How to Ace Your Freelance Copywriting Discovery Calls

Here’s How You Can Crush Your Discovery Calls With Ease

So, you’ve piqued the interest of a potential client and they’ve booked a spot on your calendar. 

Time to celebrate your win, right?

Not quite. 

An interested client doesn’t necessarily mean a client that’s ready to sign a contract, and unless your client has come through as a referral, you’re going to have to really, really prove you have the chops to deliver the results they want.

For many new copywriters (and even veteran copywriters), discovery calls can be stressful and tedious. 

And I get it. As writers, sometimes we just want to be left alone with our extra large coffee and our laptops and not see or speak to another human being for days (or…is that just me?).

With the right strategy, the right questions, and the right amount of confidence, you can blow your discovery calls out of the water and make your potential clients excited to work with you.

First: Know Who You Want to Work With…and Who You Don’t

If you’re a new copywriter, it can be tempting to take any and all clients that come your way. 

But this only sets you up for disappointment and unhappy clients (clients can definitely feel if the “vibe” isn’t right, or that you’re not really into it). 

Knowing who you want to work with means two things: 

Writing in a specific niche or writing for a specific client personality.

Let’s talk about both.

Working Within a Niche

They say the “riches are in the niches” for a reason. 

First, working within a niche grants you the opportunity to become a specialist instead of a generalist, and it’s commonly accepted that specialists get paid more.

Secondly, mastering a niche can simplify your copywriting business: you understand the industry, the market, the buyer personas, and you can streamline your writing and creating process more easily.

For example, let’s say you focus on copywriting for skincare brands. You know you’ll need to research in very specific ways, how to speak to the common buyer personas, and you’ll have a good idea of what works and doesn’t work for that niche.

Not to mention you’ll have a more streamlined process of prewriting, writing, editing and rewriting, and proofing because you’re doing the same type of work every day.

If you get on your discovery call and you find that the person isn’t in your niche (and you aren’t interested in expanding into other niches), don’t be afraid to tell your potential client that it’s not a good fit.

But––keep in mind that you don’t have to necessarily niche down to make a great living at copywriting. If you’re open to multiple niches or want to be a generalist, you can absolutely do so. After all, it’s your freelance copywriting biz. You’re the boss of you! So start building your Copywriting Portfolio today!

Ideal Client Personalities

This one is important and sometimes overlooked, but can make or break your business. Like I mentioned above, it can be tempting to sign on any client that wants to work with you, but if you don’t jive with a specific personality type, it could backfire.

I’ll give you a real life example:

I don’t work with anyone I wouldn’t be friends with in “real life.” My ideal client personality is someone who takes their work seriously but not themselves. The clients I work with are relaxed, down to earth people that know the value of hiring a copywriter, don’t try to negotiate my prices down, and aren’t micromanagers. 

If I ever get a “nitpicky” vibe or I get the feeling that a client will be someone who wants to email me seventeen times on a Sunday night or is completely disorganized, I don’t sign the client.

And trust me on this one: If you get one of those nightmare clients that tells you “I’ve hired and fired a dozen copywriters in the past because they could never get it right,” you aren’t going to be the exception. Even if it’s really, really tempting to prove yourself (because you know your stuff, after all). Trust me when I say you’ll be copywriter #13 that just “didn’t get it.”

Knowing who you want to work with–and only working with those clients–works out exceptionally well in the long run. You’ll get better reviews, more referrals, and potentially develop long term client relationships by working with only people you mesh with.

Take Really, Really Good Notes

Even if you’re absolutely sure you’re going to remember details from the call, you’re probably not. If you’re not recording your discovery calls (and by the way, always get permission to do so from your potential clients before you just hit that ‘record’ button), you’ll need to take exceptionally good notes. 

I have an entire notebook dedicated to ONLY discovery calls. This way, even if I don’t work with the client immediately, if they email me a month or two down the road and they’re ready to get started, I can easily refer back to my notes.

I mean, I guess we do live in a modern world. You could take notes by typing, too. But, no matter your note-taking method of choice, keep your notes organized, readable, and detailed.

Don’t Offer Pricing Until You Understand the Scope 

This. Is. A. Big. One.

Never, ever give a quote before you understand the full scope of a project. 

In fact, I never recommend giving a quote by phone, anyway, number one because you want it in writing, number two because you need time to actually go through and calculate the amount of time, research, and work it will take to complete a project.

You can give a ballpark estimate, yes. You can give a typical “range.” You can give a “starting at” price. But never give a client a firm price until they’ve given you every detail you need to work up an accurate proposal.

We’ll go over some questions to ask so that you can get this information next.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Little Personal

Sure, the point of a discovery call is to see if there’s a potential fit between you and the client, but client relationships aren’t necessarily built on business alone. 

Your clients are more than just their business. Talk to them like people instead of potential paychecks, because they are more than potential paychecks.

This isn’t just to build rapport, either. Asking people questions about themselves helps you get into their heads, further understanding who they are as a person and how they speak, which will come in handy when you write for them. 

Building relationships with your clients is a win-win. 

I’m not saying you should ask someone to go into details about their divorce or their problems with their mother. I’m saying ask questions like “where are you dialing in from?” “Tell me the story of how you started your business,” and “What’s life outside of your business like?”  or “Is that a cat I see in the background?” to get a deeper understanding of their personality.

But, beyond the personal ice-breaking questions, let’s dive into the questions you should absolutely be asking your potential clients on your discovery calls. 

10 Questions to Ask During a Discovery Call

Let’s get down to business: the “discovery” part of the discovery call. Knowing the right questions to ask will help you drill down into what your potential client actually wants and asking the right questions shows your sense of professionalism and knowledge.  Asking the right questions means building trust.

  1. What can you tell me about your upcoming copywriting needs?

Start simple and leave it open-ended. Potential clients will usually tell you exactly what they need if you listen. It’s important to note here that as a copywriter, you’ll need to learn to “read between the lines” with some clients. We’ll talk more about clarifying information a little bit later.

  1. What led to your decision to hire a copywriter?

This is where you’ll find out whether or not they’re the type of client who wants to DIY but can’t, is well-versed in writing copy but doesn’t have time, or may need a little more “hand holding” throughout the project. 

  1. Have you hired other copywriters in the past? 

Remember when I mentioned the big, glaring red flag when a client says that the copywriters they’ve hired never get it right? This is where the truth comes out. Think of your potential client like a date. If your date takes you to a restaurant and treats the waitstaff poorly, they’re going to treat you poorly, too. The same thing applies to client relationships. Pay attention to how they talk about previous writers.

  1. What are your expectations of a copywriter?

This question will set the stage for the project and how you can best make the client happy (as well as help you decide whether or not the client is a good fit for you). Ask clarifying questions such as how often they expect updates on their project, whether or not they have preliminary work done, such as brand guidelines or an ideal client avatar profile).

  1. How would you describe your communication style?

Every client’s communication style is different. Some clients will want to give you the brief and leave you to your work until the due date, and some clients will ask for weekly or bi-weekly updates. Be sure to ask questions on preferred methods of communication as well. Some clients will want to invite you to a Slack channel, some will prefer email only, and some prefer messaging apps. 

Word of advice: Don’t rely on spoken communication. Keep everything in writing so that you can refer back to the conversation if necessary. 

  1. What led you to explore my services as a solution?

Not only is this a great way to find out not just how a potential client found you, it’s also great to find out exactly what piqued their interest about you, specifically. 

  1. What specific characteristics are you looking for in a copywriter?

This will give you insight into what, exactly, a client is looking for in copywriting support. This is a similar question to “what do you expect from a copywriter” but will yield very different answers.

  1. What factors are you considering when hiring a copywriter?

You may get answers regarding pricing, availability, and experience.

  1. When do you foresee making a decision on a copywriting hire?

Some clients are just exploring their options and some are ready to go the moment they join your Zoom. The answer to this question will help you set expectations and discover just how serious your potential client is about hiring copywriting support.

  1. What would it take for you to join my client roster today?

The answer to this question will give you further insight into what your potential client really wants. If they have any hesitations at all, this is where they’ll come out and you can address them.

These ten questions to ask during a discovery call with a potential freelance copywriting client may seem simple, but they’ll provide you with the insight and information to decide whether or not the client is the right fit for you, how to best support them, and how to set expectations.

Other Tips for Acing Your Freelance Copywriting Discovery Calls

Discovery calls aren’t just a Q&A session. For a successful discovery call, you want to not only ask the right questions, but you want to show your potential client that you’re actively listening and invested in the conversation.

How invested you are in the conversation indicates how invested you’ll be in their projects. Remember that.

Repeat Back Key Information

Phrases like “What I heard was…” “It sounds like you’re looking for…” validates your potential clients’ concerns and shows that you’re actively listening to the conversation. Repeating back key pieces of the conversation let someone feel heard.

Let Your Potential Client Know You’ll Be Taking Notes

Sounds silly, but hear me out on this one. Depending on how your webcam is positioned, your potential client might not see that you’re writing notes with a pen and paper and it could look like you’re texting off screen. 

Besides, pointing out that you’re taking notes is a great way to show your potential clients that you’re listening (and that you pay attention to detail).

Add Value & Showcase Your Expertise

You’re a professional (that’s why your potential client booked the call, after all). Don’t be afraid to jump in with feedback or valuable bits of information. 

For example, I have a pretty extensive marketing background. When a client talks to me about writing their email copy, I’ll ask them what their current open rates are and then offer tidbits of information such as how email deliverability works and give them a few pointers on keeping their emails out of the spam folder. 

Providing value shows that you know your stuff and leaves your prospect feeling like you’ve already improved their business.

Don’t Get Off the Call Without an Action Item From Both Sides

Don’t end the call without planning your next communication! During the call, ask your potential client if they have examples of copy they like, links to their competitors, project notes, or anything else that can help you put together a proposal, and let them know you’ll be following up on the call with an email shortly after the call.

Planning out your next interactions helps keep the lines of communication open.

Follow Up With Call Notes within 24 Hours

Sum up your notes, pull out the most important pieces of information, and give a brief summary of the call (reiterating: brief) and either include your proposal or give them an estimated time and date of its arrival.

If you’ve promised to send additional pieces from your portfolio, references, or a link to an article you mentioned on the call, remember to include these in your follow up email.

Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up On the Call

Once you’ve submitted your proposal, don’t be afraid to follow up. If they’ve told you to expect a response within two weeks and it’s been three, show back up in their inbox. Be persistent, but not annoying. 

If you don’t have a solid “yes,” after you follow up on your proposal (and they haven’t told you that they’re still looking at it), this is where you can ask if they have any concerns regarding your proposal and address any objections. 

You CAN Smash Your Discovery Calls

As a freelance copywriter, you’re responsible for landing your own clients, which includes the discovery portion of the sales process. Even if the thought of conducting discovery calls makes you nervous, with enough preparation and enough practice, you’ll find your flow and be completely acing your discovery calls in no time. 

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