How to get clients that are a good fit for you
Carving out a career as a freelance writer can be liberating, exciting, and affirming. It can also be frustrating and at times, terrifying. No one else is in charge of making sure you get paid, and a regular salary is not a given. In the early stages of your freelance career, you’re hungry for work, and it can be tempting to take on any project that comes your way. Due to the ubiquitous work-related advice that everyone needs to “do their time” before ascending the ranks, you might be blind to how this attitude can actually hurt you.
One thing to keep in mind is that people often find a freelancer, and then stick with them, no matter what company they are at. As your clients start to move around, you will actually grow your business, so make sure they are someone you want to work with.
Don’t waste your time on figuring out how to get clients who aren’t right for you. It may be hurting you in more places than just your pocketbook. Especially because:
You’re less likely to get the work anyway.
If you do some research on a potential client and don’t feel strongly that you’re a good match for their needs, subject, style, and values--stop right there. Even if you get the job, it will be a burden on you to deliver a product the client can actually be happy with. Let a better fit take on this job for good karma points.
The work is a dead end.
Money is not the only thing you should takeaway from a good client relationship. When you work for someone who isn’t a great match, the experience is less likely to provide you with meaningful professional growth, a body of work that will strengthen your portfolio, or connections that will advance your career.
You’ll never get the time back.
The time that you spend researching prospective clients, writing cover letters, compiling writing samples, and interviewing for a job is time you will never get back, so don’t waste it. Spend time on these activities solely in pursuit of great clients.
It’s taking time and energy from better leads.
You could send out ten or fifteen okay pitches and maybe hear back about one. Or, you could spend the same amount of time sending out five great, focused pitches for jobs that you really want where you know you’d be a great fit. Quality certainly is not equal to quantity, so don’t confuse a barrage of pitches with true freelancer productivity.
Ok, it’s not hard to see the benefits associated with saving your time exclusively to pursue your ideal clients, and ignoring opportunities that aren’t a good fit. But though it may be easy to identify imperfect prospects, it may be more difficult to recognize the perfect client.
Take charge: Create a client avatar
Creating a client avatar is a way for any freelancer to narrow their focus and refine their efforts.
Think of your client avatar as a fictional business that represents your ideals. This is not dissimilar from a marketing persona, which identifies fictional but detailed descriptions of an ideal client. When developing your client avatar, feel free to write about them in a story format. The following questions can help develop your idea more completely:
- Do you want a client who provides ongoing work, or do you prefer one-off projects? - Would you rather work for a company that routinely hires writers and has detailed process and expectations in place, or would you be more excited to jump in on the ground floor of a new company? - What industries and subjects do you want to write about? - Do you want to write under your own byline, or would you prefer to make more money as an anonymous ghostwriter? - Does your ideal client expect to be in touch with you daily, weekly, or only when necessary? - Is your ideal client invested in developing your skills, or content to maintain a comfortable status quo with a hands-off approach?
The purpose of the exercise is to clarify what you want from your work as well as the types of clients that can provide that and how to identify them. Working on your client avatar is only productive if it helps guide you in the right direction, so don’t waste time on vague descriptors.
The point is not to search the world of freelance writing for a real-life copy of the avatar you came up with, but to use this mental approximation to guide your search. When you look at the website or LinkedIn profile of a potential client do you see the avatar’s general values and characteristics reflected, or does it seem utterly foreign?
Big picture considerations like what you’ll be writing about and the type of company or client you’re working for are easily identified. Other features may become clear in the initial application and interview process, while some will be a mystery until you’re already working for your new client. At every stage, your client avatar is a metric for judging how invested you should be in a prospective or current client.
How to get clients you won’t get tired of
If you feel stuck in a rut with your freelance work, take some time to create a client avatar, or check in with the one you have already. Ask yourself:
- Is it really your perfect client? - How do your actual clients stack up? - Most importantly, do you keep that avatar and all that it represents in the back of your mind when you look for work?
Creating and sticking with a client avatar customized to your preferences will help you to find the work that works for you.
What are your best tips for how to get clients that you won’t get tired of? Tweet @Sorc’d with your thoughts, and we’ll share our favorites!