Landing Your Ideal Clients With a Questionnaire

Landing Clients with a Questionnaire
You wake up – just like any other morning – sit down at your computer and start sifting through emails.

You have a new project inquiry!

Hi, I’m looking to have a logo designed for my new business. We’re starting to grow and it’s time we figure out this branding stuff.

Is this something you can do? How much would you charge to design our logo?

Thanks!

This is a very exciting moment for you! However, from this email, you’re not left with much insight. You don’t know one thing about this person, other than their interest in a new logo.

You can’t give a price for the logo, because you have no idea what all the project entails. They might want a simple text-only logo. But what if they’re actually looking for an entire branding package?

This applies to every project inquiry, whether the client is looking for a new website, t-shirt design – you name it.

Your next step would be to reply and ask a few questions to pinpoint their goals and expectations. This back and forth can take days or even weeks — email after email, trying to build a meaningful relationship with this “price shopper”.

It’s time to take control of your work process — skip the introductory emails, and start each project off on the right foot.

It’s worth your time to invest in an automated onboarding process to land potential clients.

Think of the best client you’ve worked with, or the ideal client you’d like to work with. Now imagine only designing for that caliber of people from this day forward.

You can achieve this by carefully crafting a questionnaire that identifies your ideal clients.

Why you need to craft a questionnaire

A great questionnaire does two things for you:

  1. It sets the tone of the project moving forward.
  2. It gives you everything you need to determine if it’s the right project for you.

With the questionnaire responses from the client, you can get a look into their professionalism. Are they excited about their own project? Are they interested in working with you specifically?

Chances are you already have a contact form on your website. This is a wide-open door for anyone and everyone to get in touch with you. That’s great – but it also leads to a lot of precious time wasted that you can use elsewhere more effectively.

Running a successful freelance business is all about refining your process to help you work better, faster, and smarter. Crafting and putting questionnaires on your website can be one of the best business decisions you’ll make.

By putting a questionnaire on your website rather than a simple contact form, you’re investing in professionalism and immediately filtering out the non-serious, unpassionate clients – the wrong clients. A questionnaire allows you to be selective, which means you spend your time creating the kind of high quality work you’re most passionate about.

What to ask in your questionnaire

The first thing to determine when crafting a questionnaire is to ask yourself, who’s your ideal client?

Then you can structure your questionnaire around your target audience, and figure out how to ask the right questions to minimize the errors in your process.

For example, is your questionnaire for logo design, t-shirt design, or website design? Just knowing that will help you determine what questions to ask.

The more specific you can get with your niche, the more specific you can get with your questionnaire, which will give you a better response from clients.

Off the top of your head, what crucial information do you need to know to start a project? (Without asking too many questions of course. Only the crucial stuff!) For example, what key questions do you consistently spend time asking clients through email?

Your questionnaire should cover several topics:

  • Getting to know the client
  • Getting to know your client’s target audience and their goals
  • Diving into the specifics of the client’s needs (design and functionality related)

To help get you started, here are four essential questions you might consider asking:

  • Essential contact info: Name, Email, Website, Business Name, etc.
  • What does your business do?
  • Who are your competitors or what other businesses offer services or products similar to yours? Why should someone choose you over them?
  • Who is your target audience and what are their needs?

What not to ask in your questionnaire:

  • Don’t ask for the client’s budget! The most important not to ask question. (I’ll get to this shortly.)
  • Don’t be ambiguous or vague. Ask your questions as clear as possible to get the best response.
  • Avoid abbreviations or jargon. The term SEO seems so obvious, but not everyone knows it means “search engine optimization” or even what that entails.
  • Avoid unrelated, unneeded questions. Only focus on the things you absolutely need to know upfront. The less questions, the easier it is for the client to not feel overwhelmed, fill out, and submit.

Creating the questionnaire, and the best way to deliver it to your clients

You can deliver your questionnaire to the client in various ways, but the most effective is to place it directly on your website. This cuts out any additional emails you’d have to send, and overall makes it easier for your clients to immediately get the ball rolling on their project.

There are countless form services out there that you could put to use. Personally, I use Gravity Forms for all of my WordPress sites. Previously, I was a big fan of Wufoo.

Whatever form solution you choose, the goal is to make it easy to fill out and use it to filter out the wrong clients — leaving you with the ones that are interested in working with you specifically.

A look into how I’ve built my dynamic questionnaire:

As I previously mentioned, I use a form service called Gravity Forms – an advanced forms solution for WordPress websites.

I use this to generate an all-in-one contact form on my website. The form is dynamic, which means it changes depending on which option the client chooses. In my general contact form, I ask a simple question, “What can I do for you?”

From there, the user can select the exact reason for why they’re contacting me:

  • Just reaching out (basic contact form)
  • Logo Design (generates logo questionnaire)
  • T-Shirt Design (generates t-shirt questionnaire)
  • Interview (generates interview specific fields)

contact-form

If you’re not on WordPress or don’t have money to invest in a form service like Gravity Forms, no worries. Try a form service like Wufoo or even Google Forms. After you’ve created your questionnaire, you can send the link in your email response back to the client. Takes more time and the client may never reply back, but it’ll achieve the same end result.

Refining your questionnaire

Don’t let insecurities hold you back from putting a questionnaire together. It’s an ongoing process you can continually improve. After getting to understand your clients better, and knowing what questions are best for you to ask, you can easily add, remove, or reword things.

Nothing will ever be 100% right out of the gate, so don’t be afraid to launch at 90% and iterate in public.

At what point do I ask about the client’s budget?

Since you’re investing in professionalism, you don’t ask the client for their budget.

In reality, the right clients don’t care about how much a service costs. They’re only interested in solving their problems. And ideally, they specifically want your solution. They’ll be interested in the project’s cost when you bring it up.

This is a hard concept to think about if you’ve always asked the client for their budget.

The only reason a client’s focus will be on “how much does it cost” is if it’s the first question you bring up. Focus on the value first, then propose the cost for that value.

If you were to develop a new website for a client that would help them generate $100,000 worth of extra revenue, and you charged them $20,000 for the solution, they’d be saying, “Where do I sign?”

What if the client asks upfront for a cost without filling out my questionnaire?

If the client reaches out to you directly asking for a cost before filling out your questionnaire, simply respond with:

Thank you for reaching out with your interest to work with me on your new [logo]. I’d be happy to give you an estimate for your new logo, but I’ll need to know a bit more about you, your business, and your needs specifically.

If you’d like to get an accurate cost, take a few minutes to fill out my [logo design] questionnaire. With that information, I’ll be able to give you an exact estimate, and it’ll ultimately help the project go as smooth as possible.

If the client responds negatively with “I just want to know your rates”, or doesn’t want to “spend the time filling anything out”, then this should raise a red flag. If they can’t spend a few minutes to explain their own project, then they aren’t a quality client to work with.

Next steps following the questionnaire

With the information you’ve gathered from the questionnaire, you must decide to either reply back to get the project started, or you turn it down.

When you reply back to start the project, you can further discuss the project’s goals to determine the amount of work needed and how much value you’ll be providing, or you can jump right into presenting the project proposal – going over the defined project goal and costs.

Here’s a sample response I like to stick to when reaching back out to clients:

Thank you for taking the time to fill out my questionnaire. You’ve given me some great information to work off of, and everything I need to get started on your new [logo]. This will certainly help for a smooth process.

[Insert additional information about the client and their project specifically. E.g. your thoughts on the info they provided, how you can take their ideas to the next level, and ultimately show how much value you bring to the table.]

I’ve attached the [logo] project proposal. Please review, and if all looks good, let’s get the ball rolling!

Next Steps: First, if you have any questions whatsoever, please let me know. If all looks good with the proposed project, you can review and sign my simple design agreement. Once I’ve received the signed agreement, I’ll send the invoice [via my Freshbooks account] to begin the design process.

Make note of the “Next Steps” section. You always want to end your email with a call-to-action! This will greatly increase your chances of a response.

Create a questionnaire and reap the benefits

When I used to have a simple contact form on my website, I’d receive many inquiries, but majority of the time, they were inquiries from the wrong type of clients. People that were price shopping, leaving me with no information, or asking for ridiculous requests.

As soon as I put a questionnaire on my website, the amount of inquiries I received dropped significantly. However, the ones I were receiving, were coming from my ideal type of clients!

I went from spending hours a week filtering through emails, turning down nonsense requests, to landing more quality work – all because I invested in professionalism, and put a questionnaire on my website.

There’s an infinite amount of ways you can run your freelance business – especially regarding how you bring in and land client projects. This may be all new to you, so whatever unanswered questions you might have, let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help.

14Comments

  1. Hi Brent.

    Surprisingly enough I created a questionnaire last month for my website. Here it is: http://thawtflux.com/getquote.php
    But it so happened that I never got any response from my website form.
    May be I asked too many questions.
    Or may be, I have to focus on digital marketing and have to start a blog.
    Till now, I am doing trial and error, hoping something would work out

  2. Hi Tejaswi, that’s great to hear you put a questionnaire in place! I took a look at your form and it’s a unique layout. I wouldn’t say you’re asking for too much, but maybe simplify how the client fills it out. Let them share a bit about themselves, what they do, and what they’re looking to achieve specifically. You can then pick from those goals to figure out the best solution. For example, if they’re looking to sell their new product line, it obviously wouldn’t be a static website. Also, by giving the client some fields to share, you can get a look into their professionalism. Are they just looking for a quick quote, or are they looking to have their problems solved by you, the professional?

    It’s really great that you’ve got this in place already. Like I mentioned in the post, you can easily iterate as you learn new things.

    Also, like you mentioned, you should definitely look into some type of marketing to draw people to your website. Then really craft your website to convert those users into potential clients. If they hit your homepage, what will they be taken to next? If they land on your portfolio, what’s pushing them to your contact page? All things to consider.

    Keep it up, and thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  3. Hey Brent,

    Thanks for the great article on Contact forms. One quick question – do you have a good template for project proposals? I’ve searched the web for a good template but everyone has different formats and details – it’s overwhelming.

    Also, in your email where you state, “[Insert additional information about the client and their project specifically]” do you just begin to elaborate what is stated in your project proposal and point them to read the rest in the attached document? Just trying to work out what details need to be placed where.

    Best,
    Alex

  4. Hey Alex, I actually have creating freelance proposals as my next blog topic, so great timing! For me, I keep my proposals one page and easy to read. In my proposal I cover four things:

    My contact information
    Project Goals: stating the agreed upon goal (i.e. why the client reached out and what solution they’re in need of)
    Cost
    Next Steps: sign agreement and down payment

    I hope this helps for now. Lots more on this coming in the next post, which I might even include a free sample proposal to make things easier to understand.

    Regarding the statement in your first email back to the client after they’ve submitted the questionnaire: you can fill that space with additional questions if the goal is not yet made clear, or you can share your thoughts that help sell yourself as the right person for the job. For example, I might share that I already have several directions in mind for their new logo, or that maybe their suggestions aren’t the best, but here’s how I can run with it to make it work. Stuff like that. Then following that you want to get the client on the same page as you. State the goal once you have it. If the client agrees, then you simply reuse that goal in your proposal, which then covers cost.

    Here’s a breakdown of the process to make it more digestible:

    – Questionnaire (first client contact)
    – Your response to either turn it down, or accept the project. If you’re accepting, then you’re trying to uncover the project goal at this point.
    – After sharing the goal with the client, and if they agree, you then send the project proposal using that same goal. This is also when you share the project cost for the first time.
    – Once they agree with the proposed project and cost, you then get a contract signed and down payment made to begin the work.

    There’s a lot here, so if you need any further clarification, please feel free to ask!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Alex!

  5. Brent,

    Thanks for your detailed reply. I really like that your project proposal is very simple. The other websites I visited and templates I saw had 4-5 page long proposals and it made me wonder if people actually read that. Yours seems much more practical. Thanks.

    Also, thanks for sharing your process. It’s really interesting you get the client to agree to the project proposal first before you ever show them the price. I’ve been combining those two steps but I see how offering the price later is a better way to get people on board with the value you are offering (to make price less of a factor in choosing you). This was a mind=blown moment! Thanks so much Brent. 🙂

  6. Thanks for this! I currently have a general contact form on my website, and I send a specific questionnaire through Google docs as a reply to inquiries. I love the idea of having a drop down menu to select a questionnaire within the contact form. I’ll definitely keep Gravity Forms in mind.

  7. Thoroughly interesting article and I checked out your website and it’s super easy to use. I haven’t started my path in design yet, aside from studying at university, but I’ll be sure to add a questionnaire when I start my website. 🙂

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