Find the Ideal Client

by Ilise Benun

Picture your best client. What do they need from you? How often do they need you? What kind of projects do they have? That data is gold. It’s worth the time to analyze your best clients instead of chasing prospects with good intentions but little real potential. Keep handy a running list of characteristics against which you can measure potential clients.

Some of these will be universal; others specific to you and your business.

In the end, however, most creative professionals are looking for the same thing in their ideal client: an organization that needs the services you are best suited to provide and pays fairly and on time for them; and a contact who respects your skills, values your services and doesn’t drive you crazy.

Who wouldn’t want that? But does simply having this dream description help you find these people? Do you recognize them when you see them across a crowded room? Or are your ideal clients slipping through your fingers because you haven’t yet identified them clearly enough?

The difference between your Ideal and your Typical Client may be subtle, but it’s important. It could be as simple as a company with a monthly project versus a one-off project. Or it could be the fact that they don’t have someone on staff who does what you do. Or that they get easily overwhelmed and need someone to turn to in a pinch. Listen for these issues when you are talking with your client. If you can recognize them when they come along, you will be ready to respond and jump into action.

Think about every aspect of the best client you ever had and how they’re different from your typical client. Then use that list to identify others just like them, essentially cloning them. Conrad Winter, the Backpocket Copywriter, came up with this short list based on his best client:

1. New Jersey-based agency with one office and up to ten employees

2. Vertical industry focus in following areas: liquor/beer, real estate, higher education, consumer electronics, retail

3. No copywriter on staff

4. They value copywriting services (he could tell by looking at their websites and other materials)

Be sure to qualify your prospects for compatibility as well. This isn’t about only working with people you “like,” but it helps if you and your client can be honest with, and respectful of, each other. You want to make the experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.

Ilise Benun is a national speaker, founder of Marketing Mentor and, with HOW Magazine, of the Creative Freelancer Conference.

The ideal client: An organization that needs design services; pays fairly and on time; respects your skills, values your services and doesn’t drive you crazy.


Illustration courtesy of Branden Vondrak

Quick Tips
1. When You Think They Need Your Help…
You may think a prospect needs your help, but do they think so? If a company with a hideous-looking or poorly written website doesn’t realize it—and don’t forget, it is all subjective—or the company doesn’t believe it is important enough to improve, don’t waste your marketing time trying to persuade them. Instead spend that time finding prospects who are aware of what they need and can pay for it.


Dig Deeper!
1. Now it’s your turn to define your ideal client. Use this Ideal Client Worksheet.

2. For more information like this, pick up a copy of Ilise Benun’s new book, The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money: How to think about it, How to talk about it, How to manage it.

3. Check out Ilise’s blog, The Marketing Mix, and sign up to receive her bi-monthly Quick Tips via email. Plus, get freelancing tips.

4. Want to try a free mentoring session? Sign up here.

3 thoughts on “Find the Ideal Client

  1. Lee

    I used to be very selective when it comes to finding the ideal client to work with…but never knew it requires some good efforts.

    Really appreciate some insightful points made here. Thanks a bunch!

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