6 steps to attracting and booking ideal clients as a creative entrepreneur
A.K.A., the unicorns all of us creative entrepreneurs are dreaming of.
I've now traveled the path from working with 'regular clients' to truly 'ideal clients' that I'm SO excited to get a chance to work with! The more booking inquiry consult calls I've held, the more and more I've realized that I have indeed built a brand and business that attracts my dreamies.
When getting on the phone for a consult call, I can tell immediately that myself and my potential clients just click! The women who inquire tend to have a have a very similar vibe, attitude and personality to me. They are also killing it in their business, so they're super interesting women to chat with.
I can tell you that attracting ideal clients left and right is truly a fabulous place to be, and I'm so so grateful for having gotten my business to this place. I know the struggle of working through projects that don't light your heart aflame with passion however, so I want to share what I did to get here and my tips on attracting those ideal clients, so you can enjoy this fabulous stage of business too!
Buckle up for a lengthly post and maybe grab a coffee, we're going deep into this topic with really in-depth info so you really will walk away with a clear step by step game plan on how to start attracting your ideal clients too!
1. Defining who your ideal client is
Okie let's start at the very beginning.
If you're not clear on who your ideal clients are, it's going to be might tough (or honestly, probably impossible) to attract them.
So first things first, the thing you MUST do before anything else, is define who that ideal client is.
Lemme just say that defining your ideal client is truly a non-negotiable step. Do. Not. Skip. This. One! And don't just do it in your head either, you need to write this thing down. And then once you've written it, feel free to tweak it until your heart sings with excitement to work with this person.
If you ever take any course on anything business related, they're going to make you do this, create an ideal client avatar.
“... a what?”
An ideal client avatar is the one person you have in mind who would be your first pick to have visit your site and purchase your products/services.
Here's the things you should decide on for your ideal client. Know that your ideal client doesn't need to be a real person, it's just a description of a person that if you could choose, they'd be the one you'd work with.
Name, age and gender
Where they live and who they live with
Occupation and income
Fav blogs, podcasts, magazines and YouTube channels
Conferences and events they attend
Social media channels they use
Brands, celebrities & influencers they love
Style & looks they like
If you're having some struggles with this step, or aren't sure if this ideal client avatar will work for your business, this post should help: 3 ways to validate your ideal client avatar
2. Truly get to know them
Once you've defined who the person is, it's time to go deep with getting to know them. Talking to them is the best way of doing this.
Now, I know this is where I'll get some push back.
Talk to real people? Won't that be awkward? I haven't had any ideal clients yet, so I don't know any... How do I find them?
Yes, talking to them will be massively beneficial, I promise.
When I did this I had a feeling I knew what my ideal client would respond to my questions, and while I expected a lot of what she said, our conversation made me realize that what she was looking for in her potential web designer (my industry) I already did, but I wasn't communicating that on my site.
So, to find some ideal clients to chat with here's a few ideas.
Write out a quick description of your ideal client (short form version of your ICA from above). Then share it around with friends, colleagues, etc. to see if they know anyone who fits the description.
If you have an email list or social following of any size, you can also do a call out for anyone who fits the description to get in touch.
Lastly, you can post in Facebook groups saying you're doing some business research, and would love to chat with anyone who fits the decsription.
Then, once you have your person, ask for 20 mins of their time and get on the phone.
Our goal is to find out two main things from this call:
1. Where they hang out
2. What they're looking for in a service like yours and what are their hesitations and fears around buying your product/service?
We want to know where they hang out so we know where to market ourselves and spend time. For example, if your people aren't on Instagram, then that tells you you should spend a grand total of 0 minutes in your business wasting time posting on there. If your ICA mentions there's a specific event or conference they frequent, then it's about time you go buy a ticket and show up there yourself!
Secondly we want to learn what they're looking for in a business that provides the type of service you offer. My ICA told me they were looking for a personal connection with their web designer and wanted to feel like they were working with someone who believed in their business. She also liked the idea of supporting other female small business owners.
Whatever your ICA says about what they're looking for in a business that provides your type of service tells you what absolutely needs to be mentioned and communicated in the message on your site.
3. Build a site that demonstrates your style and vibe and communicates your message clearly
From steps 1 & 2 we've learned who our ideal client is, where they hang out, what they read, people they follow, and what they're looking for in a business in your industry.
Now that we have all of our info, we need to show our ideal clients that we get them.
Make your website your ideal clients happy place.
Ensure it reflects their style, and speaks to them in a way that makes them feel comfortable and at home.
I know a lot of y'all who are starting out are on freelancing sites such as Upwork, CloudPeeps, etc. Those platforms are fabulous for getting work at the beginning when you're trying to make your dream of working for yourself a reality. Those sites pay the bills and will help you build a portfolio of work and collect reviews.
I don't want to knock those sites, they're a very helpful place to start.
But, as many creative entrepreneurs on those sites have learned, it's not normally a hotbed of ideal clients.
Building a website and business separate from a freelancing site it vital.
It's hard to show your style and vibe in a pre-formatted profile. It's also hard to communicate your message and expertise on one of those profiles.
For this reason, and many others, a website is a non-negotiable.
Now I know building a website is a massively overwhelming and confusing process for a lot of people, but luckily you landed on the blog of a web designer (how convenient) and I share ALL the goods on building a website over in my Squarespace section, so take a browse through the posts in there and you'll have a good start.
Here's a few specific posts to get you started:
Truthbombs on building a site that attracts your ideal clients:
Build it with your ideal client in mind and NO ONE else! Do not worry yourself for even one second if using the color pink will turn off men. If you want to work with women, pink the place up! Don't care for a second what the non-ideal clients like, they're not the ones we're going after.
When you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.
So keep your sites design and messaged focus on your dreamies, not attracting everyone under the sun.
Here is such a fabulous example of this done right from Halley Gray of Evolve & Succeed.
Yep, the title of her post drops an f-bomb and the name of her show is 'Braless on couch'. No joke. Halley is a badass.
Now, as you can imagine, this type of communication would turn a lot of people off, and you know what? That literally doesn't matter even one bit, because for the ladies out there who are just like Halley they're going to LOVE her.
"She speaks my language!" they'll say.
Halley is different, she's authentically herself and she takes a stand in her brand positioning.
She absolutely turns people off by it, but she also ensures that for the right people, Halley's ideal clients, they're not just going to like her, they're going to LOVE her! And that's what counts. That's whats important.
So, be authentically you on your website.
Be selective in the feedback you implement
Also, if you get feedback on your website, only take the feedback from the people who are ideal clients, and ignore the rest.
My mom told me I had a spelling error on my home page. I had used the phrase "deets this way" on a button. That was intentional, she just didn't get it because she's 30 years older than the people I'm trying to speak to on my website.
While I love my Mom and appreciate her letting me know when I do really have spelling errors on my site, I ignored that feedback because I knew that while she didn't get it, my ideal clients would, and my ideal clients, not my mom pays my bills.
Be authentically you
I recently had an issue of copycatting my website happening. Other web designers literally highlighted the text on my site, copied it and pasted it on to their own.
That's wrong on so many levels, but the most major issue of it is, it won't even get those other designers where they want to be. (That is, the owners of booming businesses.)
Why? My copy doesn't fit them, and just as soon as they begin interacting with potential clients, it's going to show quickly that there's some mixed messaging happening, and that they aren't really how they appeared to be on their site.
My website copy is authentically me. I'm the same on my website, that I am on videos, that I am on phone calls, that I am IRL. When clients read my site and then get in touch for a booking consult call, there's no surprises, I'm exactly as they expect me to be.
And you know what? It's such a blessing. I don't need to try to act a certain way or speak a certain way when dealing with clients. I don't suddenly become some awkward, corporate sales man the second you get on the phone with me. I'm sure if you've ever worked for some other business and had a session on company culture and how you should interact with customers, you know how annoying it can be to have to act in a way that's inauthentic.
I want for you to also feel free to be your authentic self so you can experience the joy of working with people who get you and the wonderful experience of running a business that feels right down to the core.
4. Curate a portfolio with only the type of work displayed that you want to continue taking on
As a web designer, I have a portfolio of past work. My portfolio page is one of my most clicked, because if you're thinking of hiring me to design your website, you're gonna wanna check I have the skills you need and the design style you want.
If you run any type of business where showing past work is important, this step goes for you too.
Only show the type of work you want to continue taking on.
For example, I've built over 40 websites now for clients, but you'll only find 8 in my portfolio currently.
It's not that I didn't love working on those other projects or with those clients, in fact, some of my favorite sites I've ever built aren't in my portfolio! Why? The businesses the sites were for were in an industry that my typical ideal clients don't fall into, so it doesn't make sense to showcase them as my ideal clients won't 'see' themselves in my portfolio if I added those other sites.
Did some design work of a Chinese takeout menu, but what you really want to do is design wedding stationary? Don't you go putting that past Chinese takeout menu design on your portfolio page now! If you do, you'll soon be having the Chinese food companies of the world knocking on your door asking for you to do their menu design too, and you'll never get to working with the brides you so dearly want to.
I would vote in favor of you displaying a small portfolio of really curated work over a mass of past work that's all over the map.
Now, I get it. When just starting out, we only have so many portfolio pieces, and it's hard to attract ideal clients right off the bat. So here's a solution for you if you're in the 'I know I should do that, but I just don't have enough past work' camp.
Create a selection of 'mock' portfolio pieces.
When you do this, create mock pieces that are for the types of businesses and entrepreneurs you want to work with. Chances are potential clients won't ask 'were you hired by a company to design that?' If they do, I would suggest always going the honest route, explaining that the piece was a concept you had in your mind that you created, but it wasn't for a specific client.
Granted, just because the portfolio piece wasn't for a 'real paying' client doesn't mean that you didn't make the thing and pour a lot of time, effort and skill into making it.
5. Price confidently for the value you provide
I'm assuming none of your ideal clients are people who like to pay bargain basement prices and have little respect for the work you do, correct?
I've learned from experience at a variety of price points that how you price affects the relationship you have with your client and how prepared your clients are.
Thankfully I never had any client relationships really go sour, and no one was ever disrespectful to me, butttt I have noticed that the amount of consideration for my time and desire for my advice has skyrocketed along with my prices raising.
I'm not suggesting you gouge people with prices that don't align with the value you're providing, but also don't lowball yourself.
Check out your industry, see what the going rate is for your service, compare what's out there to what you offer and price accordingly.
Don't start a race to the bottom and don't compete in your industry on price. The clients you'll attract while competing on price probably aren't those ideal ones we defined earlier.
Compete on stellar service, a unique process, or exceptional work. When you outrun your competition on those aspect, and not on price, you'll attract the clients who aren't shopping for the cheapest, but are shopping for the best fit.
6. Set up a referral program to incentivize past ideal client to refer new ideal clients
Once you've completed the steps above and have begun attracting ideal clients to your site, it's time to get the snowball rolling, bringing you new ideal clients with minimal effort.
The best way to do so? Knock it out of the park with the work you do, that's the only way you'll get referrals. People don't refer their friends to crappy businesses, they just don't. So, if you didn't previously have incentive to do an amazing job, this is a major reason to do so.
Once you have ideal clients coming through the door, they're your best bet for getting in touch with other ideal clients.
This is especially true if your ideal client is defined by an industry. Want to work with brides? Who else knows a lot of brides? The girls who are 26 that are hosting their own wedding and then are also in 6 wedding parties that same summer.
Once you have ideal clients coming through, set up a referral program.
What should you offer the new client and the past client as incentive?
Ask your ideal past clients. This is exactly what I did.
My ideal past clients told me for themselves they'd like free website edits in the future, and for their friend they'd like an amount off the cost of the site design. So that's exactly what I offer now.
Alright, so to recap quickly, here's our game plan moving forward.
Define your ideal client. Write our a description of them.
Find a few people who fit closely to the profile of your ideal client. Interview them to ask where they hang out/what publications/sites they follow (to know where to market yourself) and what they'd be want in a service like yours (to know what to really drive home in the messaging on your site.)
Build a site that clearly communicates your style and vibe. Don't worry about turning people off with your site, if your site appeals to everyone, you're doing it wrong. Be sure to make your site authentically you!
Curate your portfolio to present the type of work your ideal clients want to see.
Price confidently so you can attract ideal clients and aren't getting chosen based on price, which always tends to attract not-ideal-clients.
Once the ideal clients are rolling on in, set up a referral program so they can refer more dreamies your way.
There you are, 6 steps to a business that is raking in the ideal clients like its your day job (because it is)!
... I can't believe I went an entire blog post talking about 'attracting' something without making one not-funny joke about magnets ... Am I loosing my touch?
You'll also love ...