How to Ace an Interview for a Freelance Job
While a freelance job interview isn't extremely different from a normal, permanent-position interview, interviewing for a freelance or contract position can require a slightly different approach. As a freelancer, it's important to emphasize your diligence, dependability, and trustworthiness. Additionally, since a client might be screening numerous other freelancers, it's always important to be on the top of your game.
Here's How to Ace an Interview for a Freelance Gig
Focus on your experience and skills most applicable to the job you’re applying for. Many freelancers have a variety of skills, and might dabble in multiple different freelance ventures at the same time.
However, it’s important to focus your interview answers on the specific job you’re applying for. This might seem obvious, but sometimes even the same title can take on two different forms.
Think, for example, about a “project manager” who might be managing software development in one gig, and research or development in another. Or, a “graphic designer” who works on everything from responsive web design to print brochures to banners. Make sure you fully understand the job you’re applying for, and then tailor your answers to include your skills and experience most relevant to the job at hand.
Do make a mention of your other attributes. That’s certainly not to say that you should present yourself as a single-focus freelancer if that’s not the case. If you do have other skills that you think could add value to your client’s projects, share them. This can help strengthen your case if you present it in the right way. For example, you might say, “Though my focus is graphic design, I am also a copywriter, so I can assist with writing, editing and proofreading the copy on your marketing materials, in addition to working on the design.”
Be ready to provide references. As a freelancer, having references to vouch for you is very important. Unlike working in a permanent position where poor performance would get you fired or demoted, and thus be evident on your resume, poor performance as a freelancer isn’t always as obvious. So, don’t be surprised if a client wants to speak to your references.
Have your references’ contact information ready to share. A past client who appreciated your work is ideal. If that’s not possible, ask a former manager or supervisor, a former coworker or someone you’ve worked directly with in some capacity. Be mindful about providing the contact information of your existing clients. You don’t want them to think you’re ditching them or overloading yourself to the point where you’re unable to fully invest yourself in their work.
Come with talking points. While it’s relatively easy to “wing it” when talking about your own experience (though this certainly isn’t a recommended approach), it’s not easy to “wing it” when you’re talking to a client about his or her company or past projects. It really does benefit you to Google like crazy: research the person you’re interviewing with, the company, projects they’ve worked on in the past and even other people they’ve worked with. Once you’ve found this information, how can you use it?
Here are some suggestions:
- You can express admiration for one of their past projects, and note ways that it might be similar to a successful project you’ve worked on.
- Emphasize your appreciation for their mission statement or organizational goals and provide examples of how your own experience lines up.
- You can ask what distinguishes them from similar companies, or acknowledge a unique approach they might have taken in their work (citing specific examples from your research).
Ask the right questions. Convey your attention to detail, organizational abilities and planning skills by asking specific questions about the position you would like to take on. You can ask:
- How many hours per week you’re expected to work
- What is the client’s end goal in the projects
- If the client has taken on projects like this before, and if so, what approaches and work styles have been successful in the past, and what has been unsuccessful
- What forms of communication will be used
- How often will meetings or check-ins be required
Emphasize your dedication and diligence. By nature, freelance or contract work requires a high level of trust between client and contractor: trust that the contractor work will get done well and on time, while working independently, and that the client will pay in a timely manner as well.
It’s important to establish yourself as someone who is trustworthy, responsible and accessible. Additionally, you’ll want to portray yourself as someone who is committed to a project even if you aren’t an official or permanent member of the client’s team. The best way to do this is to share specific anecdotes or examples about when you went above and beyond as a freelancer.
Have your application materials and assets ready to share. Provide a printed copy of your resume and your portfolio, if applicable. If you can’t provide a hard copy of work examples, have a URL to share or bring your laptop or tablet to the interview so your potential new client can view your work on the spot. If you didn't provide these resources during your interview, follow up immediately with a thank you note that includes relevant links.
Know what you’re worth. If the topic of payment comes up during your interview, don’t waiver or sound unsure. Be honest about what you’re usually paid - don’t pad it, but don’t be afraid to speak up for your worth. Here are tips for pricing freelance projects and how to negotiate freelance rates.
Stay professional. Treat your freelance interview as formally as you would any other interview, whether you’re interviewing by phone, by video, or in-person. Show up on time, or early; present yourself in a polished, professional manner; since your interviewer could be speaking to a multitude of people, it’s especially important to be on top of your game. Check out these tips on how to prepare for an interview ahead of time.