The importance of asking dumb questions

Have you ever held yourself back from asking a seemingly obvious question about a new project and then later regretted it? Would asking that question given you a better understanding of the project and improved the way you tackled your part in it?

You’re not alone, we’ve all been there.

As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Whether you want to find out more about a company’s process or you just want to get inside someone’s head, it’s important to put your fears aside and ask questions. Nine times out of ten that question will be both helpful and improve your stature in a project team.

If you’re a freelancer joining a new project, below are some good reasons to ask lots of questions as well as some suggestions on the types of questions to ask.

Questions show you’re keen to learn

There are people who want to do a good job professionally and there are those who just want to turn up and get paid. By asking questions, you’re showing that you’re interested in learning more – whether that’s about the process, the industry or just your boss’ preferences. This will help you make a good impression and do a good job.

This can be a great time-saver for your sanity too. Rather than worrying and guessing about how something should be done, you’ll have the information to hand. This means you can get things done right the first time, saving you time-consuming and frustrating edits later on.

Questions feed your knowledge (and others)

If you’re new to an industry or even just a project, it’s likely that the person who hires you will know a lot more about the topic than you. If you get the feeling that you’re speaking to someone knowledgeable, make sure you take the time to tap their brains. It may be that you’re brought in by someone more senior than you’ll be dealing with on a regular basis, so you may only get one chance to get those insights and leave a positive impression.

There’s also the chance that your dumb question isn’t so dumb after all, and that what you’re wondering hasn’t been considered at the other end. By making them think about the project more solidly, you can earn brownie points for avoiding potential pitfalls.

Also, more often the not, someone in the team is relieved when you ask dumb questions! Maybe it’s their status in the business or the length of time already on the project, but for whatever reason they feel uncomfortable asking the same kinds of questions. You’ve just made their day.

As you ask questions about your shared interests, you’ll begin to build a relationship too. Your employer will likely take note of your interest, and the extended conversation helps to break the ice. As well as delivering great work, having a good relationship is a big part of maintaining an ongoing freelancer deal.

Questions keep you on topic

We’ve all had dealings with people who go on and on, often on extravagant tangents. When time is money, you want to make sure you don’t spend too much of your time on these diversions.

By asking questions, you can help steer the conversation back onto solid ground and keep the discussion focused on the work at hand. Even if the questions seem obvious, simply asking about the project can get someone’s mind back on track.

Questions are easier at the beginning

It’s much easier to ask questions when you start a project than after you’ve been working on it for a year. While there are issues that will crop up as projects develop, asking anything you’re unsure about at the start can give you a clearer picture of what’s expected of you. This can make your job a lot easier and give you a better understanding of what you’re trying to achieve.

You’ll get a better idea of the questions you should be asking as your freelance career develops, and it won’t be long before you have a list of standard questions to run through for every brief.

Dumb questions are better than dumb mistakes

No matter what you’re asking, it’s much better to get an answer from someone who’s paying you than trying to guess and getting it all wrong. At best, stupid mistakes will only cost you time, as you have to fix up what you’ve done wrong. At worst, they could result in getting you fired from a job. In work situations, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and by asking questions you can make sure you’re working in-sync with your employers.

Some thought starters on questions:

  • What is the goal of the project?
  • What problem is this solving?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Why is it being approached like that?
  • What is my expected deliverable at the end of this project/phase?
  • What format do you want this delivered in?
  • Where should I put my work?
  • How do you like to work?
  • Are there guidelines that I need to follow?
  • Where is the research / assets?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • What are the critical milestones?
  • What are the risks and dependencies?
  • Who are the key decision makers?
  • Who should I ask about x?
  • What are the KPIs / how will my work be measured?

On &FRIENDS, all freelancers are given the chance to converse with companies before a job starts and as a project is underway. This allows you to get a better understanding of what’s required and helps you to make a good impression.


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