How to (finally) figure out your ideal clients |
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How to (finally) figure out your ideal clients

Everywhere you look online, there are guides and how-to posts on defining and finding your ideal client. It can get pretty overwhelming. In this post, we're not going to talk about creating an avatar, or where to look for ideal clients, we're just going to give you some help on a few of the qualities you might seek out, regardless of your specialism.

What do you think makes an ideal client?

That's actually a key question, because one person's version of ideal can be dramatically different from the next person's. Therefore we're going to start by saying that your ideal client is only ideal for you. We're going to explore all the potential qualities to consider, from rates, to relationship, right through to working conditions. But we're always going to come back to one thing - what's your version of ideal?

It's (not) all about the money

Another element to your business is your revenue. Yet again, this is personal to you. It's important to set a rate for your ideal client that suits your financial circumstances, not your buddy in Australia whose cost of living is worlds apart. Work out your expenses and outgoings, and figure out your ideal from there. Try not to be swayed by industry norms or "average" rates….because anyway, who wants to be average? ;)

What do you do all day?

Of course, revenue is only one part of the puzzle.

The next thing you need to consider is the type of work you want to do - is it in a particular area of expertise? A specific type of company? Maybe you prefer to work with individuals. Go to town - it's your ideal client!

Spend time thinking about the types of documents or projects you love to handle. Do you love translating manuals? Do contracts fill you with joy (no judgement)?

A good way to figure this out is to track the time you spend on each project. Understanding exactly what you're working on, how it makes you feel and your efficiency when you're undertaking it will guide you to the areas you truly love. For this,'s time tracking and reporting tools come in super handy for monitoring how you're spending your working hours.

Relationship rules

We've all been in working relationships where we've felt trapped. Often, it's a breakdown in communication and, because it doesn't make financial sense to end the relationship, we've kept quiet, doing the work and silently fuming.

Let's stop doing that.

Establishing your ground rules before entering into a relationship with a client will not only work wonders for your confidence, it will also allow you to act quickly if you see that these "rules" are being bent - way before they're broken. Here are some pointers on qualities to have on your list of relationship rules:

  • Shared work values
  • Similar work ethic
  • Client values the work you do and tells you (Bonus - they tell others!)
  • Offers reasonable, communicated-in-advance deadlines
  • Clear guidelines on reference material and queries
  • Expectations on response times are clearly stated
  • All relevant documentation delivered to you on time

Boundary protection

Once you've decided on your ground rules, it's important to protect these. How do you protect them?

By communicating your expectations clearly at the beginning of your working relationship.

Habits are hard to change and, as we know, clients seldom like any change, so being upfront and straightforward from the start will set you off on the right path.

One way of doing this is to provide a contract at the start of your relationship. You don't just need to be the recipient of contracts, creating your own for your clients is an empowering act. It also gives you something concrete to refer to in the event that (client) standards do start to slip.

Top tip: Make sure when you set these boundaries that you do so with your "Me in 10 years' time" hat on. Think about how things like poor communications, impossible deadlines and lack of reference material could impact your business when you're running a bigger operation. Plan for the future!

You've got them - now what?

Once you've got ideal clients on your books, it's time to think about how you nurture these relationships. What can you do to make their life easier? How can you be more helpful? What do they need? Which other service providers or internal teams do they work with?

So, how do you find this information out? You ask them.

That's right. Ask them. I know it's scary (especially if you've been used to poor communicators), but your clients will not only be happy to talk about themselves (hey, most people are), but they'll also respect that you are engaging with them to improve your service.

And bonus - because your ideal clients are likely to be in very similar industries, the answers you find out from one client may spark ideas for how you can help other clients on your list. Win win!

Making notes on all of your clients' requirements and preferences helps keep you on track when you're working on projects, as well as informing you ahead of any business decisions you make regarding your client list (and of course, lets you record all this info for each client!)

Finding and keeping ideal clients doesn't have to be a scary, unattainable feat. Yes, it will take honesty, research and a few hours to explore your current list. But we think it's worth it, to ensure that firing up your computer on a Monday morning is always a joy, knowing that the people you're working with share your values and your vision.
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