How to Run Your First Client Discovery Call as a Freelancer

Discovery calls are your chance to sell your service. We’ll cover the basics of how to run a discovery call and walk you through a detailed script so you feel prepared for your first one.

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Leading your first client discovery call as a freelancer can be nerve-wracking. What should I say? How do I start the call? Even worse, what do I say to end the call?

If the idea of pitching your services in live time to potential clients sounds like your worst nightmare, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about client discovery calls and how to run effective ones.

What is a Client Discovery Call?

A client discovery call is an opportunity to hop on a video or phone call with a potential client to get a better understanding of their needs and how your services as a freelancer could help.

In the traditional working world, this style of conversation is typically called an interview. In an interview, employers are trying to determine whether they’d like to hire you, the interviewee. In a way, freelance discovery calls are similar in that the potential client may be debating whether they’d like to hire you. They differ, however, in that freelance discovery calls are more of a conversation with both you and the client asking one another questions, rather than being quizzed by the client.

The conversation should leave you with the ability to answer the following questions:

  1. What services is the client looking for?
  2. Do I think working with this client would be a mutual fit?
  3. When am I following up with the client?

How Long Should a Discovery Call Be?

Most discovery calls are 15-20 minutes long. However, in the beginning of your freelance career, you may find that they lean more towards 30 minutes as you get the hang of how to run them more efficiently.

How to Lead a Client Discovery Call

During the discovery call, you want to get an understanding of what the client is looking for so you can determine which of your services will best suit their needs. Because of that, you should open the conversation and guide the client through it.

Here’s a rough outline of how to structure a client discovery call.

Step 1: Standard greeting.

Begin the discovery call just like any other conversation. Say hello and thank the client for joining you on the call.

Step 2: Prompt the client to start the conversation.

You want the client to feel heard, so allow them to speak first. Ask the client to share a bit about themselves, their business, and what they’re looking for in potentially working with you. Make sure to take notes as they’re speaking, but be careful not to appear distracted by your notes.

Because this is an open-ended question, you may find that responses vary drastically between clients. Some potential clients may respond with a quick, 3-sentence response, while others may give you a full 20 minute story. To prepare for the former, develop a list of meaningful questions to ask the client so you can still get to know them.

Step 3: Thank them for sharing.

Always thank the client for sharing. Follow up your “thank you” by reiterating some of their pain points in your own words. This could look like:

Client: My business really took off in 2020, which was great, but I haven’t been able to keep up with everything. One aspect that I really haven’t been able to keep up with is my Facebook. I see all the other local businesses around me doing all sorts of marketing efforts on Facebook, but I just can’t find time for it, nor do I understand it well. I definitely need someone to take care of it because I just don’t have time for it.

You: Thank you for sharing all of this with me. I can totally understand as a fellow business owner how hard it can be to keep up with all the different aspects of your business.

Step 4: Explain why you’re a good fit to work with them, and ask any clarifying questions. 

In reality, there are a million-and-one freelancers offering services similar to yours. But, there’s only one you. They don’t need to be convinced of the service they’re inquiring about, they need to be convinced that you are the right person to do it. Use this space to show that you understand where they’re coming from, what they’re looking for, and why you’re the best fit to help them. For example:

You’re certainly not alone in finding it challenging to keep up with Facebook. I’ve found that with many of the other small business owners I’ve worked with, they’ve had similar struggles. As a follow up question then, are you looking for a done-for-you style service, or a service that still allows you to have some control over what gets posted?

Step 5: Allow the client to respond, then share your service as the solution.

This is your time to shine. Share the service you offer that meets the clients needs, then let them know you’ll send more information later on. Refrain from sharing your rates at this point in the call. You want to keep the client focused on working with you, and sharing too much information upfront can have their mind drifting off. This can look like:

Client: I’m definitely looking for a more done-for-you style service. I do want to see the posts before they go up, but I’d like something that allows me to be less involved in the process so I can focus on the other aspects of the business.

You: Absolutely! Well with that in mind, I think you would really love my Facebook Marketing 1 package. It’s a complete done-for-you Facebook management package. Everything from researching post ideas, to writing the captions, to making the post graphics, to engaging with your customers in the comments is all taken care of.

Step 6: Ask if they have any questions.

Provide space for the client to ask you any follow-up questions. Some clients may come with a laundry list of questions, while others may say they can’t think of anything on the spot. Regardless, be prepared to answer just about anything.

If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, it’s okay to say “You know what, I’m not sure on that, but I will follow up with you right after this call with an answer.”

Step 7: Book the service or offer to follow up later.

In some sales calls, you’re focused on getting the client to say yes right then and there. However, in the freelance world, clients may be meeting with several freelancers before making a hiring decision. If the client does want to commit verbally over the phone, great! If the client seems like they may want time to think about it, thank them for meeting with you, and let them know that you’ll be following up with more information on the items you spoke about after the call.

Step 8: Follow up.

Always follow up with the client immediately after the call to thank them for their time. Following up promptly shows the client that you’re committed to the client relationship and their business.

In that email, send them any information they’ve requested. This may include more details about certain packages, your rates, etc. Give the client a few days to process the conversation, then if you still haven’t heard back, send a follow up email to see if they have any questions.

The Big Picture

A client discovery call is your opportunity to understand what problem the prospective client is having and to pitch your services as the solution. Being nervous before the call is normal, so take time to get prepared, and if you need to, keep the list above available during the call.

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