March 25, 2024

10 Essential Questions to Ask in a Discovery Call

Pollen Team
What's the difference between a bad discovery call and a good one? A freelance gig! Here are the questions to ask in your next great discovery call.
10 Essential Questions to Ask in a Discovery Call

Table of contents

What is a discovery call in freelancing?

A discovery call is the first call you have with a prospective client that  usually takes place midway through the sales process, after you have corresponded via email. Discovery calls can be voice or video calls and are a great way for potential clients and freelancers to start building a relationship. 

Discovery calls are not just a sales pitch. Rather, they’re an opportunity to see if there's a good fit. The potential client can learn more about the freelancer's work style and skills, and the freelancer can learn more about the potential client's needs and expectations. 

Discovery calls can be a bit of a dance — both parties are trying to assess whether they want to work together without revealing too much about themselves. But if both parties are open and honest, a discovery call can be a great way to decide if working together is the right choice.

The importance of asking good questions during a discovery call

If you're selling anything, whether it's a product, a service, or even just an idea, it's important to ask good questions. A discovery call is an opportunity to show a potential client that you're the right person for the job. After all, if you can't ask the right questions, how can they trust you to solve their problems? 

The key to a great discovery call is to strike a balance between being curious and being pushy. You want to be able to get a clear understanding of their pain points without making them feel like they're being interrogated. You also have a limited amount of time (usually around 30 minutes), so it’s important to prep beforehand.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re prepping your questions for a discovery call:

  • Learn their pain points. What are they struggling with? What problems can you help them solve? Zeroing in on their paint points keeps the call solutions-focused and highlights what you can (and maybe can’t) do for them. 
  • Identify their stakeholders. Who does this project affect? Who are they responsible to — and who is responsible to them? Identifying a potential client’s stakeholders gives you lay of the land and helps you understand to whom you might be responsible.
  • Learn how they make decisions. Depending on the client, they might have a specific decision criteria in place. It’s totally okay to ask what that decision criteria is — and who will be making that final decision — over the course of your call.
  • Assessing fit to qualify or disqualify. Part of the discovery call process is assessing whether or not you might be a good fit before you even send that calendar invite. But an equally important part is drilling down during the call with qualifying and disqualifying questions. These can include questions about budget, timeline, and roadblocks which might make it difficult or impossible for you to sign on.
  • Tailor your pitch. Finally, you’re going to want to tailor your pitch to their specific needs. Use all of the information you’ve gathered during the call to tweak your offerings so that it specifically fits their needs.

Questions to ask in a discovery call

Your discovery call has four big goals: qualifying or disqualifying the lead, helping you tailor your pitch, determining their budget, and determining next steps. Here are 10 samples to get you started on your own list of questions.

1. Tell me about your company. 

This is a great, open ended question to start the conversation. It gives the potential client a chance to explain not only who they are, but what’s important to them. It also gives you an opportunity to gain information about the client and to steer the conversation in the direction you’d like it to go. 

2. Tell me about your role, what are you responsible for? What are your goals?

Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so give your prospective client a chance to do so. This question gives you insight into what makes them tick, which can help you both with your pitch and with the actual project, should you land the gig.

Asking about goals is a more specific way of asking the potential client about themselves. It also helps you understand what they’re looking for and, potentially, what you could help with.

3. What are your important metrics? Why are these important?

Metrics tell a lot about a company’s priority. They also tell you a lot about the project — and whether or not you’re a good fit for it. For example, if you’re a freelance writer who focuses on ad copy and their main metrics have to do with SEO articles, you’re probably not the right person for the job.

4. What are your biggest problems? Why are they priorities?

This is the meat of a discovery call: uncovering the pain points. Asking the client about their biggest problems goes directly to the heart of why you’re here, so spend a bit of time on this one. 

You can also ask for further clarity by asking why these problems are the priority for the potential client. Their answer will tell you a ton about who they are, what they’re looking for, and their expectations of the person they hire.

5. What have you tried so far?

This question gives you insight into what they’ve already done so that you don’t pitch them potential solutions that they know aren’t going to work. 

6. What have been your biggest issues with what you’ve tried?

Asking why their attempted solutions haven’t worked helps you tailor your pitch, because you can point out why you think your solution will. If it’s a problem you’ve heard before, you can also illustrate your experience by telling them how you’ve solved it in the past. Finally, their answers can spark new ideas for solutions.

7. What does success look like for you?

Knowing the potential client’s vision for success can give you a north star to aim for. Like so many questions you’re asking during this call, it can help you tailor your pitch more specifically to their needs.

8. What are you looking for help with?

Even after you’ve heard all of their pain points and their goals, it’s good to ask specifically what they need help with. An alternative version of this question could be “How do you see me helping with [X]?” With [X] being one of their problems.

9. What is your timeline?

This is a great qualifying question, because it’s possible they’re on a super tight timeline and you just don’t have space in your schedule for their project.

10. What is your approximate budget?

Budget is another essential qualifying question because if it’s much, much lower than you normally work for, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take the job.

Common mistakes to avoid during a discovery call

The discovery call is a vital step in the freelancing process, and yet so many freelancers continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again. Here are four common mistakes to avoid:

  • Asking overly sales focused leading questions. This is when you ask a question that can only be answered in one way, usually because it's obvious what answer you're looking for. For example, "Have you considered using a freelance writer to help with your content marketing?" 
  • Forgetting to build rapport. A discovery call is your chance to establish a connection with the prospective client and build rapport. Take the time to chat about things like their business, their goals, and their pain points. The more they like and trust you, the more likely they are to hire you.
  • Not understanding the prospect. It's important to do your homework before a discovery call so that you understand the client's needs and how you can help them. If you're not prepared, it will be difficult to sell yourself as the right freelancer for the job.
  • Not adding value during the call. Remember that your goal is to help your prospect solve their problem. Don't waste their time with small talk — focus on adding value and providing solutions. 
  • Using it to find clients. A discovery call should be totally focused on the potential client on the phone, not on drumming up new businesses. Save talk of referrals for after you’ve completed the project and done a great job.


A discovery call is an initial meeting between a freelancer and a potential client. The purpose of the call is to learn more about the client's needs and to see if there is a good fit between the freelancer's skills and the project. 

Asking good questions is essential to a successful discovery call. The freelancer should ask about the scope of the project, the timeline, budget, and any other relevant details. In addition, the freelancer should ask about the client's expectations and objectives for the project. Asking these questions will help to ensure that both parties are on the same page and that there is a clear understanding of what is needed. 

Finally, it is important to avoid common mistakes during a discovery call, such as talking too much or not listening carefully to the client's answers. By following these tips, you can make sure that your discovery call is productive and successful.

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