Three ways to get real about who you work with
We’ve talked before about why having an ideal client is important.
And when it isn’t. And how to start figuring out who that person is.
But let’s go over it one more time, in real human words. Because I sometimes (always) cringe when I type the phrase “ideal client”. It feels outdated, cold, corporate. Like pleated black pants.
I work with humans. Women whose kids and cats pop up in the middle of our Zoom sessions wanting drinks of water or ‘just a few Cheetos pleeeease’.
I become as invested in their brand as they are. Stressing over color scheme choices as if it were my own business.
Calling them “ideal clients” feels kinda smarmy.
On the other hand, the benefits of getting real (and specific) about who you work best with (you know, your ideal client…), those are anything but cold and corporate.
Because for entrepreneurs, it’s all about relationships.
Knowing who you’re serving helps you connect with them on a human level.
That word connect is what makes this whole concept important.
People buy from people they know, like, and trust. We want to see that what you’re putting out is consistent - visually, and in what you say.
And we want to know that you understand our needs and have just the thing for them.
If you don’t really know who you work with, or you feel like it’s ‘everyone’, you’re probably not making anyone feel like you really ‘get’ them.
Sometimes people are afraid to get super specific about who they want to work with.
Because narrowing your focus feels scary as hell. Like saying no to cold hard cash.
I made the decision early last year to work exclusively with women. I had begun to realize that a big part of the satisfaction I get from my work is empowering and helping women build something of their own, that they can then use to secure their financial freedom and independence. Freedom is a huge value of mine, and I want to see that for other women.
But lemme tell you… the actual decision to only work with women? Terrifying. What if I never get another client again? What if nobody takes me seriously as a designer again? What if I’m kicked off the internet and laughed off Facebook?
Know what actually happened? Nothing. Nobody laughed. A few people were super supportive and thought it was a great idea.
And best of all, I started getting referrals for women who were a perfect fit for me. And those women referred me to others who were perfect fits.
Then suddenly, because I had made the decision, I was able to refine my branding and messaging and have people coming to me saying they had looked at dozens of designers but no one just ‘felt right’ until they got to me.
You know why? Because my branding was doing it’s job and connecting with them.
Don’t niche down just for the sake of it though.
This isn’t about just randomly deciding you only want to work with authors who are over 5’5”.
It’s about being a mindful observer in your business, paying attention to the types of projects and clients that light you up, and going for more of that.
There also needs to be some thought given to strategy… you need to make sure the people you want to work with can afford to work with you and that they want what you have.
But what if you work equally well with men or women? What if there’s no one industry that your favorite clients fall into? This is something I hear a lot actually.
Good news, you don’t have to niche down just by gender or industry.
You could focus on people with certain hobbies or activities in common. Llama herders, outspoken political activists, and cheese lovers need love too.
You could narrow in on clients in one region or specific geographical location. Maybe you’re particularly suited to help college students in Florida, or your clients mostly hail from the pacific Northwest. That’s totally a niche.
Another way to get specific is to work with people who share certain traits, like empathy or heart-centered entrepreneurs.
Those are just a few weirdly specific examples, but there are millions of combinations. As your business evolves and grows pay attention to those common threads and look for what lights you up.
I’d love to hear who your ideal client is and whether you’ve gotten super specific or are casting a broad net. Tell me in the comments!