When you’re working to grow your freelance business, it’s tempting to say “yes” to every client who comes your way—but not making a plan to attract only your ideal clients is one of the biggest mistakes we make as creative professionals. After all, signing clients whose budget, style and personality aren’t in line with your brand goals only sets you up for unnecessary stress, communication problems and portfolio work that you have zero intention of sharing (we’ve all been there). Today, I’m sharing five tips for attracting the clients who leave you both saying, “Let’s do that again!”
Ask yourself, “Who were my favorite clients?”
Before you can attract your ideal clients, you have to know who they are. Think about the clients you loved working with and then build out a profile for each, documenting everything that made them great. Start by answer the following and continue to document any other important details:
- What type of services did they need?
- What was their budget?
- What was their design style?
- What were their personalities like?
- Were you working with them solely, or were others involved?
Do this for as many clients as you need to in order to find common characteristics. For example, maybe you realize that, across the board, you enjoy working with startups for branding projects. From here, create a “customer map”—type out a story (or even just bullet points) outlining who your ideal client is. Give them a name and attach an image to your map. (Keep in mind you might have multiple customer maps if you have different ideal clients for different services or markets.)
Build a brand that speaks to them.
Once you know who your ideal client is, it’s time to manifest them. Everything you share on behalf of your brand—your website, images on social, the copy in your welcome packet, everything—should speak to your ideal client. (And, yes, this sometimes means not sharing the best design you’ve ever done because the end-game is worth holding back.) You should have a clear brand voice. The story you tell should be both authentic and clearly present in everything you share, whether that’s your online bio or an Instagram story. Consistency is key—you want your ideal client to see themselves (and their business) in everything you do in your brand communication.
Pro Tip: The same goes for after you start talking with ideal clients—your client experience should be in line with who they are and what they expect from a pro. If your ideal client is a millennial, don’t ask them to print, sign, and scan a contract. Use online business management systems like Dubsado or HoneyBook to make the process seamless.
Hang out where they hang out.
With digital media delivering targeted messages to people at all hours, potential clients no longer need to go out of their way to seek out the professionals they will potentially hire. Instead, you need to be where they already are. Submit your work to publications (online blogs and/or print media) they read, build relationships with other vendors who are in line with their style and don’t be afraid to ask happy clients to refer you. Think about strategic partnerships (like Instagram takeovers) that can get you in front of that ideal client of yours. It’s all about asking yourself where your ideal client spends their time and then making a plan for your brand to be in that same space. Get creative and be social!
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Saying yes to clients who aren’t in line with your goals is one of the quickest ways to throw your brand off track. (On a side note, we get it. When you first start out, you don’t have the luxury of turning down clients, but this should be something you eventually work towards.) Understand that not every lead is a great fit. Instead, create parameters—budget, style, personality, etc.—that will help you evaluate whether a lead is a right fit for your brand. Incorporate these parameters into the questions you ask during your sales process and, if it turns out that the client isn’t right for you, have those referrals ready!
Never stop educating yourself.
Consistently landing your ideal client requires that you stay on top of an ever-changing market. Invest time and energy into becoming knowledgeable about all of the details that fit your ideal client. Take online courses, stay on top of your market research, work with a business coach or consultant, and attend industry workshops. And be sure you keep an eye on design trends by watching the blogs, social pages, and brands that your ideal clients love.