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Lanya Olmsted

 

Do you know who your customers are? If you answered "everyone!!" then this is for you. If you’re not getting the clients you want, it may be because you’re not speaking to the right people. In this article, you’ll learn what questions you should ask yourself when defining a target market, and then how to pursue that market.

 

Introduction

Defining your target market early on will lead to more enjoyable work with clients who have a strong need for your services. It’s your job to be proactive in defining this target market yourself, rather than waiting for clients who may or may not be a good fit. Figure out your niche, find clients who are looking for those niche services, and then convince them you’re perfect for the job. Here’s how:

 

  • Step 1: Do some self-reflection on your part.
  • Step 2: Find your audience online.
  • Step 3: Conduct need-finding interviews.
  • Step 4: Position yourself well online.
  • Step 5: Offer an “alpha” product or service.
  • Step 6: Refine, refine, refine.

 

Step 1: Do some self-reflection on your part.

Pull out a pen and paper and start writing down exactly what it is that you do:

 

  1. What makes you different from other freelancers with similar skillsets?
  2. What types of problems do you love solving?
  3. What do you find most satisfying about the type of work that you do and the current audiences that you serve?
  4. What are your values and the values of the freelance business that you started?

 

Then start reflecting on the types of business that you have worked with in the past, and the ones that you hope to work with in the future.

 

  1. Why them?
  2. What specific aspects of their company/industry/personnel do you like?
  3. Do they share your same values?
  4. What red flags should you look out for when dealing with clients?

 

Write all this information down and start pulling out the qualities of businesses you’d like working with that would have a need for your specific superpowers.

 

Step 2: Find your audience

Now that you’ve defined your business’s unique value proposition, you need to conduct research on the market that has a need for that specific skill or service. Your target market will have common reasons for hiring freelancers. For example, they need to hire someone with a niche skillset, or they like the flexibility of working with freelancers.

 

Once you have a target market, you need to figure out what their business pains and problems are. Do this by researching companies that fit your criteria. A tech startup might hire freelance writers to get their content marketing going, or a new coworking space might need interior photography for its website. By spending time on company websites, you may be able to see areas of opportunity — things that could be improved through your services.

 

Step 3: Conduct need-finding interviews.

This next step comes from the UX designer side of me. It’s not enough to do external research of your target market. Choose a sample of companies that make the cut and meet with them in person (or virtually). Choose the person who would most likely be your point of contact, whether it’s the head of marketing, CEO, CTO, etc. You should be able to determine this from your research.

During your chat, make sure to ask questions about their specific needs and pain points:

 

  1. Do they usually hire freelancers?
  2. What results do they see?
  3. Do they have the budget that you’re expecting?

 

Don’t use this session as a pitch for yourself as much as a time to gain information. Speak in hypotheticals, but do keep in contact for future work opportunities.

 

Here’s an example:

 

  1. Your name is Pietro. You’re a CRO marketer.
  2. Your target market is medium-sized SaaS businesses who use landing pages for lead generation.
  3. Why? Because a lot of these companies have good marketing budgets, they’re open to hiring freelancers, and they invest in content marketing through building topic-specific landing pages, which is an area you have experience in.
  4. You meet with the VP of Marketing and find out that she has the budget to hire freelancers to assess and review various aspects and performance of a landing page (known as an audit). But she’s usually dissatisfied with the outcome because the resulting document isn’t actionable.
  5. During the conversation, she tells you that she’d prefer to hire freelancers to perform ongoing A/B tests to help optimize their landing pages. Bingo!
  6. Learning this tidbit  can help you structure your services away from an audit and more towards A/B testing.

 

It’s also important to chat with other freelancers in your field. They may be able to help you figure out what challenges these types of businesses face and how much they usually pay for these specific services.

 

Step 3: Position yourself as an expert.

In order to show up on the radar of your target audience, you need to be where they are. In your research stage, you can find out more about where they spend time online and offline.

 

  1. What conferences do they go to?
  2. What blogs or news sources do they read?
  3. Where are they on social media?

 

Wherever they are — make sure you are too. Follow them, comment on posts, and connect with them. Show them that you are an expert in your field.

Be self-promotional in a way that is humble and giving.

 

Step 4: Offer an “alpha” product or service.

Remember the connections that you met and had need-finding interviews with? Reconnect with them now and offer them a discounted “alpha” service in exchange for help in improving the second offering of the service. Choose 1-3 clients to test, and ask them for tons of feedback throughout and at the end of the service. This feedback will help you structure your services, and the copywriting you use to promote them.

 

Step 5: Refine, refine, refine.

You’re not going to get this perfect the first time around. It’s all about experimentation. Focus on a specific audience, analyze how things are going, and then revise if necessary. Keep refining your copy on your website, the structure of your services, and where you post online.Freelancing is all about continually improving on our business systems. Don’t let your target audience lay stagnant if you are unhappy with your current clientele. It’s something that can be easily changed.

 

Conclusion

The right audience for you sits at the intersection between your skillset, how you define meaningful work, and the people who value that work enough to pay you what you desire. Taking the time to thoughtfully consider your target market will make your freelancing practice more relevant,enjoyable and successful in the long run.

Good luck!

 

Resources

The Creative Class, has worksheets + instructional videos for defining your own purpose and your target audience.

Defining a buyer persona questions (similar to target market).

Case study about finding a niche.

How to do consumer research (for Step 2).

 

Lanya Olmsted is a UX designer who studies how users behave to design goal-driven creative solutions.