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I’m going to be very honest with you… sometimes conversations with prospective clients can be downright painful.
Especially when I’m trying to understand who exactly they want me to target for them on social media.
Here is a quick example:
Me: Describe to me your perfect, ideal customer.
Client: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, who are we trying to reach? Can you describe your target market?
Client: Oh. Everyone.
Client: Yeah, everyone could use my product.
Me: Okay, but not everyone is going to buy your product... if we really had to hone in on your ideal customer, who would it be?
Client: I don't know... women, maybe?
Me: Okay, women... married? With children? Pets? A certain age? Career status? Hobbies or interests? Buying patterns? Location?
Client: Uh, none of that... just all women, I think.
Me: Oh boy...
Why did I start this post by relaying such a silly conversation?
Because it’s very similar to a conversation I recently had with a prospective client… a prospective client that I ultimately declined to work with.
And by highlighting the absurdity of this conversation, I hope to offer some clarity to you — the reader.
Are you a solopreneur of some kind? A freelancer, maybe?
Or perhaps you are thinking of quitting your day job to launch your own online, service-based business…?
If so, this post is for you.
Because if I have learned anything over this past year and a half of working for myself online, everyone is not my target market.
And everyone isn’t your target market, either.
In this short post, my goal is to get you thinking about your target market — who you can truly serve, and how to reach that market.
There are about a million different ways to earn a living on the internet… from graphic design to coaching to affiliate marketing, you’re only limited by your own creativity.
But for all intents and purposes, I am going to assume that you are offering — or intend to offer— a freelance service of some kind.
And before the word freelance gets taken out of context, I want you to understand that there is more to freelancing than simply taking on writing jobs.
In fact, I recently published an article on my blog highlighting 11 different types of freelance jobs, and more than 100 corresponding services a freelancer could offer.
Yes, that’s a whole lot of services.
And no, you shouldn’t offer all of them.
Because there are so many different avenues to monetize your talents, many newer solopreneurs end up overwhelmed and confused.
Ever look at someone’s Twitter bio who has a little too much going on…?
You know the type?
(And in case you were wondering, yes, I made sure that fake Twitter bio was under 140 characters…!)
Anyway — the point is — you can’t be all things to all people. You’ve got to figure out what you do, and who is willing to pay for you to do it.
Let’s say you’ve decided to offer website design or web development as your primary service.
Great skill to offer — everyone needs a website, right?
Sure, but to identify your target market, you’re going to need to dig a little deeper. Ask yourself a few questions:
Maybe you’re excellent at building three-page websites or designing custom WordPress blogs… but that does not necessarily mean you have the time, skill or resources to build a fully functional eCommerce platform or the next social network.
And even if you could develop the next Facebook, how long would it take you? Are you willing to work at this 24-7 for the next several months? And could you do it as well and for as competitive a rate as an offshore agency?
If so, do you have any portfolio samples to prove those claims — or even a few client testimonials?
See, what newer freelancers and solopreneurs often don’t understand is that evidence counts for more than skill level when you’re getting started. Sometimes we have to take the smaller jobs to begin accumulating portfolio samples, testimonials, and experience.
From there, we can use that evidence to attract bigger and better clients.
So if your skill level precludes you from working with Starbucks or Walmart, that’s fine.
Because there is a market for every skill set and skill level — no matter what service(s) you offer.
There is a market for every skill set and skill level, no matter what service you offer
Speaking of Starbucks and Walmart, let’s play a little game…
When you think of a typical Starbucks customer, who comes to mind?
Is it a hipster dressed in plaid with unkempt hair and thick-rimmed glasses? Or perhaps a young college student in UGG boots who literally can’t even?
I’m playing off stereotypes here, of course — but if you think those images come to mind by accident, you’re wrong. They’re by design. Because Starbucks is very clear on who they serve.
Know what Walmart’s slogan is?
Save Money. Live Better.
Kind of speaks to a busy mom on a budget who wants to spend less time shopping for essentials and more time enjoying life… doesn’t it?
Couldn’t everyone enjoy a Mocha Frappuccino on their way to work?
And couldn’t everyone shop at Walmart?
So why do these brands put so much time, money and energy behind targeting certain customers…?
Because when your branding speaks to everyone, it speaks to no one. You want your best prospects — the individuals most likely to spend the most money with you the most often — to be able to immediately identify with your message.
When your branding speaks to everyone, it speaks to no one!
No, Starbucks and Walmart aren’t likely to be your first customers… you don’t have the time, resources, skills, or evidence to serve them.
But you can take a page from their marketing handbook.
To paraphrase my friend Don Purdum, focus on the businesses who are able, willing and ready to pay for your services. And then figure out how you can position yourself to earn their business.
Make sure you keep your customers satisfied by doing customer experience analysis. You’ll need to eliminate any misunderstanding about your customers’ needs and problems and make them feel great about you.
You simply need to identify those individuals or businesses who are either:
In other words, focus on identifying a person — or business — with one of these two problems, and position your services as the solution to that problem.
Know Your Ideal Client: One Person. One Problem. One Solution.
Going back to the website design example I used earlier… let’s say you choose to focus on offering simple three-page website designs or setting up new WordPress blogs with a custom theme.
No, you probably won’t be able to get away with charging $20,000 for either of these services, but…
For the sake of argument, let’s say you narrow down your list of prospective customers — those who may need your help — to just two categories… bloggers and local brick-and-mortar businesses.
Taking it a step further, you might wish to target bloggers with ugly, cookie cutter WordPress websites, or perhaps those publishing on platforms like Blogger.
Or, instead, you may want to consider targeting small, local businesses with outdated websites… or maybe mom-and-pop shops with some great reviews on Yelp but no online presence otherwise.
Either way, these are both possible clients who have a need for your services.
Accordingly, you might consider branding yourself in one of these two ways:
If you want to copy and paste either of these sample taglines, go for it.
But whatever description you choose for the services you offer, use it everywhere…
You get the idea.
You can speak to those prospective clients with confidence, knowing you are positioned perfectly — and priced accordingly — to earn their business.
If you think it’s a better idea to wait until you’re an expert at your craft before getting started, you might never start.
That goes for any craft — whether it’s website design, copywriting, social media management, or otherwise.
Everyone begins somewhere, and we work our way up from there.
Just whatever you do — and please remember this — be honest with prospective clients about your skill level and capabilities. Don’t deceive anyone, because bad news travels fast over the internet.
And as you gain more experience, start to ramp up your prices and think about who else you may have the capacity — and evidence — to serve.
The right customer is out there waiting for you to pitch them… so don’t wait to be an expert. Figure out who you can serve today, and just get started!
Don't wait to become an expert...just get started!
Brent Jones is a freelancer and blogger living in Fort Erie, Canada with his beautiful wife and two dogs. Since 2014, he has earned his full-time income as a freelance social media manager and copywriter.