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Get to know your clients

Want to dive deep into understanding your ideal customer? Dr Steven Sparling walks you through a process to get to know and serve your ideal client.
Multi coloured crochet chain set up on a white plinth, there is a camera and some stacked chairs in the background.
© Kingston University

In the previous steps I asked you to think about who your ideal clients are and we also talked about how choosing who you won’t work with is a way for you to retain a sense of agency as a creative freelancer, which can have positive effects on how you feel about your creative freelance business.

As you narrow in on who you want to target your business towards it helps to dig deep into who they are. This means research!

Let’s say you are a graphic designer who specialises in designing logos and visual branding. You’ve decided that you absolutely won’t work with any companies that do animal testing or produce or market tobacco (for example). So, you decide to focus on serving clients in the health and wellness sector. You enjoy exercise and healthy eating, you know some people that work in the sector (and you like them), and you think that your design aesthetic could work well for this niche.

This is a good start.

Now you need to do research. Who are the kinds of people starting businesses in the health and wellness sector? Typically, what age are they? Do they skew towards one gender? What kind of education do they typically have? Do they live and/or work in certain neighbourhoods in your city? What magazines or blogs do they read? Where do they get their industry news? What conferences do they attend? Who do they follow on social media What books do they read? What causes are important to them? Etc.

The more you can dig into the world of your target client, the better you can understand them and their needs. The better you understand their needs, the better you can serve them.

In the process of this research look for opportunities to interview your ideal client. If you know anyone who fits your client profile, ask if you could have 30 minutes to ask them some questions. Explain to them you are looking to set up a business to do graphic design for trainers and coaches in the health and wellness sector and you’d like to ask them a few questions. If they agree, this is your opportunity to ask them questions about the work they do and specifically what their needs might be in terms of a logo and visual branding. You can also ask what social media platforms do they use most (so you know what kind of banners they would need), do they use any print stationary, do they create their own website or hire a web designer, how much do they typically spend on marketing each year, etc. Whatever questions you want to ask them that would help you to understand your target client and their needs. This kind of market research is invaluable.

You should also visit your local reference library and see if they have any market research on your target market. Large research firms often produce market research on sectors of the market. This market research can be expensive to buy, but often libraries are able to access it.

Note: Librarians are incredible magicians! Seek them out at all stages of your business planning as they can be a great resource to help connect you with useful information.

As you gather information about your target clients it is advisable to use the information you gather to create a client persona.

In our example above of coaches and trainers in the health and wellness industry, you might decide that your ideal customer is a female personal trainer (PT), aged 25-35. She has a BSc in Exercise Science and has been working in a gym for 3 years but is ready to set up her own PT practice. She is largely vegan and does a big meal prep session every Sunday where she prepares her meals for the week so that she always has the fuel she needs. She likes Lululemon for active wear and Nike for trainers. She doesn’t take a lot of holidays, but when she does, she likes active holidays that involve biking and or kayaking. She doesn’t have any children yet, but hopes to have children in the next 5-10 years, etc.

The more you write about your ideal client in your client persona, the better.

You might find a picture of someone who represents your ideal customer persona. Give her a name, say Lisa, in this case.

When you drill down to this kind of level it can appear like you are really narrowing your options. ‘How many customers like this are there?’ you wonder.

Here’s the interesting thing… if you direct your marketing towards this imaginary Lisa, with all the understanding you have of her and her needs, you will be creating an identifiable brand for your creative freelance business. Afterall, you are serving Lisa, and that’s pretty specific.

But there are lots of people like Lisa and even more people who aspire to be Lisa or are working towards being in the place that Lisa is, or at least relate to 50% of the profile of Lisa.

All of them will feel that your marketing is connecting with them.

Having your client persona means you can sit down and write a blog post addressing one of Lisa’s problems. Or take a photo of something that Lisa might like and post it on your social media. In this way, there is a unified feel to your marketing which helps to convey the personality of you and your freelance business.

Rhonda Schaller in her book Create Your Art Career writes: “your speciality is what sets you apart from the crowd when it is mixed with your personality.” By targeting your marketing in this way, towards a specific customer persona, brings your speciality and your personality to the fore.

This is a process that will take some time, but it is a good investment to dive deep into who your target client is and really getting to know them and understand them.

© Kingston University
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