If you want a satisfying and fulfilling freelance career it’s really important to have clients that you enjoy working with – because there’s no point in leaving a (horribly unfulfilling, tedious but secure) full-time job to still be miserable at work! A great client is a truly wonderful thing and they’re actually not as hard to find as you might think.
How to get great clients
I’ve already written extensively about different types of nightmare clients and how to manage them as well as showing you what a good client actually looks like.
So now it’s time to focus on only having the good ones!
Here’s what you need to do:
1) Identify who you want to work with
First, you need to know what a good client looks like to you because knowing what you do and don’t want will make finding them a whole lot easier.
I know some VAs who just love scatty vague creative clients but I personally like to work with very organised professionals who know exactly what they want, when they want it, how much they want to spend and how they want the results to be delivered.
I love clients who get the benefits of outsourcing and who treat me as a valued support partner. I want to help someone achieve the business objectives they have already set themselves and working with scatty types stresses me out and makes me unhappy.
So I choose not to work with them.
After you’ve been freelancing for a while you’ll have more of an idea of the types of people you like working with, but if you’ve never worked with a real-life client before, have a good think about the different types of personalities you’ve worked alongside throughout your career and which ones you found easy or hard to work with.
It may help to start two lists so you can at least see what types of personalities or communication methods you don’t gel well with. It will also help you to look at the lists of the traits in my bad client blog post to get some pointers.
2) Realise that you do not have to work with everyone who wants to hire you
I know this sounds absolutely mad if you’re new at this whole freelancing thing, but more established VAs will have strategically manoeuvred themselves into a situation where they can pick and choose their clients – which is what you want to also achieve as you go forward.
Now I’m fully aware that this probably won’t register with you at this particular moment and I know you’ll ignore my advice, but it will completely make sense once you’ve been your own boss for a while!
Because a bad client can actually destroy your business.
If you have a client who undermines your confidence, leads you to question your abilities and makes you constantly chase them for payment, you may start to question whether you even want to work for yourself.
And you need to avoid that at all costs.
3) Now replicate
If you already have a client you love working with (either as a freelancer or through your job) or a manager you have worked well with in the past, then you just need to find more of the same.
Because it is much easier to replicate a client than to find a new one.
There’s a thing called the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) that states 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.
In fact, this principle works for pretty much everything – you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time, 80% of your enquiries will come from 20% of your marketing, 80% of your income will come from 20% of your clients, 80% of your stress will come from 20% of your friends/family/clients/colleagues etc.
The objective is to focus on enhancing what’s working and to eliminate, mitigate or reduce everything that isn’t.
So if you have a client or manager who you like working with (either because of the tasks they give you or because of the way they communicate etc) then you need to study them hard so you can replicate them.
You then need to identify LinkedIn groups they’re in, professional bodies they’re members of, Twitter accounts they follow, events they speak at or attend, publications they read, and so forth.
Then look in those places for more of the same.
For example – I love working with Social Media Consultants and Digital Marketers so I research and then contact similar people saying who I work with, what tasks I do and what benefits my clients receive by getting me to do them. I then point them to a case study (if I have one) and some testimonials.
The target prospect can now see that I work with people just like them and what tasks I can take off their hands. They can also see that I know my stuff by the industry-specific terminology I use plus they have evidence that I’m good at what I do.
So once you know who you’re looking for and why you can go after them. And if you already have one great client then it’s pretty easy to get more of them.
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