As freelancers, one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is ‘what do my clients really want?‘ In order to find out, you have to first know who your clients are. The Ideal Client Profile, or ICP, is a tool used by many professional service providers and entrepreneurs to figure out just that.
It’s a convenient way to zoom in on exactly the type of client you want to serve as a creative business owner. In this article, I’m going to show you the steps to creating client profiles for your own range of clients so that you can better understand and provide valuable services to them.
Used properly, the ICP can be so effective that your clients will think you can read minds.
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What’s a Ideal Client Profiles?
Though it goes by various names in the business and marketing sphere – some business owners even have their own proprietary versions, complete with personalized data and questionnaires – the basic premise of the Ideal Client Profile is the same all around.
Using detailed information on the general habits and needs of your target market, you can create a single, ideal ‘person’ that you can use as a model for your marketing efforts.
Forget trying to cater to hundreds or even dozens of different clients – with the ICP you can have a finely tuned ‘average’ that the majority of your clients will conform to, making it far easier to get inside their heads.
Just like a novelist creating a character for a book, a freelancer creating an Ideal Client Profile must first have some basic information about human psychology and behavior to use as a reference.
However, unlike a novelist, you can’t simply make things up or tweak the facts using your creative license (well, you could, but it wouldn’t be terribly useful in your business).
The easiest way to get accurate data on what type of clients you want to go after is to just ask them. Interviewing potential, current, and past clients allows you to find out what they hope for, fear, and desire most in their businesses. It’s something you should be doing anyway, in order to keep up to date on what clients are actually looking for.
What you should be asking
Just like the main character in a story, your client has motivation and an overall set of goals. Here’s some examples what you should be asking:
- Do they want more sales? Probably, but what else do they want?
- Do they want the respect of their peers? How about the trust of their customers?
- What gets them out of bed in the morning?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What are the three biggest challenges they’re facing in their business right now?
All of these questions and those like them will help you form the basis of your ICP.
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Get clear on the basics
Before we go in-depth, however, we first need to establish who exactly your ideal client is as an individual. Start at the very beginning and build your perfect client from the ground up.
First, what is this client’s name? Don’t laugh. Giving this ‘person’ a name goes a long way in allowing you to connect with them and take their needs seriously.
With a name, the Ideal Client becomes a real human being, rather than just an abstract concept. So go ahead and name them, and also give them a gender. The gender should reflect the majority of your client base, but if it happens to be split down the middle, just pick one at random.
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Dig, dig and dig
Next, how old is this person? Where do they live? What kind of business do they own, and how much revenue does it generate? What kind of lifestyle do they have? Do they attend lots of industry conferences and other events? How often do they travel? Are they satisfied with how much time they spend at the office versus with their family?
It’s important to be super specific when answering these questions. Like the exercise implies, you’re averaging your data and consolidating it into one person and one person only.
Again, be specific!
Don’t give answers like ‘so-and-so works in the manufacturing industry and his business earns around 8 figures in revenue.’ What, specifically, do they produce and how much do they sell it for? Put down a real figure (even if it’s just an estimate) for how much money they make.
Don’t forget currency – even something as simple as converting US dollars to Euros can become a powerful marketing tool when used correctly.
Avoid bad clients
In a perfect world, how could you turn this bad habit around? Answer those questions and add them to your client’s profile.
Maybe you realize through your research that only clients who have been in business for a certain number of years are the ones who give you the most trouble. Or perhaps your best clients all graduated from a certain university.
The possibilities for data points are only limited by your imagination.
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Don’t fear the niche
Once you’ve answered as many of the basic questions as would be appropriate for your business, it’s time to go further into your ideal client’s mind. Ask yourself everything you could possibly know about a client that will help both of you have the best experience possible.
Remember, this is the perfect client we’re building, so don’t forget your own needs as a freelancer. Sick of clients who never know what they want? What information could you have about your client that would eliminate that problem? Or maybe you keep getting clients who throw scope creep at you like ninja stars.
As you travel deeper inside your ideal client’s head, you’re going to start zeroing in on a particular niche that may be far more specific than you’re used to serving.
Say you typically serve clients in the tech startup space. By knowing the exact revenue of your client’s business and the exact products they offer their customers, it may turn out that you need to adjust your niche from ‘tech startups’ to ‘a productivity software company in Silicon Valley that earns $6.2 million annually and that has received at least one round of VC funding.’
Before you balk at how ultra-specific that is, remember that you’re compiling this ideal client from data you mined from your existing clients. If this is your perfect client, don’t second guess it – go after them!
The game plan
Focus your energy on becoming as attractive as possible to this client. Infiltrate their network and amaze them with your newfound ‘psychic’ abilities. Call on the knowledge you’ve gained from your ideal client profile to establish yourself as the go-to person to solve their unique problems.
If you’ve done your job correctly, word will spread, and you’ll soon find yourself with more ‘perfect’ clients than you ever thought possible. Think you can use an Ideal Client Profile to help you better serve your clients?
In what ways can you analyze your clients’ data and feedback to help you establish that perfect client for your freelancing business?