay is good, you might offer to do it before ascertaining the timeframe the client has in mind. And that can be a mistake! Missing deadlines is a big black mark against your reputation, so ensure communication surrounding time and expectations is discussed.

Question 3

What existing content do you like?

Clients often have a good idea of what they’re looking for, but their ideas can be difficult to describe using words. If they’re able to show you a piece of content they like, it’ll give you a much deeper clue into how to write the piece. Going back to our green smoothies example, if the client sends you a link to a competitor site that talks about how AWESOME something is with lots of graphics and quirky subheadings and fun, lively language, you’ll gain better insight into their vision. It’s important, of course,  not to completely replicate the piece of content you’re sent. It’s just there for inspiration.

So there you have it – 3 handy questions that’ll automatically help you gain a brief even if your client is busy, vague or generally unhelpful. I talk more about this in a video on our Facebook page, and,  of course, should you want any customised support with clarifying client briefs, you can become a Learn Freelance Writing member!