Let me guess:
You’re new to freelancing right? Then you likely have tons of questions. These questions are usually along the lines of:
What do I need to get started?
Where do I find my first clients?
Why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?
There’s no doubt that you need pointing in the right direction, but before anyone can tell you what you need to get started or where to go, you need to first define the type of person you’re hoping to work with.
Think of your target market as your ideal client. It’s the type of person you built your business for — the ones who will pay for your services.
Unfortunately, too many freelancers jump into offering services before considering who’s going to be buying it, and it’s not as easy as looking at who is buying from other freelancers because you have your own set of skills and expertise.
You can’t just market to “everyone,” either. In the words of fellow freelancer Brent Jones, “when your branding speaks to everyone, it speaks to no one.”
Knowing who your target market is will help you:
· Determine how and where to promote your services
· Refine your message to attract the right type of client
· Maximize sales and command higher rates
Essentially, going through this process saves you time and money on marketing because you’ll have a better idea of how to connect with those who will buy from you. You can also charge more for your expertise in a specific industry.
Start with the following tips to help draw a clear picture of your target market.
Define the Problems You Solve
As a freelancer, you don’t just offer a service; you solve a problem.
People don’t just hire freelance designers because they want a pretty website. They hire them to optimize their design for user-friendliness and higher conversion rates.
People don’t hire freelance writers because they like reading their web copy. They hire them to help rank higher on search engines, to drive web traffic, and to make sales.
See where I’m going with this?
It’s not just about the service. It’s about the benefit.
Once you’ve defined what benefits you offer, you can get a better idea of who would hire you to solve their problems.
For example, I don’t just write content for businesses. I attract traffic, engage readers, and convert visitors. I also help bloggers save time by writing their content for them.
Those benefits have helped me realize that I’m a great fit to write for digital marketing blogs.
Start by listing out the types of problems you solve, and then beside each one, list who struggles with that problem. Big businesses? Small businesses? Individuals on a budget? In what industry? In what country? Don’t be afraid to dig deep.
Consider Who Other Freelancers Are Targeting
Is there a freelancer you look up to? Then you could draw inspiration from them. You can use this technique to define both where you want to go and where you don’t want to go with your business.
Let’s say you’re a freelance social media marketer. You might connect with other marketers and see that one of your connections is specializing in marketing for financial bloggers.
You realize you love reading finance blogs and would be thrilled to work with people in this niche. You now have a better idea of who you might target your services to.
On the other hand, let’s say you connect with a marketer who is managing social profiles for big businesses of 1,000 employees or more.
Perhaps you don’t feel you have the skills or interest to work with big businesses. Now you can cross that target market off your list of possibilities.
As you are going through this process, keep an eye out for niches other freelancers may have overlooked. You may be able to tap into a target market that few people are servicing. The idea here isn’t to copy what other freelancers are doing but to use them as inspiration.
Look Internally at Your Skills and Services
No two freelancers are exactly the same, so you may not necessarily be a fit for certain markets even though others like you work with those markets.
Look internally at your own skills and business. Do you have experience working with a specific market? Do you have special skills that would appeal to a certain type of person? Do you have unique knowledge or training in a specific area?
Are there any skills you don’t have that would rule out a specific market?
For example, if you’re a designer with the skills to build custom WordPress blogs, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can build a full e-commerce platform for the next Fortune 500 company.
When I started freelance writing, I chose the education and parenting niches because I have a degree in psychology and have twins. As my business grew and so did my knowledge, I transitioned to targeting digital marketing clients because I had developed the unique knowledge to service them.
Let’s say you worked as a nurse before going freelance. You have a good chance of attracting healthcare clients, whether you’re writing, marketing, assisting, or designing for them.
Don’t think you have any specialities that relate to your industry? Even if you don’t have formal education in a specific area, you should be able to narrow special skills or interests you have that will appeal to a specific market. Here are some examples you may not have thought of:
· Kate Ahl uses her time to create a podcast as a way to get her brand, message and Pinterest management service out to the masses.
· Freelance web designer Ryan Gittings leverages his geographical location (London and Hereford) to attract clients in the UK.
· Freelance photographer Jennifer Pallian uses her background in food and nutrition to provide images for food companies.
Narrow Your Target Audience’s Demographics and Psychographics
Once you have a feel for who will buy your product and who you want to work with, it’s important to narrow the demographics and psychographics of your audience. This will paint a clearer picture of who you’re marketing to.
· Geographical location
· Education level
· Income level
· Values and beliefs
Knowing these attributes will give you a better idea of where your target audience hangs out (so you can find and market to them), what features of your service will be most interesting to them, and what drives them to make decisions.
A good practice is to draw a “buyer persona” of your audience. Essentially, this is a description of a semi-fictional person within your target market. A buyer persona has a fictional age, name, job title, etc., but this character’s persona is based on real research about your target market and existing clients.
Evaluate the Market You’ve Defined
Before you can give your buyer persona the final stamp of approval, you have to evaluate whether the target market you’ve defined is a viable one. Ask yourself questions like:
Are there enough people in this market to keep my business afloat? If you’re a web designer targeting lawyers in your city of residence, you may have to expand your geographical target area to find enough clients.
Does my target audience see a need for my service? If you’re a freelance blogger targeting mom and pop restaurants, they may not see the value in blogging and may be hard to convince.
Can my target audience afford my services? If you’re a social media marketer targeting other freelancers, you may have a hard time finding those with budgets large enough to hire you for on-going work.
Are they easy to reach? If you can’t make contact with your target audience, they’ll never know your services exist. Be sure your ideal audience is accessible, ideally through an online platform if you’ll be working remotely.
Would I enjoy working with this market? One of the great things about being a freelancer is that you have control over who you work with. So just because you have the background as a paralegal, for instance, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy working for legal clients. Consider what will make you happy in your career.
Wrapping It Up
Identifying your target market isn’t just about picking what type of person you want to work with. It’s also about determining who is most likely to buy from you. But if your target audience doesn’t seem to “fit” with your offer, you’re either targeting the wrong market or you’re making the wrong offer.
Remember: You can have multiple target markets, and you can change who you market to as your business and skills evolve.
If you’re struggling to identify your target market as a new freelancer, I want you to put the above tips to practice. Organize your questions and ideas in a Word document, spreadsheet, or other areas to really dig into the suggestions laid out here.
Look deep into your target market to effectively figure out your path as a freelancer.