Magic Words Every Potential Client Wants to Hear (& Other Tips for Landing the Job)

Exploratory conversations — aka interviews — are your time to give a potential client a little insight into who you are, how you work, and what you can bring to the table. Unless you're the perfect blend of chimera (metaphorically), charisma (personally), and chocolate (literally), you’ll need to do more than show up on time for a getting-to-know-all-about-you-conversation to guarantee the team on the other side of the line says, “We choose you!”

So before you pop your earbuds into your phone and settle into a let’s-talk-about-work (baby!) conversation with your dream client, let’s talk about how to ace the freelancer’s interview so you can start writing bits, bobs, and blogs for an organization you’re excited to tap your fingers for.

“Let me send you a few specific links in my portfolio.”

Potential clients rely on two key factors when choosing who they work with: a referral (which is as close to a golden ticket as you can get in this business), and solid examples of your previous projects in a sock-dropping portfolio.

If you’re new to the portfolio-making game, we recommend keeping the whole endeavor simple, professional, and easy to navigate. Getting fancy is not the answer here — getting a page up that links to blogs, articles, ads, landing pages, emails, and other relevant work is.

Going a step further, one simple way to up your portfolio game is to contextualize each project and piece you share. Tell the story of how this piece came to be, and what your exact contributions were so your potential clients can imagine you helping their team in the same ways.

“I’m right on top of that, Rose!”

Not working comes as naturally as overworking for a freelancer. We all go a little haywire and need to recoup with some time spent away from our computer. But before you hit the local art museum or a nationally televised baseball game — and before you get on the phone with a potential client, research your client and the team you’ll be working for.

Phase one is checking out the people: use LinkedIn like a PI and learn their work and academic histories (I’m a fan of taking notes for talking points in the off chance my brain goes mushy and I get a case of “eeeeeeee! I’m on an interview!!!” Personal aside: this works well for first dates, too).

Phase two is doing an investigation on the company and their assets. Poke around their site from top to bottom with your critical cap on. What is working? What isn’t? More than likely, you’ll be asked what you’ve thought of the current content marketing efforts and copywriting - and you’ll want to have an opinion and be able to speak eloquently on the topic.

Being curious about the folks you might work with and the company you all work for helps you see what you can bring to the team, and is flattering for them to boot. (Just like how a guy who looks up my writing and actually reads it makes my heart skip a beat.)

Now you can go to the museum.

Make sure you floss beforehand (and other prep tricks).

More often we’re noticing potential clients want to see our smiling faces in GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime — you name it, they’re using it, and it has a video-conference. Which means you don’t just have to present a put-together face, but a tidy space, too.

While it's not expected that you be working in a formal office with diplomas on the wall, remember that how you look and even how your background looks is a window into what it's like to work with you. Before you take a call, turn on your webcam and check out what is behind you (and wedged in your teeth). Piles of laundry on a sofa and crooked pictures on your gallery wall? Yikes - fix that. Anything that says  "I'm not organized" should be moved.

You aren’t the only entity that should be ready; your business should be, too. Open your pricing document, your calendar, and even have your resume in front of you as cheat sheets for when questions about rates, availability, and your work history come up.  Looking like you’ve done this a million times before — even if you haven’t — helps present you as someone who knows, and means, business.

"I can figure that out."

Resourcefulness doesn’t just go to the moon and back; it goes to the globular clusters and back. During any given interview, a client will ask you if you have experience in a technology or technique you may never have heard of (Asana, Ontraport, Solarquest — it’s impossible to know all of them). When this happens, the magic words are, “No, but I’m sure I can figure that out.”

Take those magic words a step further by talking about a time when you learned a program or skill for a gig. Maybe you picked up html for when copyediting for a Wordpress-based blog on baseball, or perhaps you had to learn Jira or Basecamp so you’re sure Asana will be similar. Discussing successes demonstrates anything you can throw at me, I can and will learn.

One beautiful thing about the internet (besides adorable videos of river otters playing in the snow…awwww) is that tutorials and how-to info is just a click away - use this wild series of tubes or phone a friend for a tutoring session/happy-hour to onboard yourself once you get the job.  

“Just so we’re on the same page...”

After the call, you have one more responsibility: following up. Everyone worth their salt and pepper sends a thank you email. Add being worth parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme to the mix by sending a message that also outlines what you see their needs are, and what you can and will do to help, along with your pricing. If you’re feeling extra fancy and have a proposal template handy, send along a proposal, too.

Remember, with everything you say, the underlying message you want to send to a client is, Let me make it as easy as possible for you to say ‘Yes!’ to me. Having a plan, from start to finish, as to how you will present yourself and knowing what you can bring to the table helps push you to the front of your potential client’s mind. 

Okay, go get 'em, tigers!