In fact, after talent, knowledge and experience, time is your most important resource. And since there are only so many hours in a week, you need to treat that time with great care. That includes qualifying every potential opportunity to make sure it’s a good fit for you.
So how do you make decisions about which clients and projects to pursue and which ones to turn down? It all starts with what I call ideal client profiles.
The ideal client profile is simply a very clear description of the type of client you would love to have more of. It may be an exact replica of a client you’re working with today. Or it could be a combination of qualities you’ve seen in past and current clients.
Whatever that profile is for you, the important thing is that you have a very clear image of that individual. Doing so enables you to make decisions that will improve your income and your level of happiness at work.
How Do You Create Your Ideal Client Profile?
Imagine you own a big, state-of-the-art RV (recreational vehicle). You’re planning a road trip from New York to San Francisco, and you have room for up to six friends. Wouldn’t you limit your invitations to people whose company you truly enjoy?
Of course you would.
Well, it’s no different when you’re a freelancer. In my case, the ideal client is a medium-size-to-large software company. My primary contact has a significant amount of decision-making ability. She (or he) can make copy decisions on her own without resorting to a review committee.
She also knows what she’s looking for, and she consistently communicates her needs and requirements.
Furthermore, she values me as a key member of her team, so my fees are not an issue. She sees them for what they are: fair and reasonable, especially considering the unique perspective I bring to the table as an experienced marketer and sales professional (I spent 12 years in corporate sales).
Finally, my ideal client has a steady stream of work for me. She doesn’t come to me with just a one-time need. Once she sees the quality of my work and the results I help produce, she continues to send work my way.
I could go on with a few more descriptors, but you get the picture. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you automatically turn down opportunities that don’t meet every single criterion of an ideal client. What it means is that you carefully qualify every potential client and project, based on such factors as:
- The added prestige to be gained from working with this client (if any)
- The desirability of the project in question
- Where you currently are in your career
- How much capacity you currently have
- The project’s turnaround time
- The perceived difficulty of working with the client
- Whether or not the client is willing to pay your fee
- The client’s apparent ability to pay you on time
- How difficult it may be to secure the business
- How badly you need the work
These aren’t the only factors to consider, but they’re some of the most important.
What If You’re Just Getting Started?
Making good decisions about what clients and prospects to take on is critical to your long-term success. But what if you’re just getting started in your freelance career?
A few years ago, I had an aggressive savings goal to meet so that I could quit my job and freelance for a living. Turning down every opportunity just because the client didn’t exactly fit my ideal profile wasn’t an option. You may be in a similar situation at the moment.
That’s OK. You need to consider both short-term and long-term objectives when making these decisions. Just make sure that as you progress in your freelance career, you draft a clear description of the type of clients and projects that are right for YOU — and use that as your guide.
Who’s your ideal client? Do you have a crystal-clear image of that person in your mind? Do you use that profile to guide decisions about who you pursue and who you stay away from?
Remember: It’s a long ride to San Francisco. Choose wisely!