The freelance path is not a straight line. It’s full of twists, turns, turn-arounds, and even getting a little bit lost at times. From our experience finding your ideal client can be a tricky path to navigate.
Building your ideal client list takes clear goals, setting boundaries (non-negotiables), and knowing when to walk away. It takes work. Unless you are a wizard and landed your dream client day one, in which case we ask you to share your magic wand with us. But, if you’re still working on building your list we’ve put together some things that have helped us along this journey.
First, start with YOU: Set Goals
Set some goals, so first ask yourself a few questions. What do you care about? What types of products or businesses are you interested in? What type of work do you want to do? AND very importantly how much do you need to make to keep your business running? While we may all like local thrift stores and breweries, doing small flyers for them will probably not pay your mortgage. Make a list based on your goals. Make a goal statement that defines your “ideal client.” “I will work with consumer product businesses that are medium to large providing content writing on a monthly retainer basis.” Now you have defined your target businesses: consumer based products, your ideal work: content writing, and your goal pay cycle: monthly retainer.
Working for free = a closed business: Set Boundaries
This goes without saying but STOP doing things for free or at a reduced cost. If you are putting it out into the world that you do free work or are drastically reducing your costs to build a clientele, chances are those are the types of clients that you will attract. If you are charging what you’re worth, and putting out high quality work, you will attract clients that are willing to pay. Know your value, have confidence. In order to do big things in your business and in the world you have to keep your business open. In order to keep your business open you need to make money. If you want to work for free it’s called “volunteering” not a business.
Say NO and move forward.
This can be the hardest part of the journey. Why is saying “no” so much harder than saying “yes”? Maybe you really need a little extra income this month, maybe it’s just this one time and then never again… We can come up with so many reasons why we should just say “yes” instead of “no”. It’s good to have your non-negotiables written down somewhere. Make it a contract with yourself. You agree to never take work billing less than this amount. You will not work with a client in these industries. You will never take calls after such and such an hour or on vacation. Whatever those may be, those are your lines in the sand that you shalt not cross. Having these down or at least cemented in your mind will make “no” much easier. You can even be transparent with your “no’s” and share them with potential clients in new business meetings as your operating policies. Then when they come up you can point back at that policy that was already discussed.
Try, tweak and test.
Building your ideal client list doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a couple of years even, you’ll most likely have good clients, and bad clients, and GREAT clients along the way. New business will always require learning and adjusting as you grow. Don’t compare your client list to someone else’s who’s been in business for years. It most likely took them some time to get there. Everyone has their own process and growth path. Everytime you work with a new client or lose a potential client ask yourself “what did I learn from this?” Testing and adjusting is a constant in growing a business.
Be patient with yourself as you build your list. A slowly built list of solid clients is WAY better than a huge list of clients you can’t manage. Set your goals. Set your boundaries and remember you “no’s”. One foot in front of the other is the best way forward.