Qualifying Freelance Leads & Prospects

So you’ve received a lead via your website or whatever you’re using to intercept new business.

What now? Do you have a process or do you just wing it each time?

The problem with not having a qualifying process for incoming leads is that you end up wasting not just your time, but a potential clients time too.

They might have $2k to spend and your project minimum is $5k. Right away it’s a no go, so why bother beyond a few emails or a short call?

Based on how booked I am, I won’t even field a short call. It has to be via email for efficiency.

The last thing you want to do is chase down a tire kicker, so here are a few questions you can ask to help qualify if its worth your time.

Simple questions for qualifying freelance leads

  1. Are you committed to moving forward with this project or just doing research?
  2. Have you set a timeline or any milestone dates (start or end date)?
  3. Do you already have a budget allocated?
  4. Do you need a formal proposal and does it need to be based on an RFP/RFQ? If not, anything specific we should include?
  5. Has a scope of work already been created?

Let’s dive deeper into why these questions work and why there’s only 5 I will generally ask…

1. Are you committed or doing research?

I love this question, no matter how they answer there’s a possibility for me to make a sale. It also relates to the last question depending on how they answer #4.

If the prospect is still researching their project this is actually a great opportunity for you to engage them with a discovery phase.

I really  like doing discovery projects because it doesn’t obligate either of us to a full project, helps me gauge their full budget better, get a feel for what a full project might be like, and I can charge to build a scope of work.

Building a scope of work during a discovery phase can save me tons of development hours later because sometimes I will create pseudo-code to test APIs or external resources I might need to interface with, which later act as a framework or starting point if we engage for the full project.

2. Have you set a timeline or any milestone dates?

This question helps you gauge if the project is a rush or the client has realistic expectations for how fast the work can be turned around.

It’s ok to ask how concrete these dates are if they have any. I would also suggest telling them ahead of time it’s unlikely to be possible or if a rush fee would incur.

3. Do you already have a budget allocated?

This can be a lead-in for gauging what that is. This can also be an indicator of how many hoops you may have to jump through to get this project going.

Most project I have had where the client was looking for me to guide them on how much to request, there have always been some internal hurdles on their part. These are usually really corporate type clients though, so you can usually see them coming anyway.

4. Do you need a formal proposal and is there an RFP?

Most times you would already have this if so, but I like to ask anyway because it’s a possible lead-in for the next question.

It also gives me a chance to ask if there’s anything I can include in my proposal that might give me a leg up on any other vendors.

If you can deliver that jokingly and you’ve been pretty conversational with the prospect up until this point, you can build some serious rapport there. It might also open them up to a discussion about past vendors and how they failed them, so you can speak to those pain points to reinforce that you can deliver a better project.

5. Has as Scope of Work been created?

If the prospect already has a scope of work you’ll get to see some insight into how they work and how meticulous they are.

This is another chance to reinforce a discovery phase if no scope of work exists, or you review and it may be off-base for what they need.

Make it your own, but keep it Lean

Obviously, you can take these questions and re-work them to fit better for you contextually, but I suggest not adding any or being really selective about the ones you add to it.

This is just to qualify you’re going to fit and if you want to entertain working together. Keep it lean and don’t play 20 questions.

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