Questions Every Content Writer Should Ask

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Congrats! You landed a new content writing client. Now comes the scariest part: creating that first piece of content. It can make or break this relationship, so you want to be sure you nail it. The pressure’s on. Fortunately, asking a handful of questions can help you set yourself up for success.

This is assuming you’ve asked the basics, like their budget for the project, their timeline, if you’ll get a byline, and whether or not they have an editor who will look the content over. (Charge more if you need to proof your own content.)

Get the logistics squared away. Then, keep asking questions to help yourself write high-quality, valuable content. Here are a few questions every content writer should ask before writing for a new client.

Who’s your primary audience?

You’re going to write pretty differently for a bunch of kids than you are for C-suite execs, of course. But other, less notable shifts in audience can make a dramatic difference in the way you approach content. For example, if you’re writing landing page content for a B2C company with a tangible product, you’ll want to know if their audience is primarily prospects or customers. That way, you can shape your content to encourage first-time purchases or to educate and entertain, encouraging customer loyalty.

What do you want people to think of when they think about your brand?

Some brands pride themselves of their playful, tongue-in-cheek marketing approach. Others wouldn’t be caught dead using puns in any of their content. Clients will usually give you some kind of directive about their brand voice, but it’s often vague. Asking how they want people to feel when they read this content and when they think about this brand can help your client verbalize subtleties that will help you best personalize their content.

Are you targeting any keywords?

It’s surprising how frequently I’ve found that clients — even those employing carefully planned SEO efforts — don’t think to connect their targeted keywords with their content. And, yes, a lot of SEO happens outside of the page content, but a lot of it is content-driven, too. Knowing a client’s keywords can help you help them with SEO.

And if you’re not sure how to use the keywords they give you, I’ve got a quick content SEO guide ready for you.

Do you use the Oxford comma?

Some people prefer to use the Oxford comma in their brand materials. Others don’t. One way isn’t necessarily better than the other (although I prefer the additional comma), so consistency is key here. Ask your client if they use the Oxford comma, then make sure their prevailing rule is followed throughout the document or materials.

While you’re at it, ask if they have any other grammar guidelines you should follow (e.g., rules of title capitalization). If they don’t have much guidance to give you, choose a style and stick with it so anyone reading that client’s content will see that it’s consistent. I follow the AP Stylebook, for example, for all of my clients unless directed otherwise.

Landing a new client is a big win. Keeping them is even better. With these questions, you can get the additional guidance you need to create content that will wow.