Your ultimate goal when freelancing is to work with ideal clients on projects that expand their businesses.
The “projects that expand their businesses” part is pretty easy to understand. When you help their business grow, they receive a ton of value from you, and they’ll want to keep you around and working with them.
The “ideal clients” part can be a bit more confusing. What does ideal mean?
Pulse and a paycheck
When I first started freelancing, I worked with anyone I could help. I wasn’t too picky with either the projects or the clients.
You’ll hear this referred to as “working with anyone with a pulse and a paycheck”.
This helped me get started fast but it also plateaued quickly and hurt me in the long-term.
Compatibility… not just for dating
An ideal client is a person who is the best client for you to work with.
- They need help in an area you have a service around
- Their personality and work style are compatible with yours
- They have similar goals and value the same things as you
Basically an ideal client is an assimilation of all of the good parts you can think of into a single person.
An ideal client is also a unicorn. Someone you will never find.
But you will find clients who have degrees of your ideal client.
Maybe they are a perfect match but they need help in a area that you’re not strong in. Or maybe there is a personality clash with them.
That doesn’t mean you should fire them, because then you’ll be chasing the unicorn. And you won’t find any work.
An evolving standard
An ideal client represents the perfect standard that you can compare actual clients to.
Some clients will check most of the boxes. Some will check all of the important ones. Some will check only one. But by knowing this you can tell who is a better fit and devote more of your time and energy to them.
By looking at your ideal client this way, it’s easy to see how they might change over-time as you change. Maybe your skills have changed or shifted so your ideal client would now have different needs. Or perhaps a bad client burned you and you update your ideal client to prevent working with people like them n the future.
Know who before you start marketing
You’ll need an idea of your ideal client before you can focus your freelancing marketing. Even the most basic kernel of an idea. Otherwise you’ll end up where I was when I started, trying to work with anyone and everyone, and accomplishing very little.
Oh, and right around the time I described my ideal client was when my freelancing took off. I went from working on ho-hum projects to working on projects I loved, with clients I loved, and work that fulfilled me.
That’s why identifying your ideal client is so important.
P.S. There’s a lot to finding your ideal clients. It’s a process that you constantly evolve. But when you find your ideal clients, they’ll energize you and make freelancing fun. If you’d like help describing and finding your ideal clients, my ebook 30 Days to Become a Freelancer covers this and much more.