I’m working on a new client acquisition system, and future posts will focus on one section at a time.
The Ideal Client.
I’ve been working with local freelancers to overcome some of the challenges we face as we’re trying to build our business, and one of the questions I ask is: Who is your ideal client?
In many cases, the freelancer isn’t sure. They often know who they’d like to work with, but they have a vague idea as to who that client is and why they’d really like to work with them. Defining your answer should connect you with clients you enjoy working with on projects you can be excited about.
I set hard parameters for my ideal client and target my marketing efforts to resonate with this client. By targeting my ideal client and showing my values and expectations, I’m speaking their language and I’m more likely to convert them from prospect to partner, faster and easier. If my marketing spills outside of my definition of an ideal client, that’s fine and it can help with the feast/famine cycles that are common in this line of work, but this strategy should net better results than the spray’n pray shotgun method of trying to please everyone.
Instead of using the shotgun approach, where your marketing is broad and vague and all you really want is to grab the attention of any client, the targeted approach allows you to work with people/companies that share your values and allow you to pursue your creative direction. Working in a mutually beneficial environment like this is good for you and your client. Win/Win should always be your goal, and if you have your ideal client in mind at all times, you will find your satisfaction goes up while your stress level goes down, allowing you to focus on providing exceptional service to your clients.
How’s this different than a niche?
Your ideal clients share many traits, but they might not be in the same industry or sector and they probably aren’t offering the same type of project. If your skillset is writing, your ideal client might want you to write blog posts for the telecom space, while another ideal client might need you to write an annual report for their charity. You’re the one who defines your preferred characteristics, so you’re the only who decides who’s ideal. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on a niche, and depending on the type of freelancing you do, this might be essential to your success, but you might be able to broaden your client base and work in different sectors on different projects – providing that the client is the type of person/business you want to work with.
How do you define your ideal client?
This is a very subjective question, and the answer will change throughout your career. As your skills and experiences grow, you’ll be able to identify the type of client you want to work with and you’ll have the portfolio and skills they’re looking for.
To figure out who your ideal client is, ask yourself:
- What kind of client do you enjoy working with the most?
- What is it about them/their projects that you enjoy?
- What traits of previous/current clients do you least enjoy? (late payments, poor communications, vague strategy, etc)
- Where is your ideal client located?
- How well do they represent your business?
It could be as simple as they pay well/quickly, or the project is for a cause you’re passionate about. They might be a local client you currently support, or they might be an international company that will provide notability for your portfolio. Whatever it is, be sure you want to work with them before you proceed.
My ideal client:
- Clear communicator with quick response time
- Reasonable expectations and clear strategy
- Payment received within three weeks of date on invoice
- Projects in the technical space, including telecom and new tech, or financial, including budgeting and communications.
- Understands value versus cost
- Results driven
- Local (Westshore area of Victoria – but I’m flexible on this characteristic)
Some of these characteristics are going to be easily found, but the rest will only come up through conversation with the client and clear communication of our mutual expectations. I can usually tell what kind of communicator a prospective client is before we have our first meeting, but payment processes and expectations will require further conversation. Luckily, I love talking to clients, new and old.
By defining these characteristics I can identify opportunities during the next steps of the client acquisition process. Not every client is going to meet each of my expectations, but through clear communications on my part, I can help set these expectations and lay the foundation for a great relationship.
So now that you know who you want to work with, what’s the next step to turn them from a prospect into a client? Stay tuned for the next section – Research