Whether you’re a financial consultant or a session musician, your ability to consistently line up new work or bigger scopes of work is paramount to the success of your solo career. Defining your client profile is one of the best top-to-bottom strategies for attracting new clients, and not just any new clients – the best ones you could possibly work with.

A client profile is a specific list of characteristics that define your ideal customer  – what they buy, how they act, the way they dress, and where they hang out (online and in real life). Having a conscious outline of these attributes gives you the knowledge to pursue the clients you really want in the most targeted way possible.

Creating the client profile: start with what you have

The best place to start with your client profile is to look at the people right under your nose (your current clients!). Which qualities make some of these individuals “model clients?” Knowing what you want more of, and also what you don’t want more of are vital insights to keep in mind at all times.

Here’s a concise process for generating your client profile:

Make a bulleted list of positive and negative traits of each of your clients – How profitable are they? How long have they stuck with you? Are they responsible? Are they pleasant to work with, and do you like the work you do for them?.

Describe their brands – Who are they really? Which industries do they belong to? What do they look like? What do they like to do recreationally? What is their age demographic? What do they excel at? Where do they need help?

Make a master list – Highlight the traits from your pro-and-con lists that most speak to your ideal client vision and consolidate them into a master list (these are their VERY best traits in your opinion, so not too many items here – and not all of your clients will have them).

• Identify the correlations – For any client you pulled a “best trait” from, include their brand summary below this master list. Look for overlap between their brand descriptions and in a few sentences describe the picture these combined attributes create. – You now have your client profile.

Think in terms of your client profile’s needs

With your client profile in mind, you’re now ready to find your new prospects. But before you go off pitching yourself to potential clients, shift your perspective from “I” to “you.”

We live our lives in the first-person. “I will do this for you — I’m great at that . . .” In the credential-crazed gig economy, we talk about ourselves non-stop and it’s not to our benefit. Business strategist and mentor Richa Jain illustrates the problem with this kind of thinking in her recent Envato blog.

In the pitch, they [freelancers] talk endlessly about themselves, about how great they are — with statements like: “I can create a website for you. I code perfectly compliant HTML and CSS3. I know JavaScript, AJAX and PHP. As a bonus, I’ll make your site responsive.”

Does that look like a winning pitch?

Hint: It isn’t.

Successfully pitching yourself to clients means finding the meaningful intersection between their challenges and your abilities, and making the important leap to explaining exactly how your skills and planning amount to problems solved for their businesses.

Which kinds of problems does every new cafe have that you can solve? What kind of creative thinking is missing in the marketing of most tech startups? Your pitch will stand out if it focuses on specific concerns that are real to your desired clients. Consider interviewing some of your best clients to sharpen your understanding of these needs.

Do your clients live locally? Find ways to connect in person

Because your client profile has characterized the places your dream prospects likely hang out, you can now create some valuable opportunities to connect with them in person. All businesses benefit from expanding their networks and acquiring some new skills. Local gathering spots also like having more warm bodies coming through their doors – this means opportunity for you.

Coffee shops, bookstores and restaurants are typically very happy to host events for other local businesses – often at no expense to the solo. So, hosting a web development explainer lunch at a trendy restaurant/bar could really pay off for your brand.

How many business owners hate the confusion of making micro changes to their websites and wish they could be more self-sufficient — pretty much all of them. This is a great chance to sweep them off their feet, and make yourself their first call when they realize that whatever project they had in mind is well above their time and ability.

Luxury events consultant and co-founder of EventChic Pauline Brooks posted an excellent instructional blog that details how solopreneurs can organize low-cost and low-stress events to grow their businesses.

Where does your client profile live online? Engage them in their domain

Of course playing the in-person card isn’t always practical, especially in the gig economy. Many of your dream prospects will live time zones away, but this, of course, shouldn’t stop you. If you did the exercise above, then you should have a very clear sense as to where your ideal clients spend their time online. You can capitalize on these insights by:

  • Following prospect on Twitter and opening a conversation by responding to and sharing their tweets.
  • Joining LinkedIn groups where your desired clients spend their time, and posting information, articles and your own content that might be of use to them. And do some “LinkedIn Peeping!”
  • Examining potential clients’ Facebook pages and websites and offering them your recommendations in a low pressure, no-obligation consultation.
  • Showing them your expertise on Quora by answering their questions or commenting on their answers.
  • Finding industry-specific forums relevant to your client profile and establishing yourself within them.
  • Not underestimating the power of email — Email is still the most direct way to reach most of the people you want to connect with, and many high-ranking professionals make their contact information very public. Sending an email to let a prospect know that you love their brand or have promoted their work can start a very fruitful conversation.

Also on this subject:  Is Your Email Etiquette Lousy? Shape It Up!

Is your client not fully informed? Reel them in with “un-refusable” content

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a client profile that isn’t quite in-the-know. Many interruptive businesses capitalize on needs clients initially didn’t realize they had. But if this is the case for you, you need to educate your prospects in order to get the gig.

A few months ago I needed to do some research into best SEO practices for lawyers. By chance I stumbled upon an insanely detailed guide to carrying out and measuring a full SEO campaign for law practices by a company in Miami called Webris. In the introduction to this epic explainer, Webris CEO Ryan Stewart says:

Thing is, I know you’re not going to read the whole thing. My attorney clients barely have time to answer their emails, let alone read a 3,000 word SEO guide. So why did I spend 20 hours writing it? I could’ve written the standard post like every other “SEO expert” in 1/100th of the time. I’m not like every other SEO expert. The only way to prove that is to show you.

This post is my sales pitch.

Stewart isolated a problem he knew his clientele was having (search engine rankings) and educated them on the specifics of his solution (or gave them the choice to become educated on it). While it wasn’t quick work, in one fell swoop he produced a great piece of sharable content, and one that makes his credibility undeniable and distinguishes him in a very competitive field.

This is the point of all client profile strategies — to make yourself look so qualified to potential clients that they would have to be crazy not to hire you. If you give out the recipe, chances are many people will be happy to have you do the cooking.

Hyper-targeted follow up emails and email courses are also very effectively ways to educate your clientele (and convert them into new clients).

Is your client type analytical? Show them that you’re a little picky

If your client profile is savvy and rarely sends an email without ROI mentioned somewhere in the body, then they’re probably looking for collaborators that meet them on that wavelength.

If this client type pitches you on a project, you’ll earn their favor by showing them that you are similarly discerning and want to assess the value of the project for them before committing.

This deeply psychological method is counter intuitive, but extremely effective if carried out convincingly. Curtis McHale’s guide, “Convincing Clients Not to Do Projects (And Getting More Consulting Work),” is a must-read if this strategy speaks to your client profile.

Show Them You Get It

Working with a client profile is a win-win. Sharpening your target clientele saves you time and energy in your efforts to attract new clients, helps you create a niche, and makes you far more desirable to your most relevant prospects. It shows them that you took the time to understand their needs and positioned yourself to give them the best results possible.

You can’t be everything to everyone, and you shouldn’t be. Get specific and show your dream clients that you get them like no one else can.

Ben Shanbrom is a freelance writer, musician, and copy editor who works with artists and clients within his native New Haven scene and well beyond (ask him about tracking drums in the studio where Europe recorded “The Final Countdown”). Ben is a tried and true “coffee rings on his notepad” freelancer, and wouldn’t have it any other way.