In the third episode of 15 Minute Freelancer, we put a freelancing spin on the concept of product-market fit. Louise shares her process for finding freelancer-client fit, to help you figure out who your ideal clients are and how to create a service that meets their needs and yours.
"Not every client is for you. And you're not for every client either. It's important to find the right chemistry. When you figure out freelancer-client fit, you're on the way to keeping your project pipeline flowing with work that you actually want to do. The marketing will be easier, the sales calls or the intro calls are much easier. And the projects themselves run smoothly and efficiently and just a lot more fulfilling." -- Louise Shanahan
Louise Shanahan is a freelance health copywriter and content marketer. She's on a mission to help others build a business and life they love – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host, Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind the scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help me navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So, grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe!
Hello, and welcome to another episode of 15 Minute Freelancer. Thank you so much to everyone who tuned in to the first two episodes. It's always a bit weird pressing publish on something new and sending it out into the world. I was really touched that the first two episodes had such a great response. So, thank you to everybody who listened and shared it and sent me encouraging messages. I think that entirely proved the point that I was making in episode two about the freelancing community being the best thing ever. So thank you.
Today, I want to build on what I talked about in episode one. If you remember, in that episode, I shared seven ways to find freelance clients, which were really about getting leads for new projects to come to you. I'm all about hot leads over cold pitches. Today, I want to dig into how you know if someone is the right client.
It might be great to wake up to 100 emails a day from people wanting to work with you. But let's say you're a photographer: if they're looking for a portrait of their Labradoodle, and you're wanting to shoot the next Sweaty Betty campaign, that might not be such a great fit.
Because I'm interested in online business and freelancing and entrepreneurship, I've ended up following a bunch of people on Twitter who talk a lot about start-up culture. It's this whole weird little corner of Twitter that sometimes takes itself very seriously, but is also home to some extremely excitable people with unfathomable levels of enthusiasm for talking about this thing called product-market fit.
If you're unfamiliar with this idea, product-market fit is what start-ups are hunting for in the early stages of the company, they want to find a strong market, i.e. enough of the right target customers to sell to. And they need to create the right product to sell to that market. It's basically about connecting the right product to the right customers in the right place. And once they find that product-market fit, the next stage would be to scale that up and find more of those target customers by maybe researching what they need, figuring out how they're actually using the products and where they're hanging out. It's usually an iterative process, because you may have an amazing idea for a product, but find that it's not actually what people want. Or they use it a bit differently to the way that you assumed, or a completely different set of people are using it instead. It's a case of researching, tweaking and refining until you hit the sweet spot.
You might love your product. But if no one wants to buy it, you haven't got a business.
That's basically the idea behind product-market fit. And it's important because customers who love a product will keep coming back. And they'll go out and tell others about it. The company gets retention and referrals without needing this kind of spray and pray approach to marketing. So, this got me thinking, who else loves retention and referrals? Freelancers!
Yeah, you guessed it.
What does product-market fit look like for freelancers? How do we find the right freelancer-client fit or service-client fit? That's what I want to talk about today. It can be tempting to want to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. And when you're just starting out, I do actually think this can be a really valuable process to go through. But at a certain point, you kind of just want the right clients landing in your inbox, don't you? It might seem like a good idea to see that you provide every possible service to every possible client, whenever they need. But in reality that can actually feel like a bit of a nightmare. And I know because I I've done this. Not every client is for you. And you're not for every client either. It's important to find the right chemistry.
I think when you figure out freelancer-client fit, you're on the way to keeping that project pipeline that we talked about in episode one flowing with work that you actually want to do. The marketing will be easier, the sales calls or the intro calls are much easier. And the projects themselves run smoothly and efficiently and just a lot more fulfilling.
What I want to look at today is how do you find that freelancer-client fit or that product-market fit for freelancers? The first thing is to figure out who your ideal client is. For most freelancers, there’s a kind of Venn diagram covering the type of client, the type of project and the budget range that meets your needs. Within each circle of that Venn diagram, you want to be as specific as possible. This will obviously be different depending on what type of business you have.
But for me, as a copywriter, when I think about the type of client, I might consider things like the industry that my ideal clients in, or the size or location of the business, or the brand personality, so whether it's very traditional or a bit more casual, because that will determine the kind of writing that they're looking for, the kind of audience they serve, and so on. You could obviously think about equivalent relevant questions for your own industry.
Then for type of project, I might think about whether I prefer working on website copywriting or articles or writing white papers or email marketing. So you can kind of see what I mean there by thinking about the type of client and the type of project, then when it comes to the budget circle of that Venn diagram, I want to make sure that they have a level of annual recurring revenue, to be able to afford a certain price point and that they value this kind of work enough to invest in it, and so on. When I first started out, I did a lot of copywriting for personal trainers. But not all of them have a huge budget to spend 1000s of pounds on website copywriting. So that wasn't a great freelancer-client fit, as fun as it was.
You can really carve this up however you like. I did an exercise last year actually, where I listed all the projects that I've done over the last year, and then I analysed them by industry, type of project size of client, personality, or working style of the client, the revenue from the project, the time it took me to deliver the project. And then there's a kind of X factor – a sort of general enjoyment factor which can mean whatever you want. I recommend trying something like that. And just seeing like which percentage of your income comes from certain types of projects, and so on to show you where your money is really coming from, and where your time is really going. It can be a bit of an eye opener.
Once you've done that, you can start to prioritise the kind of clients you want to work with going forwards. Because there may be some clients that you love working with, but who don't have the budget, or projects that you really hate working on, but are actually really lucrative, so might be a good idea to keep on your roster somewhere. You need to figure out a balance that works for you.
Once you have narrowed down who your ideal client might be, you need to figure out what they need more so that you can offer the best fit service. Let's say I want to work with biomedical companies that need white papers to help promote a new medical device. I know that's really technical, but this is the niche that I'm in! I could offer straightforward white paper copywriting services. But then maybe I discover that the real sticking point for clients is knowing what to do with the white paper once it's written. This is a question that comes up a lot. They're like, “okay, this is great. But now what do we do?” I could just leave the work there, because I've done my bit. But if I want to provide a service that really meets their needs, I could develop something that helps them distribute and repurpose it so that they get more bang for their buck. It's worth a whole lot more to them than simply getting the thing written.
You can find this out for your clients by noticing the questions that they ask when you're doing projects or when you finish a project. Maybe you could do a survey of your existing clients, maybe research industry publications to see what the trends are. Or simply just asking questions on social media and the places you think your ideal clients might be lurking.
The next step is to validate that it's going to be a viable service. It has to be something you can actually deliver. Have you got the skills? Have you got the time? Have you got the capacity to give them what they need? For example, maybe people want you to create a whole set of social media assets. What if that's not something that you actually have the time or inclination to do? It's fine to know that they need it, but you maybe need to partner with someone else to deliver that.
Some questions you might want to consider here are whether you need to cut out some services bring on a partner to fill the skills gap, or some other way of reorganising what you do in order to scale up the service.
The next step is to figure out the price point that makes sense for you, bearing in mind all of your overheads, your expertise, your time and of course the value that you're delivering. Don't forget that bit. But it still needs to hit the sweet spot of being an amount that your clients are going to be able to afford and want to invest.
Remember with all of this, the mantra that I like to work with is about simplicity. I always ask, what would this look like if it were easy? What would this look like if it were easy? If it's getting complicated, I go back to the drawing board and look at a slightly different market or a different service that I offer.
Then from all of that, the next step is to develop your value proposition. That is the big headline statement that says what you do, for whom, and how it benefits them. That might be something that you put on the top of your website. And you need to communicate that in all the places where your clients hang out. You have to keep reviewing and researching and refining to make sure that it meets their needs.
It sounds like a lot of work, but you could probably make decent headway by just setting aside an hour or so and reviewing your clients and projects and revenue over the last year as a starting point. Ultimately, once you figure out this freelancer-client fit, it’s going to be so much easier to market yourself in the right way, and attract the right clients, which obviously is what we're here for.
Let me just summarise those points again, because I know that was a lot. To figure out freelancer-client fit, you need to know:
Who is your ideal client?
What do they need most?
How can you give that to them?
How can you price that in a way that works for you both?
Develop your value proposition and communicate it in the places where your clients hang out.
Keep reviewing and refining it.
And remember, it's your business. You get to decide. You're not obliged to go through this process. You're not obliged to offer specific services. Just because you're a web designer doesn't mean you need to follow the same path as every other freelance web designer. You get to decide. You get to choose which clients you work with, and what service you offer to them.
I hope that this has given you a bit of food for thought about what freelancer-client fit might look like for you. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, please find me on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn and let me know if you've got any questions that you'd like me to cover in future episodes.
Thank you, and see you next time. You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me, Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want answered on the podcast find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing!