When you’re just starting out your independent career, there’s an initial push to land as many clients as you can to jump start your business. While it is of course important to make sure you can pay the bills, there comes a time when your strategy should shift to finding the clients who are truly best for your business.
An ideal client is someone who is in need of the specific expertise you bring to the table, aligns with your business values, and has the potential for more work down the road. When looking for better clients, it’s important to take a step back and consider what is truly important to you in a client relationship.
1. Define Your Ideal Client
Ideal clients are going to be different for everyone. In order to narrow down your current client list to the people and businesses who are a best fit for you, start by defining who your ideal client is.
Consider industry, size, and values
Which industries might your ideal client work in and is there a particular size company you are most comfortable working with? Perhaps you’d like to focus on smaller, locally-owned businesses or larger, international ones. Company values may also be important to you. Are there types of organizations you would be opposed to working with or ones that you would be particularly excited to work with based on their values? Make a list of these preferred characteristics and why they fit with your business model.
Think about what problems you can help solve
List all of the potential problems these businesses might have and how your services can help. Write down the products or services your hypothetical client specializes in and the places in their supply chain where you might be able to step in and add value.
2. Review Past and Present Clients
Taking a look at who you’ve worked with in the past can give you valuable insight into who your best clients are and the people you should target with future marketing efforts. When completing this practice, take a look at both your current and past clients.
Catalogue demographic and psychographic information
Note each client’s demographic information, like age, industry, profession, and geographic location, as well as their psychographic information, such as their values, interests, and behavior. Then, note whether or not you had a positive experience with the client and if you’d like to work with them again. This practice can help you to identify patterns and hone in on specific types of people that you work with best.
3. Consider How You Want to be Treated
As a highly-skilled independent professional, keep in mind that you have a lot to offer that your ideal client wants. It’s up to you to choose who you work with and it is fair to ask that your client treat you the way you want to be treated.
Does your client value your work and show appreciation for your work?
Our research finds that 97% of independent professionals say it is very important or somewhat important that their client values their work. Feeling valued and respected is just as important for freelancers as it is for traditional employees. Attributes of a positive client relationship often include fair and fast payment terms, providing an efficient onboarding process, and allowing control over work.
Prioritize communication to drive satisfaction
When evaluating whether or not you want to work with a particular client, consider how that client communicates with you. Do they respond in a timely manner? Are they willing to define project goals and clear objectives? Do they listen to and respond to your questions and feedback? Communication is key to a lasting client relationship—the right client will be open and honest with you and treat you with respect.
With knowledge of what you are looking for in your ideal client in your back pocket, you can apply these guidelines when looking for new clients or evaluating relationships with old ones. One place to consider looking is MBO’s own marketplace, where you can find opportunities with top companies who have experience working with independent professionals and who understand how to build and maintain positive relationships.