Offering a consultation for potential freelance clients is a great way to establish your relationship with the client from the start. This client meeting is also important because it helps clarify the scope of a project and reveal potential problems the client or project may create.
When it comes to your client consultations, having a checklist of questions beforehand will help make the meeting more efficient. Ultimately, preparing for this client meeting places value on your time—both for the actual meeting and also for the potential project ahead.
Tip: If you aren’t offering this service already, consider promoting it as a Free One-Hour Consultation from your website.
8 Goals for Client Consultations
Keep in mind that a client consultation has a few objectives or goals.
- Gauge the chemistry between you and the potential client.
- Investigate the working conditions you will have with the potential client.
- Estimate the scope of the project.
- Inform the potential client about the process of web development.
- Suggest additional features that can meet the potential client’s goals.
- Educate the potential client on the importance of your ongoing services.
- Gather all the material needed to create a project proposal.
- Qualify the potential client with a ballpark quote.
Suggested Questions for the Client Consultation
We’ve divided up these suggested questions into seven main groups: questions about the client, questions about the project, questions about audience, questions about brand, questions about features and scope, questions about ecommerce and questions about time and budget.
Questions About the Client
1. What best describes your organization?
Examples: Large Business, Medium Business, Small Business, Professional Firm or Practice, Educational Institution, Nonprofit Organization, etc.
2. In short, what does your organization do?
3. Who is your organization’s target market?
Questions About the Project
4. Is this a new site or a redesign of an existing site?
5. Describe the concept, project or service this site is intended to provide or promote.
6. Who will we be working with to guide this project to completion?
7. How many people at your organization will be involved with the project?
8. Who is responsible for making the final decisions?
9. Who will be responsible for maintaining the site after launch for content and technical matters?
Subquestions if answer to #4 is “redesign”
10. What is the purpose of the redesign?
11. Are there current specific issues with the current site you hope to correct or improve?
12. What is the web address of your current website?
13. Will you be keeping this address?
14. When was the last time the site was redesigned?
15. Is your current site powered by a content management system? If so, which?
16. What do you like and dislike about your current system?
Questions About Audience
17. To the best of your ability, describe the various groups that use the site. What are they hoping to accomplish?
Examples might be … Prospects seeking information about our company. Customers who might purchase our product. Customers looking for menu, hours and location information. Donors who might contribute to our organization.
18. What are the general demographics of your audience (or site visitors)?
19. For the purposes of this new site, which of these groups is the primary audience (the one you’d consider most important?)
This can be difficult, but it’s important to determine who the primary audience will be.
20. What primary action do you want your primary audience to take when visiting your site?
Examples: purchase a product, complete a lead form, sign up for our newsletter, follow us on social media.
21. What audience needs does your existing site do a good job fulfilling? What audience needs aren’t being met by your current site? Where does it fall short?
Questions About Brand
22. Describe in as few sentences or words the feelings you wish your site to evoke and the brand attributes you want it to convey.
Sample feelings might include: warmth, friendliness, reassurance, comfort, excitement. Sample brand attributes might include: caring, honesty, humor, professionalism, intelligence, elegance, sophistication, reliability, trustworthiness.
23. Using adjectives and short phrases, describe the site’s desired look and feel.
Examples: Easy to look at, edgy, classic, up-to-date, crisp, modern, traditional, understated, etc.
24. Do you have a visual identity that you are happy with (including brand identity and logo) or is that something you need designed or evolved?
25. What sites do you consider competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
26. What differentiates your product, services or ideas from your competition?
Questions About Features and Scope
27. Approximately how many pages will be on the site?
28. What features would you like to be included on the site?
- Community Forum
- Company News
- Custom Page Not Found Page
- Customer Lead Form
- Event Calendar
- Google Map(s)
- Mailing List Integration
- Member/Staff Protected area
- Mobile Device compatibility
- Multiple Blogs
- Multiple Location Listings
- Online Payment/Donation
- Photo Gallery
- Selling Products or Services (Ecommerce)
- Social Media Integration
- Staff Listing
29. Are there any third-party integration points we need to know about?
Examples: interfaces to a CRM, offsite e-commerce, POS, mapping solution, social site or other use of a third party API, etc.
30. How much of the site content is already created?
Content includes titles, headlines, page text, staff bios and pics, testimonials, photos, etc.
31. Would you like assistance with content creation?
32. Will the project be completed in a single pass or multiple phases?
Each phase in a multiple phase project will have its own budget, timeline and deliverables.
33. Are there any other technical requirements for the site that you haven’t mentioned so far?
Questions About Ecommerce
34. Do you already know what ecommerce solution you want to use?
35. What kinds of products will you be selling?
36. Do you currently use third party sites for sales (like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, etc.)?
37. Will your site sell memberships or access to premium content on your site?
38. Will your site sell downloadable products?
39. Will your products have multiple variations?
Examples include sizes, colors, materials or even price points.
40. Roughly how many products will be listed on the site?
41. Do you want the web site to track inventory?
42. Do you have product descriptions available?
43. Do you have high quality photos available for each product?
44. Do you want to allow product reviews or ratings?
45. Do you want to add social sharing icons to product pages?
46. Will you offer an affiliate or referral program?
47. Do you want to build an email list of customers for promotional purposes?
48. Do you offer quantity discounts?
49. Do you want to offer coupons?
50. Do you want to offer gift cards?
51. Do you want to offer wish lists or registries?
52. Do you need to generate invoices or packing lists?
53. Do you offer preferred pricing to certain groups?
54. Will you want us to enter the products or will that be something you will handle?
55. Do you need to compute shipping? How? Real time shipping? What carriers?
56. Will you sell to customers outside the USA? Canada? Other countries?
57. Do you need to compute sales tax? For what areas?
58. How will payments be processed? Will you use PayPal or a standard merchant account?
59. Have you been approved or received contingent approval for a merchant account already? If contingent, what are the contingencies?
60. Will there be integration to any third party systems such as shipping, accounting or CRM?
61. What kind of reporting will you require from the site?
62. Do you have terms of service and refund policies in place for the site?
63. How will you handle customer service inquiries?
Questions About Time & Money
64. Does this project have a deadline? When are you hoping to launch?
65. What is your budget or budget range for this project?
Note: you could clarify this question with something like “Sharing a realistic assessment of what you have to spend on this effort will help us scope the engagement appropriately. While disclosing your budget might not be something you typically do, sharing this information with us now will greatly reduce the likelihood of both sides spending significant time and resources.”
Have anything to add? What have you learned?
What are the important questions you’ve learned to ask potential clients during a consultation? Feel free to share your advice and what you’ve learned.
Whether you build websites as a hobby or already have a few clients, this book is the ultimate resource for starting a freelance web design business. We’ve combined the wisdom of successful freelance web designers into one go-to reference book.