Freelancer Mini Series: Identifying Your Dream Client

As I've grown into my freelancing career over the years, I've noticed that I've started to attract more desirable clients... almost unconsciously. I got to the point where I had leads coming to me, instead of me chasing after them, which therefore allowed me to pick and choose which projects I worked on. Before I decided to take on a project, I had a list of requirements that were deal breakers if the client couldn't fulfill them. By identifying my dream client, I'm on track to consistently working on projects that I would consider "ideal."

Once you discover more about your dream client, you can alter your brand, content and provide products and services that directly solve their problems. This might seem counter-intuitive (doesn't everyone need a website?), but with so many other freelancers competing for attention, it won't serve you well in the long-run if you try to appeal to everyone.

Step 1: Think about your current or previous clientele

Take a look at your past clientele. Try to see if there is a connection between them their goals, aspirations, professionalism, communication style, design sense and budget. Hopefully as a freelancer, you've had a couple project you can look back on that stood out for you because they were enjoyable to work, the client paid well, they came back for repeat business, etc. You may have to pull bits and pieces from multiple projects to create this visualization in your head. The ultimate goal here is to learn from your past projects about what you picture as an ideal project, so that you can identify these clients in the future. 

Step 2: Make a list of what you value in an ideal project

With that visualization in your head, let's focus on the projects that went well. What did you like about them? What characteristics did the client have? Here's a few of mine to help get you started (not necessarily in any order):

  • I value a client that understands that good design takes time.
  • I value a client that respects me as a professional and allows me to do my job.
  • I value a client that has a sense of humour.
  • I value a client that promptly pays invoices.
  • I value a client that understands their business and goals well.
  • I value a client that allows me to have a certain amount of creative exploration.
  • I value a client that is in an industry that I have an interest it.
    • eg. sports, women's interests, etc. 

After you make that list, make another list with reasons why you value these things. For example:

  • When a client shares my values, I feel a greater sense of purpose in my work.
  • When a client pays me on time, I feel respected as a professional.
  • When a client allows for leeway on the budget and timeline, I feel less stressed and motivated to do a better job.

Step 3: Take your target audience, and shrink it

I see lots of advice along the lines of "think like your customer." It's great advice, but hard to act on because it's pretty vague. Instead, let's take time to identify and shrink our pool of targeted clients. Based on the list above, you now have a criteria of requirements that leads need to pass through in order to be classified as an ideal client. Congrats!

By narrowing your potential target audience, you can actually increase your chances of attracting not only more clients, but more projects that meet your criteria. By purposefully narrowing your focus, it's much easier to put yourself in your clients shoes when writing content or updating the work in your portfolio. The key is keeping your mindset small at first, so you can tailor your message, instead of spewing common knowledge to the masses. You'll never catch anyone's attention that way. 

Remember  it may takes time (years), to be able to attract clients that check off everything on your list. In the next post, we will go into more depth about how freelancers can attract dream clients once you've identified them.