My networking group, The Copywriter Conclave of Portland, keeps a regularly updated blog chock full of valuable information for me, my fellow “Conclavists,” and our clients. I’ve been thinking a lot about what Conclave founder Amber James brought up in April: the ideal client. Amber mentions some points that can be modified for any business:
1. What is the ideal company size of the businesses you want to attract?
2. Where is your ideal client located?
3. What is the ideal yearly income of your ideal client?
4. Based on your experience, does your ideal client pay your ideal rate? (The subject of an ideal rate is a topic for another time!)
I’ll use myself as example to illustrate the concept of the ideal client. One of my formative writing/editing experiences was working as a business plan writer and editor. When I started, I was no stranger to deadlines (I began my professional writing career in college as a journalist) or copywriting, since I wrote content for the gift gallery I once co-owned. But, as a business plan writer/editor, I took on projects where clients had high (and sometimes unreasonable) expectations. So, for good or for ill, I wrote about concepts that I did not know first-hand. I had to write quickly, and I had to write intelligently. There was little or no room for error. For many years, I excelled at this type of work (my salary tripled in two years), and I was known as the go-to-guy for the dramatic turnaround.
In 2010, when I decided to start my own freelance writing/editing/marketing business, I used the same principles: take on as many prospects as I could, learn about their business quickly, and exceed their expectations. As with anything, there have been pros and cons to this approach.
The pros. Variety. Subject matter hasn’t been a barrier, because I’ve responded with a “can-do” attitude and with a desire to under-promise/over-perform. I’ve garnered many testimonials from happy clients, and I’ve learned lots of cool things.
The cons. I’m not omniscient. Intuitive? Yes. Do I love learning new things? You bet. I just can’t write every subject as if I’ve studied it for 10+ years. Not every project requires deep-level knowledge of a subject, but if I’ve been hired to produce blog posts that will be read by seasoned industry insiders, then I really need to know that industry through-and-through.
I’m also not a mind-reader. If clients have a hyper-specific vision that is locked inside their minds, but I’m unable to help them articulate their vision, then a “shotgun approach of choices” will waste everyone’s time.
So I’ve decided to take a different approach. Rather than saying yes to every prospective client, I’m going to identify my ideal clients and ideal working conditions. I’m still developing the parameters, but this is what I have so far:
1. The client understands that every project has a two-way learning curve.
2. I’m still narrowing down my ideal client industries, but I have proven expertise with technology (hardware and software) businesses, eco-friendly companies, health insurance providers, medical centers, naturopaths, and food-centered businesses.
3. The client understands that clear communication is the only way I can provide excellent customer service.
4. The client is comfortable paying my rate.
I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.
What is your ideal client (or customer)?