Before I get knee deep into this, I wanted to address some of the jargon I’ll be using to describe various concepts and ideas and get it out the way first.
When I refer to prospect, I’m talking about anyone who has the potential to hire you, who has not yet done so.
When I refer to client, I’m talking about someone who is in the process of working with you – or has worked with you in the past, though theoretically a past client is essentially a prospect again, with the potential of working with you again in the future.
…SO! It’s assumed that you want to make money from your skill, service or product.
If so, we need to reframe our thinking in terms of the problems people have.
People pay for their problems to be solved, and you need to provide the solution.
As such, every business decision you make needs to come with an awareness of how your work solves a problem or a need for real people. If it does not, your work can only be a hobby, which is great too, but this post is about generating income.
Different kinds of people in the market will have different levels of demand or varying levels of enthusiasm for paying you for your product or service. Some will have no interest in your product whatsoever, and others will have a much higher interest, depending on their needs.
As such, it is a myth to think that most or all people are ideal potential buyers or clients of what you create.
Rather than being satisfied with working with anyone, we need to decide on a specific ideal prospect, so that we can see better results, more quickly.
First we need to see what kinds of people have a demand for what you provide.
Action Step: To figure out where the demand for your skills lies, do a brainstorm to paper, to list out all the potential ways your product or skill can solve the needs or problems of real, paying clients and customers in the marketplace.
This starts with an understanding of how you are a problem solver for people.
Demand follows problems, or something that people lack and need. It’s economics!
If you’ve had previous clients or customers in the past, these jobs or sales – particularly the good ones – are of course great sources of information for you on what has worked. You can then do additional research, such as checking to see what kinds of clients people who provide similar services to you have been getting.
You could target clients like them, or think about how to find similar types of clients in a similar industry that would match your skills.
If you are a photographer of the natural world, and you see that a similar photographer is winning work for a water charity (by asking them, checking their feeds or website, and seeing where work similar to yours is being used commercially), you might consider choosing people working for wildlife charities as your ideal client.
Another way to do market research in this way is to actually talk to a range of prospects in different areas of the marketplace to see what level of interest they have or whether they have any suggestions themselves.
As an example, if you make illustrated maps, like I do, I know that dentists will have little interest in hiring me to create maps.
But I do know that the demand for illustrated maps is much higher amongst art directors working for travel magazines. I know this because I have spent time looking at the work included in a range of magazines; I have looked at the past clients of other illustrated map illustrators, and I have talked to people working in the travel industry to gauge a sense of demand.
I also know that magazine work is a highly competed for corner of the market.
Most illustrators want to work for magazines. So my ideal prospect is not magazine art directors for the time being. I’ve chosen a less saturated market for now, based on this understanding, as well as doing further research.
Through research and asking around, I’ve seen that I can attract higher-paying clients (for the time being) working in large technology companies who want illustrated landscapes and maps.
As such, my ideal prospects right now are specifically designers working for large technology companies like Google, Intel, Samsung, Cisco and Microsoft.
With this ideal target prospect in mind, I direct my marketing activities towards these kinds of people, above and beyond all of the more general exposure-generation I create for my illustration business.
You need to make sure that your product has at least some demand by some people.
When you can identify who it is that has a high probability of being willing and able to pay well for your product – now or at some point in the future – more than anyone else, and is ideally someone who you are motivated to work with, that person is an ideal prospect.
You could potentially have many types of prospects interested in what you do.
Even if there is a potentially wide range of prospects that could be suited to you, you need to be able to describe one main ideal prospect in as much detail as possible.
We need to know this so that you have direction: you know what kind of work to focus on, and you will know what kinds of people to reach out to and promote your work to.
We need to drill right down to the individual, as well as the type of organisation or industry they operate in because this creates even further focus and direction.
A lot of this will simply require making an informed decision out of the full spectrum of target prospects that exist out there.
There is no perfect candidate out there – at some point you just need to decide.
As a front-end web designer, you might come to the conclusion that your ideal prospect is as follows:
‘Founders of Organic Food Companies Operating in Canada.’
You could get even more specific than this. The more specific you get, the more dedicated and well-aligned your service can be, and the more obvious a solution you will appear to these prospects.
When you know your ideal prospect, then you will more easily know what aspect of your work to focus on developing in order to deliver the outstanding product or service they need.
You will also know with much more clarity who exactly it is you need to be putting your work in front of.
You can change your ideal prospect over time. But at any given time, you want to have a clear awareness of who your main ideal is.
Having an ideal prospect does not mean that you cannot work with other kinds of clients and promote to other prospects. But having this focus at this very moment, will help you make better decisions for marketing yourself within this phase of your career.
You can have other ideal prospects if you choose, but focusing on them should not cut too much into the time and energy you put into finding your primary prospects.
So to re-iterate, the steps you need to make in order to identify your ideal prospect are as follows:
1. Do a brainstorm to list out all the potential ways your product or skill can solve the needs of real, paying clients and customers in the marketplace.
2. Do further research through seeing what kinds of clients people with similar skills to you are finding success with.
Furthermore, one of the best things you can do to identify the demand for your product is to go out and talk to people in the market. There is no better source of information than directly from the market itself.
Talk to a range of people and see what their enthusiasm level is like or if they have suggestions. You need to be bold here and ask a wide variety.
3. Identify your ideal prospect and describe them right down to the individual, including as much detail in this description as you can: their age, gender, interests, job description, profession, and even hobbies.
The detail here will help you find them and really understand them as people. For example, knowing that my tech startup prospects enjoy going to technology conferences, I will know that if I show up to them also, I’ll be able to find a lot of the people I’m looking for.
Make them really clear to you in your mind’s eye.
Remember, if you find that there are a range of possibilities, you need to decide on someone to focus on for the time being.
Again, you can always change your ideal prospect later on and do note that you will not be cutting off working with other types of people who want to work with you.
The next thing to do is make sure you demonstrate that you are an obvious solution to the needs of these ideal people as clearly as you can, in your marketing presentation, on your website, online profiles, etc. Yes, this does mean that you can tell people on your website who your ideal client is.
Now all you have to do is get out there, find them, let them know you exist, talk to them and close the deal.
Many of my books and courses will help you directly with this.
With this kind of focus, the actions you take will be enriched with purpose, and you will have a product that resonates with the best people for you.
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