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The Golden Question No Other Freelancer Is Asking

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During my first 7 years of freelancing, I failed to ask many of my clients the most important question there is on any project. Sure, I delivered high-quality designs and those designs probably helped my clients’ businesses somehow.

But that’s exactly the problem.

I didn’t design a solution while actively considering their business goals and I certainly had no idea what their conversion strategy was.

Here’s the thing, “probably helped my clients out somehow” is not what you want to look back and say when reflecting on your past work.

When I was in college, I learned all about design and I was trained to be a professional digital designer. And that makes sense because the expectation was that I’d always be working for a design agency where another team of people would be responsible for talking to the client about their business goals.

As a freelancer, things are quite different. No one ever told me I was supposed to ask my clients about their business goals until I purchased some career-changing reading materials from Brennan Dunn.

Think about it, what do these clients really want their users to do that will benefit their business? With that in mind, this is the golden question that I’ve only recently started asking my clients:

“Can you tell me more about your business goals?”

The reason this question is so “golden” is because it encompasses other important questions such as “can you tell me about your target audience?” and “what are the main problems your business is facing right now?”.

Simultaneously, this question inspires and educates the client by getting them to think about how the website or product you’re offering will positively impact their business.

As if all of that wasn’t good enough, the answer to this question will also help you make the right pitch and close the deal at a higher rate by revealing exactly what the client is really after. Let’s look at an example:

In 2014, I helped CompassCare launch a new website. They help women facing unplanned pregnancy. Their conversion strategy is to first educate these women and portray CompassCare as the caring, trustworthy organization they are. The business goal is then to encourage those women to make an appointment and be seen by one of the CompassCare staff members.

So when I sent them my proposal, I focused it on how I could help them get more leads and encourage more women to make an appointment on their website. I did not convince them to hire me based on how many hours it would take to do the work and I never bothered to explain in excruciating detail what “user experience design” really means. They hired me because I convinced them that I could deliver a new website that got their business what it really needed.

The freelancing market is more oversaturated now that it has ever been before. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, simply asking this question will tell the client that you know what you are doing and that you care about their business. Those are the two main criteria clients use to choose any freelancer. Make sure they choose you.

Last updated on February 28th, 2023

About Matt Olpinski
I've been freelancing since 2009 and have worked with over 100+ clients including some of the biggest brands in the world. I later started my own company Matthew’s Design Co. and now teaches 50,000+ freelancers each year how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers.