The Blog

01/11/16

The Significance of Using a Client Questionnaire

As a freelancer, I use a client questionnaire for nearly every single area of work that I do – primarily branding, visual identity, and web design. The only time I don’t use a questionnaire is when I do more basic work, like book covers or small graphic design pieces. As time has gone on I’ve refined my questionnaire and have found them to be incredibly helpful for a variety of reasons! If you’re a freelancer and getting started in your field, or just curious, here are some reasons why you might want to create your own client questionnaire!

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01 A client questionnaire tells you about who you’re working with and what their needs are

When a client comes to you and they need all of their branding done, for example, you start off with almost nothing (in many cases). They’ll probably volunteer their website address, if they already have one, as well as the name and a short description of their business. They might have some ideas of what they want for the visuals. But other than that they probably will not volunteer much information.

It’s up to you as the expert in your field – in this case, branding – to get the neccessary information from them so that you can do an excellent job at what they’ve asked you to do. You are the one who knows the details of what needs to be done, and how to translate everything they tell you into a cohesive brand. That means that you need to be the one directing the flow of conversation about their needs – and a great way to do that is by using a client questionnaire.

A client questionnaire allows you to ask very specific questions that will give you the answers you need about the client and their business. For example, say your client needs a mission statement and tagline. You can ask pointed questions about the goal of their business, what words describe it, and who their target market/ideal client is – and use that information to craft a mission statement and tagline. You as the expert know that those two things are needed, so you ask them the neccessary questions to get to that point!

02 It makes you consider which information is important

As you’re listing questions for your clients, it makes you think about which ones are the most important to ask. There is so much information that needs to be shared, especially when you’re dealing with a project as broad and deep as branding, so combining all the needed information into one document is so helpful in keeping things streamlined, as well as incorporating all the neccessary questions.

As you work with clients and receive their answers, you’ll start to see which ones are the most important, and what you might need to add in the future. Is there something you keep having to ask them after they’ve already filled out the questionnaire? Is there an area of the process where you don’t have enough information at the outset? Once you see these areas you can fix them by asking for that information at the very beginning.

03 Answer it yourself!

It will help you define your business like never before.

I had never answered my own client questionnaire until a few months ago. I was starting the process of re-branding my own business, and part of that was re-vamping my whole client design and information-gathering process. I decided to fill out my own new questionnaire to help myself define my business, and it was pretty incredible how much it helped me!

It’s one thing to think out definitions for your business in your head – it’s another to write them down. Even though I know the goals of my business, they weren’t organized and as well thought-out as they should have been. Being able to go through and answer questions like “how would you define success for your business?” and “what are the core values that define and root your business?” helped me so much in defining my business for myself, so I could then show it clearly to others.

The other great thing about it was that it allowed me to view the questionnaire as the client would – so that I could change it as necessary. I realized through receiving client answers as well as going through the questions myself that some weren’t clear enough. So for the harder-to-answer questions I included example answers. I was able to identify the weaknesses of the questionnaire and fix them.

I think this is where being a freelancer (especially a self-taught one) can get difficult. You might not have anyone giving you the help and advice that you really need. I started my business not really knowing what I was doing, so of course I had no business plan or developed brand. For me, it took working for a few years for me to get to the point where I recognized the importance of having a solid brand and business strategy, and to finally make those things happen. It was okay for me to be at that stage – everyone has to start somewhere and grow them there! I had to realize it on my own – I didn’t have a professor teaching me how to grow a successful small business – but the point is I realized it. So if you’re a freelancer who’s struggling to start a business – start at this level. Ask yourself core questions about what your business is and what your goals are. Before you can ever help anyone else, you need to help yourself.

04 It’s okay if it’s really, really long

As of now my standard branding questionnaire is four pages long and has fifty questions! And each one of those questions has been put there on purpose – there isn’t one “filler” question. Each answer is necessary, and I sometimes feel that I should add a little more! You definitely don’t want to overwhelm your client or ask them unneccesary questions, but if your questionnaire starts to get long don’t worry about it. I firmly belive that a huge part of the future success of a project lies in asking the right questions at the beginning of the process. You need to be on the same page as your client, and have all the information you need to do an amazing job on the project.

If they are surprised at the list, or skeptical about its importance, it’s your job as the expert to educate them on why this is needed. You’re doing it for their own success – their answers are the building blocks of their final brand.

  1. Hi Hannah! I’m a video/media producer and I find that the interview/questionnaire portion of client interaction to be THE most helpful/important part of the process. It helps me gain clarity and also helps the client to refine their ideas about what they want. Great post + thanks for sharing!

    Fayann