Freelance Job Interview Questions With Tips for Answering
How is a freelance job interview different from a regular job interview? For starters, neither side is committing to a long-term relationship. That kind of freedom comes with plenty of benefits for workers and employers alike, but it also changes the "hiring" process a bit, including which interview questions you can expect to hear from a hiring manager.
When interviewing freelancers, clients don't need to worry about how you'll fit into the corporate culture or where you want to be in five years. Depending on the gig, it might not even matter whether you're a morning person or a night person, or what your typical work week looks like.
Instead, expect questions geared toward results. That's because, even more than regular employees, contract workers are there to solve a problem. The person who hires you will have to demonstrate that you're doing that, probably on a much shorter timeline than he or she would a full-time worker. The essential irony of contract work is that even though you're cheaper than an employee who gets benefits, and thus less risky if you don't work out, you're also easier to evaluate, because your goals are specific and limited, and easier to fire, because the usual termination process doesn't apply.
In any case, it's always in your best interests as a worker to focus your preparations on the job interview questions you're likely to get. For freelancers, this means being able to demonstrate that you're worth the money and that you can get things done.
5 Freelance Job Interview Questions
These are a few questions you might hear during the interview process:
1. Can you show me samples of work you've done on similar projects?
Tips for answering: When you're a freelancer, your work speaks for you, so it's important to have a portfolio of work to show prospective clients. In the olden days, this mean a physical folder full of your work samples; now, digital portfolios make it easy to email links to prospective clients, as well as show off your work in an interview.
Regardless, you'll want to be able to display some samples and demonstrate how you delivered on the client's vision in each case. (Bonus points if you can attach a dollar sign to that demonstration by explaining how you made or saved money.)
2. What's your work process like?
Tips for answering: One of the distinctions between an employee and a contractor, according to the IRS, is that businesses can't specify the hours of work for a contractor. Setting deadlines is OK (e.g., "project will be completed by EOD on Nov. 1") but not blocking off hours of your time on an ongoing basis (e.g., "freelancer will be available eight hours a day, five days a week, from 9 am to 5 pm, until ABC Company says otherwise").
Still, things need to get done when they need to get done, so don't be surprised if you get a question about your work process—and know that while the hiring manager might indeed be interested in your work style, he or she most likely wants to know that you're available during working hours to answer questions and take requests.
The other aspect of this question is that the interviewer wants to know if you can take constructive criticism and if you'll participate in a review process. So make sure to mention that you're flexible, collaborative, and open to ideas.
3. Tell me about a time you had trouble making a deadline, and pulled it off.
Tips for answering: The real secret is that everyone, from schoolchildren to executives, hates group projects. Still, as long as individual contributors are valuable, and until we can figure out some better way to synthesize independent thought into a large-scale result, we're probably stuck with them. That means that we're all dependent on one another to hit deadlines, so that we can get on with our part of the show.
Remember, when you answer, that the interviewer has reason to be even more anxious about a freelancer hitting deadlines, because the other team members won't be able to find you in a hurry if you drop the ball. Your goal here is to provide concrete examples of your dedication to getting things done, no matter how difficult. Be as specific as possible.
4. How much do you charge?
Tips for answering: This is a case where you want to let them do the talking first. Go in with a general idea of your freelance rates, but don't commit to a price right off the bat. You won't know how much to charge—or even whether to bill hourly or by the project—until you have a lot more information about the work required.
Don't be fooled into naming a number at the beginning, only to find out later that the client expects three meetings a week and doesn't want to pay for them, or that every stage of the project involves three signoffs and two of those belong to other remote workers who are rarely available. Get all the specifics before you commit to a price—and then get it in writing in the form of a contract or statement of work.
5. What's your availability?
Tips for answering: This is your opportunity to express enthusiasm, reassure the client about your commitment—and set some boundaries. Many clients give the impression of wanting the commitment of a full-time employee from their contractors, without extending the same in the form of job security. This doesn't mean they're evil or trying to cheat you; it may just be that they're used to that model from working with regular employees.
Regardless, you can convey your passion and reliability without promising to be available for 10 pm emergencies or every regular morning meeting. Most professional freelancers find it impractical to sleep in every morning anyway, so you can likely tell them you're usually available during normal working hours, and that you have a policy of responding to client emails with X time period (24 hours or less). You're under no obligation to promise them full-time availability for part-time work.
Prepare to Ace the Interview
Before you head out the door or get on the phone for your interview, review these tips for how to ace an interview for a freelance job.