Where the Heck Are All the Clients You Really Want?

August 22nd


Offsprout is the only WordPress website builder for freelancers and agencies.

Sorry to say, but your agency is only as good as your clientele.

You could hire the world’s experts in design and development, have a fantastic onboarding strategy, work harder than any other company, and still fail miserably if your clients simply don’t appreciate any of those things about you.

It’s not really enough to have a “target market’ when it comes to clients, either, because someone may fit your target market but still make you miserable. Just because they can afford you doesn’t mean they’re good clients.

The key to successfully running a great design business is to find clients that:

  • Want to work with you
  • Can afford to work with you
  • (Most importantly) You want to work with for the long haul

Sure, you may have some clients that fit into at least one or two of those categories. But where are the truly great clients that fit all three? And most importantly, how do you make sure that your entire clientele is made up of these people?

Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss…

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Get Out of a Client Rut

We’re assuming you’re not starting from scratch when it comes to getting clients, which means that you probably already have a handful of clients that aren’t really working out the way you want.

Just because a client isn’t your “ideal” right now doesn’t mean they can’t be your ideal client with a few tweaks to your working arrangement. So the real question becomes: Should they stay or should they go?

When to Keep a Client

If your client fits into at least two of the three categories then you may want to consider keeping them.

If they like you but they can’t afford you, consider offering a productized version of your services (or a pared down version of a productized service you already offer) for a lower rate. You’ll not only save time and energy on your end, but they’ll still get to work with you and you’ll still be making a profit.

If they can afford you and you like them, but they’re not sure they like you, consider adding something of benefit to their services, or switching providers (e.g. a different designer whose aesthetics fits their style better) to keep them interested. You can always upsell them on different services, too.

If they like you and can afford you, but you don’t like them, well… you may have to consider moving on.

When to Ditch a Client

Sometimes there are clear indications that you should ditch a client, like if they’re consistently unhappy with your services, they really can’t afford you (if they have a low-budget or fail to make payments consistently), or they’re just not anywhere close to your target market.

But even if they technically fit into your “ideal client” mold, you still may want to give them the ol’ heave-ho if they’re either not adding enough benefit or they’re taking up too much of your resources without enough ROI.

Some criteria to consider when thinking about ditching a client may include:

  • Expected quality of work – If your quality suffers, let them go.
  • Turnaround time – If they consistently take too long to get back to you, or worse yet they demand an unreasonable turnaround time, don’t waste another breath.
  • Type of communication – If they’re consistently hard to reach, maybe stop trying to reach them.
  • Length of relationship – If they’re only after you for one-off projects and don’t want to settle on a contract, don’t commit.

Where Your Ideal Clients Are Hiding

Let’s pretend for a moment that the above criterion is enough to eliminate most if not your entire current client base. What do you do then? Well, it may be time to hunt for some fresh game.

But if you haven’t had much luck finding your ideal clients thus far, how will you go about finding them now? Where, exactly, are they hiding?

Choose Them, Praise Them, Wow Them

The trick to finding clients is doing a little of the grunt work to search them out. Think of it like dating: sometimes people come to you, but more often than not you have to go to them. And once you have them, you have to keep them.

Sarah Von Bargen from Yes and Yes Blog has some advice for finding the ideal clients, which we’ll paraphrase here:

  1. Choose them – Refine your ideal client down to the specifics and then pursue them.
  2. Praise them – Your clients are coming to you for a reason, so it’s important to recognize that reason and reassure them that they’re with you for a reason.
  3. Wow them – Go above and beyond to draw them by building relationships

Of course, once you start drawing enough attention, you may find that they actually do come to you…

Strategies to Win Unique Customers

When your ideal clients start noticing you, there are a few ways you can maximize on that effort to continually win over your ideal market.

The folks over at Agency Analytics have some tips for finding and keeping unique clients, including:

  • Switch focus to specialized industries
  • Define your criteria
  • Distribute marketing tasks among your team

Essentially, the goal is to narrow down your criteria so that you can target specific industries, and then put your whole team to work on finding those clients so that no one person is overwhelmed.

Matt Inglot from the Freelance Transformation blog also has some advice for how to narrow that criteria, including looking for matching ideals around:

  • Industry (eg. you have unique experience in healthcare industry)
  • Project budget (eg. projects $20,000-$75,000 in size)
  • Revenue (eg. companies selling over $1,000,000 in sales)
  • Growth stage (eg. start-ups)
  • What is being sold (eg. enterprise software)
  • Positioning in the market (eg. high-end option, budget option, etc).

If your clients fit fairly well into those categories, and – more importantly – you can see yourself building a relationship with them over time, then they are your ideal clients. It ultimately doesn’t matter if you find them from a cold-call or you realize they were there all along, as long as you’re happy, you win.

Final Thoughts

Finding your ideal client isn’t rocket science, but you have to first figure out whether or not the clients you already have fit your criteria (if they do, great! If not, ditch them), and then look for new clients in your industry and show them your best stuff.

If you find that you have new clients coming to you, it can be an easy process to weed out the ones you don’t want by following the three rules of good clients: you like them, they like you, and they can afford to work with you.

Beyond that, it’s about using your whole team to impress them and, of course, to keep doing the excellent work that landed them in the first place.

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