Have you ever been asked an inappropriate or even illegal question in a job interview? It’s happened to me on occasion, and unfortunately both times the interview was for a job at a law firm. (You would think legal types would know better, but apparently they don’t.)
One person interviewing me asked if I was married, and then caught himself and said that he probably couldn’t ask me that question. The other time was much more blatant and I was really shocked that it was a woman asking me if I planned to have children in the next year or two. She made it worse by going on to explain that it would “not be a good idea for me to do so.”
After a momentary flash in my mind’s eye of the Pregnancy Police checking to make sure all female staff members keep replenishing their supplies of feminine products in a desk drawer, I concluded that this was not the right place where I could do my best work.
Answering questions from prospective clients is a bit different. Since we are business owners, not job applicants, the line is a bit murkier about which questions may be considered illegal. If a prospective client is treading into territory that makes you feel uncomfortable before you start working together, then you probably shouldn’t expect that person to behave better once you have accepted the freelance writing gig.
While I don’t mind if someone asks me if Jodee is my real name (it is), I have to draw the line when someone wants to get too personal in their questions. No one who wants to hire me for a freelance writing job needs to know my marital status or if I have children unless it is relevant to the work we are discussing.
How do you deflect questions that may be overstepping the bounds without walking away from the opportunity completely? You answer the question the client is really asking. It could go something like this: “If what you are trying to find out is whether I can commit to your project, the answer is yes.” You still have the option of stepping back from your discussion and deciding whether you want to work with that client after all, but this type of non-confrontational answer gives you the time to decide what your next move should be.
How do you deal with inappropriate questions from freelance writing clients?