How to Find Your Ideal Clients

In my previous post, I gave you some tips about how to identify your ideal clients. That’s a very important part of any freelancer’s business strategy. The next step is being able to find them effectively.

Connecting with your Ideal Client

You know what kind of writing you want to do (after you’ve answered the 12 questions in my previous post mentioned above), and you know what industries and companies need that kind of writing. Here are some questions that will help you connect with them.

  1. What companies on your list, or in your chosen industry, are in your area?
  2. Who do you know that works at a company on your list or at a company in the same industry?
  3. If you don’t know an employee in a desired industry or company, whom do you know who does? Ask your friends and family!
  4. Who do you know who works in complementary industries to your ideal? Who do you know who knows someone in a complementary industry to your ideal? (That is, someone who would partner with your ideal client. Ex: advertising agencies with copywriters, tax attorneys with CPAs.)
  5. Are there any regularly scheduled conferences, networking events, or meet-ups that your ideal client might attend? What about complementary professionals? (Ex: Comic-Con if you want to work with comic book publishers or the kinds of people who attend Comic-Con.)
  6. Now that you have specific companies that you’d like to work with, is there a bar or coffee shop near their location? If so, become a regular and meet other regulars.
  7. Ask your family, friends, and business connections for referrals to your ideal client. Using LinkedIn, you can be introduced to ideal clients through a mutual connection. That would make it a warm referral (versus a cold one).
  8. Explore professional networking events in your area and meet new people. Networking in general is a great way to make connections with people who can help you make connections with other people. Here’s a little more info about networking.

A Real-Life Example

Here’s how I applied this method:

  1. I wanted to work with Nike Headquarters, located in Beaverton, OR.
  2. I didn’t know anyone who worked there.
  3. I didn’t know anyone who knew anyone who worked there. (At least no one I asked knew anyone who worked there.)
  4. Yes, I knew someone who worked in a complementary industry: my former college Track and Field coach is married to the Director of Communications for USA Track & Field (USATF). USATF works closely with Nike to sponsor track meets all over the country.
  5. Yes, USATF and Nike attend the USA Olympic Trials every four years, which was in Oregon in 2008.
  6. Less like a coffee shop and more like a national event. I attended the 2008 Olympic Trials as a freelance copywriter thanks to my connection at USATF. While there, I introduced myself to a Nike event management director.
  7. He referred me to the Writing Director at Nike Headquarters and the Writing Director has been referring me to Nike project managers since 2009.
  8. I attend networking events on a regular basis. Events and organizations I connected with include the Portland Business Alliance (PBA), Portland Area Business Association (PABA), American Marketing Association (AMA-PDX), the Schmooze, and events through the Freelancer’s Union to name a few.
  9. That’s how I came to work with Nike–one of my ideal clients.

    In addition to meeting your ideal clients through referrals, you can also go direct to the source by cold-calling or cold-connecting via LinkedIn. If you have an optimized website that draws customers to you, great! Go with that. As a supplement, however, organic, in-person connections are the best way to develop long-lasting, professional relationships. And a loyal referral network, too.

    Many roads can lead you to the same destination, and for better or worse, you get to decide which roads you will take. How have you found your ideal clients?

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