Ready to nail your next discovery call with a client?
What if you had a framework that you could use to crush it on every discovery call and land more freelance clients?
I’ve got you covered! In this post, I’m breaking down my 10-step formula for discovery calls that convert like hotcakes. Think of it like a checklist that you can reference every single time you hop on a call with a new client.
And the best part is this discovery call checklist will not only show you how to hold a successful discovery call, but it’ll help you keep them down to 15 minutes or less.
No more 45-minute-long sales calls…
No more precious time spent on people who want to pick your brain for free…
Today, you’re going to learn how to convert clients on a call in just 15 minutes. And I’m so stinkin’ excited to share this discovery call framework with y’all because I know it’s going to be such a game changer for your freelance business.
So let’s jump right in!
How to Conduct a Discovery Call as a Freelancer
Now, I know what some of y’all might be thinking.
“Brandi, 15-minute discovery calls are just not possible!”
If this sounds familiar, I hear you. But I’ve taught this process inside Serve Scale Soar to thousands of freelancers, and we literally have testimonial after testimonial where our students tell us they just ran a 15-minute discovery call.
Honestly, a lot of those students were skeptical in the beginning too. When you first learn this process, it might take a little practice. You might be running 20-minute calls instead, but that should really be the max.
Because here’s the thing:
If your discovery calls are going over 20 minutes, there’s a breakdown somewhere in the process. And a lot of times that breakdown comes from us trying to convince someone why they should hire us (I’ll talk more about this in Step 9).
So, this discovery call framework is all about shifting your mindset away from trying to prove your worth to a potential client. Instead, the client discovery process is about making sure y’all are a good fit to work together.
How do you handle a discovery call? It’s about figuring out whether you can help a new client solve the current problem in their business—and that they’re the right client for your business too.
For example, if you have someone tell you, “Oh, you’re too expensive,” they’re not a good fit to work with you in the first place. But when freelancers hear that feedback on a discovery call, the energy instantly shifts.
That’s when we get into proving mode so they’ll feel like they want to work with us.
But that’s not what a discovery call is. You never have to prove your value to someone outside of using case studies or testimonials from your past clients.
So, let’s go over the 10 steps to my framework. These steps will serve as your discovery call checklist—it includes questions you can ask clients and word-for-word scripts you can use on your discovery calls so you’ll never feel stuck on what to do next.
I’ll walk you through the whole process!
Step 1: How Clients Book a Discovery Call
The first step you take happens before the discovery call even starts, but this is super important for helping your discovery call run smoothly.
And that’s setting up your intake form.
Before a client schedules a call with you, there should be some form where you get information about the project. Keep in mind every intake form will look a little different because your form should be customized to your services and ideal clients.
(Note: if you want intake form samples from different industries, I share a lot of form templates that you can use inside my programs, like Serve Scale Soar and Delighted With Dubsado.)
So, an intake form helps you prepare for your discovery call by getting some information upfront. And no matter what type of freelance services you offer, one question you need on your intake form is:
Are you ready to hire someone right now—or is this something you’re looking for down the road?
Because the truth is we don’t want to spend our marketing minutes getting on calls with people who aren’t even ready to hire. If a client is not looking to hire someone now, don’t jump on a call with them. I recommend giving them resources and following up down the road instead.
Lastly, once someone fills out your form, remember to look at it before you hop on a call with that potential client. Just because someone books a timeslot with you, it doesn’t mean you have to hold the discovery call.
Your time is valuable… and their time is too!
Step 2: Making Your Introductions
Once you review the intake form, it’s time to actually get on the call. But what do you talk about with a potential client? In the next few steps, we’re going to go over your discovery call script.
So, step two is your intro. While this step is just a brief part of the call, it’s still a super important part of your discovery call process. Because here’s the thing, you don’t want to jump right into trying to sell someone on hiring you right away.
This part is where you want a little bit of small talk. It should be quick and easy. For example, “Hey, I’m super excited to meet you! I noticed on your Instagram that you have a beagle puppy. Oh my goodness, they’re so much fun. I have a beagle at home too!”
You get the picture, but you don’t want to get too caught up in small talk. After you spend a couple of minutes getting comfortable with each other, this is where you want to transition into setting the tone for the call.
I start with something like:
“I’m excited to chat with you today and learn more about your business. Since we only have 15 minutes together, I want to make sure that we get the most out of this call.”
And that’s when we lead down into step three, where we figure out exactly how we can serve our clients.
Step 3: “Tell Me In Your Own Words”
After we’ve set the tone for a 15-minute conversation, you want to move into the “tell me in your own words” statement.
This is a really powerful statement.
“So we can get the most value out of today, I’ve reviewed your intake form and written some questions down for you. But before we jump into that, tell me in your own words, what exactly are you looking for right now with support?”
You can get more specific with this too. For example:
- “Tell me in your own words, what is your biggest pain point that you have around Facebook ads right now?”
- “Tell me in your own words, what is your podcast going to be about?”
- “Tell me in your own words, what are your goals with Pinterest marketing?”
The reason why I always like to start with the “tell me in your own words” statement is because what someone puts on an intake form is not always what they’re actually looking for in a freelancer.
Our goal is to find out what a client’s pain points are. And as they’re answering this question, I’m writing bullet-point notes. I’m looking for specific things that I can support them with and make sure to use their own words.
In the next step, you’ll see why this is so important.
Step 4: How to Build Trust with Clients
Once your prospect has finished telling you everything they’re looking for, this is where I say, “This is what I’m hearing you need and what I can do for you.”
And that’s where those bullet points come in. Let’s say someone’s looking for Facebook ads and I just listened to them explain what they need. I would say:
“Right now, what I’m hearing is that you need someone who can come in and just take over your ads strategy, creation, running them for you, and optimization.
That way, you don’t even have to think about them and your ads are running in the background. And you can feel really secure that they’re being taken care of without you having to dive into Facebook Ads Manager.
That’s exactly what I do for my clients. I want my clients to feel like they’re being fully supported, everything’s taken care of for them, and they don’t even have to step into the Ads Manager.”
Here’s the thing, I’m repeating back to the client some of the things they said. That’s why we want to take notes, so we can use those same words that people used to describe their pain points to you.
Why? Because it helps them feel seen and heard, meaning that person is much more likely to trust you.
Plus, I’m explaining exactly how I can support them and their business. I’m not dropping my prices with them yet, but focusing on the part where I explain that this is exactly what I do for my clients.
For example, let’s say you’re a Pinterest manager. In this case, you might say:
“Okay, so what I hear from you is that you don’t need any graphic design. That’s already taken care of—you just need someone to go in and give you a really solid strategy that’s going to drive new traffic to your blog every week.
And someone who’s going to send you stats and communicate with you. That’s exactly what I do for my clients. I do also have a package where you can get graphics done, but if you already have that taken care of, that’s fine. I can do XYZ.”
It’s easy for us to mentally prepare our script and say, “Great, thanks for sharing what you’re looking for with me. Here’s what I can do for you,” and dive right into our packages without restating what our clients were telling us.
But there’s so much power in repeating back the exact words a client uses. We want to tap into that power because it brings a level of trust.
The reality is our clients have been burned by freelancers online before. Every day on social media, I see clients sharing bad hiring experiences they’ve had. And the result? The trust level is super low when they’re meeting someone new.
So we need to build as much trust as possible. When people hear their thoughts in the same word they used, it’s a subconscious way to build trust—and it’s honestly one of the easiest things you can do.
Most importantly, it lets people know you’re really listening.
Step 5: Present Your Package
Once you’ve let your clients know that you can help them with their exact problem, this is when you present the package to them.
Now, this isn’t about regurgitating everything you can do for people. I recommend you keep an internal document of your packages. However, this doesn’t mean that you are listing packages on your website or pulling up a Google Doc during the discovery call.
Here is how I present freelance packages:
“Okay, great. After hearing what you need and what I can do for you, I feel like the best way I can serve you is with my mid-level package. And I think it’s all you need. I have higher packages and lower ones, but I really feel that this will be the one that suits you. And it’s going to include…”
In this step, you’re going over the main parts of everything included in the package.
Keep in mind that you want to make sure the deliverables you’ve included in the package are the same things your client said they wanted from you earlier in the call. At this point on a sales call, I’m not going over my package pricing yet—I like clients to ask me for my prices.
Instead, I cover what would be included in that package. But you might be wondering what to do if you’re on a call with someone who’s not ready to invest in a package.
Let’s say I have a client who just wanted to see what was possible for Facebook ads. I would tell them:
“Okay, so we do have retainer packages. You can work with me month-to-month, but from what I’m hearing, I don’t feel like that’s exactly what you’re ready for right now. If you want to learn about my other packages, we can totally go over those. But what I feel might be best for you is my 2-hour intensive.”
Then I’ll explain how we can tackle everything they’re looking for during that intensive. I’m letting them know that I offer other options, but I’m only telling them what I think is best for them.
Because one thing I know is that clients don’t want to feel like you’re upselling and squeezing them for profits.
Think about it this way:
As a customer, you probably don’t want to be pressured by a salesperson when you shop. You just want to buy exactly what you need to solve your problem, and it feels really good to have those experiences when you’re doing business with a company.
Again, there’s so much power in presenting your packages this way. Because it’s all about building trust. That’s why I recommend giving your client the package you feel best serves them based on what they’ve told you—but make sure they know there are options if they want to explore them.
Step 6: What Happens When We Work Together
After I presented my package, this is the part of the discovery call process where I go into what it looks like to work together.
So, here’s what I say:
“Okay, so when we work together, this is what’s going to happen. After we get off this call, I’ll send over the proposal, I send over the invoice, and then you sign your contract. Once you pay the invoice, we’ll start on X date, and I’m going to get you over a few emails.
There are going to be two emails that come. The first one is going to be an onboarding form that I’ll need filled out. This form is super important.
And then once that’s filled out, you’re going to get a second email where you can book your 1:1 onboarding call with me. In this call, we’re going to really strategize what are the best steps for you moving forward.
Now, if you have a team member that you want on the call too, that’s totally fine. But we want to get this going as soon as possible. So you’ll get the contract within 24 hours, I would love 24-48 hours for you to fill out your new client intake form.
Then we’ll be able to book your call to get your project up and running right away. From there, we’ll work together and communicate on a weekly basis. Communication is super important to me. So, I wanted to share what it looks like when you decide to work with me.”
Next, you want to end this explanation with a question for your potential client. That’s the next step in our process!
Step 7: Let Your Clients Ask Questions
So, once you’ve presented the package and showed your client what it looks like together, you’re going to do one more key thing.
This is when you ask:
“Do you have any questions?”
And then you’re quiet so you can let that person ask their questions. Now, one thing you want to be prepared for is potential clients sometimes like to ask about your strategy. If they get into strategy questions, you can say:
“That’s something we will definitely talk about in our onboarding call. We’ll go over your complete strategy after we get that intake form filled out and I have a better picture of what you’re working with.”
At this point, they usually ask how much it costs. So how I like to respond is:
“Great, for this package it’s $XXXX per month and there’s a 3-month minimum to work together. Your contract is billed on the day the project starts. Today is the 8th of the month.
So, when you sign your contract and your invoice, then you’re going to be billed on the 8th for three months. After those 3 months are up, we’ll review your contract and everything at that point.”
If I’m charging $1000 per month, the total billing for the 3-month contract is $3K. But I’m not quoting my clients a rate of $3K. I’m letting them know it’s only $1000 per month for the next 3 months.
We always want to break the price down into little chunks for clients. This strategy helps prime our brains to think about the low monthly price, rather than the higher total cost.
Step 8: “Ready to Get Started?”
The next step is short and sweet, but just as important of a step in the process. This is where we ask the simple question: “Are you ready to get started?”
But there are other ways you can phrase this too. I always like to say:
“I’m super excited to get started with you. Are you ready for me to send over the contract and invoice?”
And that’s it! You’ve got your discovery call checklist down.
Step 9. Keep It to 15 Minutes
I’m so excited for you to hop on your next discovery call and test out this strategy!
But before you go do that, I want to cover two last things that are really important to remember. First, your discovery call should be 15-20 minutes max. You might be thinking, “Holy bananas, Brandi! There’s no way I can run a call that short. My calls are at least 45 minutes long.”
I totally get that. However, if your discovery calls are running more than 20 minutes long, there are usually two things going on:
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s about us trying to prove our worth. The only problem is when this happens, it shifts the energy of the call and it’s not going to feel right for either one of you.
The second thing that happens is you let them pick your brain for free. A lot of times, we give away strategy and overdeliver knowledge because we think that’s going to help them hire us.
Personally, I try to take a gentle, joking approach to this when clients are asking strategy questions. I’ll say something like:
“Oh my goodness, we can totally dive into as much strategy as you want as soon as you’re one of my clients. If you want to do a VIP day or intensive, we can start with that. But my brain is super expensive to pick.”
Or you could respond with, “I only let people pick my brain who are my clients.”
They’re both said in a way that’s funny, but they also help set the tone. You don’t want to be giving away strategy on a discovery call when the purpose of the call is to see if y’all are a good fit to work together.
Now, there are some nuances to this and it’s definitely something I go deeper into in my Serve Scale Soar membership. But for the most part, you are not giving away strategy when you’re still in the client discovery stage.
And if we keep it to 15 or 20 minutes, there’s no time for us to really get into strategy.
Step 10. What Happens After Your Discovery Call
Finally, we’ve made it to the last step in your discovery call checklist! But the final step actually takes place after your call has ended, and that’s the post-call proposal or contract.
One question I get a lot from freelancers is, “If they say yes, they’re ready to work with me, do I need to send over a proposal?”
Nope! You can definitely skip sending the proposal.
Just go ahead and send over your contract and invoice right away. Getting that to your new clients should be the top priority because we want people to take action. If someone tells you they’re ready to work together, you can respond by telling them:
“Let’s go ahead and I’ll get the invoice pulled up so we can go over your contract together.” Or you can also send it over to them, it’s up to you!
And if the client says they need some time to think about it? That’s when you say, “Great, I’ll get you over a proposal in the next two hours.” Then we make sure to actually send over the proposal in the timeframe we promised.
Now get this, you’ll also want to put a time limit on your proposal. I like to say my proposals are good for 7 days and let clients know that before they read the proposal.
Not only does this help set the tone, but it also gives you a chance to check in with your prospective client and see if they’ve made a decision—or if they have any questions you can answer.
Download Your Free Resource (Get a Copy of the 15-Minute Discovery Call Checklist!)
So, that wraps up my 10 steps to a discovery call that converts like hotcakes. When you can master the steps in this checklist, I can almost guarantee you’ll start landing more clients in less time for your freelance business!
And I want to help y’all take action. I’m super excited to share a free bonus resource for you so you can start implementing this in your business today. If you want a copy of this checklist, I’ve set up a free fill-in-the-blank Google Doc that you can take and use on your discovery calls so you’re ready to rock your next call.
Then come find me on Instagram at @brandimowles and let me know when you have a 15-minute discovery call so we can celebrate together!