by Robyn Roste
Last year was a good freelance year for me, but by the fourth quarter I was feeling spread thin.
In theory I knew what I needed—fewer, higher paying clients—but I was tired of guessing and muddling my way through. I wanted someone to draw me a road map. In December, I hired a coach to help me through the process.
My coach told me the answer to finding better clients is through stronger positioning.
Positioning is how you appear in your potential client’s mind. The secret to strong positioning is getting clear on what you do, who you serve and why you’re different.
My coach broke positioning into four categories for me to think through and work out: who I best serve (my ideal client/market), what makes me different in the eyes of my ideal client/target market, why that difference matters and what I do.
1. Target Audience
In order to discover my target audience I started by auditing my background, experience and talents. It was an organized brain dump. I listed everything from my current and previous clients, what type of leads I’ve received in the past year, people I know who would be clients and people I’m already connected with.
I also vetted the financial viability of the different services I offer and put in writing how I feel about the type of clients I work with and the topics I cover.
It was an interesting process because I realized I was stuck on figuring out a niche or industry I served rather than a specific type of client I wanted to work with. While the niche approach is ideal for many freelancers it wasn’t working for me.
This was my target market breakthrough. After all the assessment and nostalgia, it seemed so obvious: I want to work with small business owners and entrepreneurs who are driven to make a difference not just a profit.
2. Core Differentiator
Once I figured out who I want to work with I needed to determine why someone would choose me over all the other excellent and qualified choices in my same area. What makes me stand out? What makes me the right choice?
I brainstormed a list of everything I could think of from achievements and track record to hobbies, education, skills and experience. After some thought I whittled my list down to four key differences.
- Can write in various styles and tones
- Can break down complex ideas and present them to beginner audiences in a simple way
- Professional writer for more than a decade
- Working writer at a busy non-profit for nine years
3. Why This Matters
Once I had settled on what made me different from other freelance writers I put my core differentiators through the “so what” test. Who cares? Why does this matter to my ideal client? Why would she care about this and why would this make her want to hire me?
To be honest, I found this awkward because I wondered if someone would look at my list and think I was bragging or lying. Or worse, that I wasn’t actually good at what I said I was good at. Inferiority complex is real! But I dug in and put myself into my ideal client’s situation. What would she need to know to feel confident about hiring me?
Here’s what I came up with. These are from my brainstorming notes so they’re not polished but I hope you can see why it’s an important step to think through.
- Differentiator: Can write in various styles and tones to match client’s style/tone
- Why It Matters: When ghostwriting it’s important to reflect the client’s voice so this helps my clients gain trust in their market as influencers and experts
- Differentiator: Can break down complex ideas and present them to beginner audiences in a simple way
- Why It Matters: When you have a lot of experience in an area it can be difficult to relate to people who don’t have a deep understanding of the subject/topic. Being able to break a big idea down into bite-size morsels is a valuable skill
- Differentiator: Professional writer for more than decade
- Why It Matters: I have a proven track record and clients never need to worry about my skills or professionalism
- Differentiator: Working writer at a busy non-profit for nine years wearing many hats
- Why It Matters: Working in an office for the better part of a decade means I have a vast array of experiences with many different styles of writing and working with a wide variety of personalities. This means I have an understanding of what my clients need/don’t need from me as well as empathy with the challenges they face
4. What Type of Assignments You Want to Focus On
Up until I worked through this positioning exercise, I thought this meant, “I write blog posts” or “I write email sequences.” Committing to a type of assignment or selecting services has been difficult for me because I get bored when I’m working on one type of writing over and over again.
When I looked at the type of people I want to serve and then thought about the type of assignments I want to work on, I realized what I want to do is help them market their businesses. And because I have experience with many types of writing and marketing thanks to my non-profit job, I can be a huge help to my ideal client.
This entire process (including several revisions) took me between four and six weeks to come to a place where I’m happy with my positioning. My notes gave me ample copy to update my website with the goal of attracting the right clients and staying focused on providing excellent work without being spread too thin.
Robyn Roste is passionate about helping business owners market themselves online. She has created a free tip sheet with five easy ways freelancers can optimize their social media profiles. Read her other Story Board posts here.
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