Oct 26 / Matt Saunders

Ask These 5 Questions to Identify Your Ideal Client

Want to be more intentional and strategic in your business? It starts by identifying your ideal client.
One of the biggest psychological blockers that my 1:1 clients show up with is that they cannot seem to pin down their "ideal client", no matter how hard they try. As a consequence they end up working with anyone who comes their way, all the while wishing their approach to business was a little more strategic and intentional.

If this sounds like you, I have good news! I'm going to share with you a few questions to think about in order to shed light on who your ideal client could be. Approaching these questions with an open and curious mind will get you closer to finding clients with whom you resonate, who share your worldview and who respect your values.

5 questions to ask yourself

Man thinking sitting at laptop drinking coffee
Important: these questions are not necessarily here for you to answer. They are designed to help you think constructively. Allow them to sink into your subconscious mind and ask them regularly over the course of a few weeks. Your subconscious will begin patching together the answers that will help you to better "see" what you're looking for.

Make sense? Then let's dig in!

1. What motivates you?

At the foundation of any action we take is a desire. But often, that desire is to escape pain or discomfort. When I first started freelancing in 2009, I did so to escape from the 9-5. But it turned out that this motivation was not enough. I needed something to move toward, not just away from. So, what are you motivated toward?

Consider this question from the perspective of what your answer actually means. For example, many people say they want "freedom". But there is freedom FROM (e.g. a boss, a 9-5, a commute) and there is freedom TO, which could be to work a 4 day week, so you can spend more time with your family.

As a solo worker it's really important to understand the motivation behind your choices. With this awareness, you can connect with others who resonate on a similar wavelength. These people are your ideal clients, partners, staff and friends.

2. What would you LOVE to tell people you do?

In my first stint as a freelancer I would rock up to networking events and when people asked "so what do you do?" I would quite sheepishly respond "I'm a web designer".

Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, it did lead the conversation to something of a dead end. But when I niched into building websites for small charities, it opened up the conversation massively. I could proudly tell people I was building a business for impact. I could share the projects and causes I was supporting. This felt great!

So close your eyes and picture the scene: you meet someone new and they ask what you do. What would put a smile on your face? What would you love to say? Do not worry if it is different from what you are currently doing, this is all part of the process.

3. What could be your mission?

The main problem for freelancers is they take on the wrong sort of projects with the wrong sort of people. I believe that when you find alignment in your business, everything changes for the better.

By alignment I simply mean: what do you care about? What change do you want to be a part of? Your mission does not need to be world-changing. It just needs to mean something to you, something that you can feel. What is it about your work that you love and respect the most? Don't be coy here - when you dig into your mission and talk about it, it will call out others who believe and want the same things as you. These are your ideal clients.
[Above] My mission as a small business coach

4. What would be a genuinely exciting inbound lead?

Imagine a lead drops into your inbox. What would you LOVE to see? What would get you so excited that you can't wait to get into a call with them? If it helps, close your eyes and imagine an email coming in. What's the subject line? How long is the message? Are there any particular words in the text that stand out? Who is it from? Revisit this one regularly.

5. What topic could you give a 5 minute talk on with very little preparation?

Public speaking fears aside, this question focuses the mind on what is already present. What subjects do you know relatively well, are interested in and could confidently talk about without a detailed slide deck? Once again, by leaning into your internal motivators and interests, you can begin to infuse this into your marketing so you can call out clients with a similar story.
[Above] a variation of this question is "what would you do if you had £100k in the bank?" This question helps focus the mind on possibility and growth, rather than scarcity and short-termism.

How to apply your findings 

Neon sign saying "change"
Finding your ideal clients starts with understanding yourself. You cannot reliably and repeatedly call in the type of people and projects that will light you up unless you first know what drives you.

To begin applying what you uncover by exploring these questions, here are a few suggestions:

  • Start talking about what interests you on social media. Don't overthink it, or worry about trying to sell. Just write about what interests you and look out for those who engage more than a couple of times and connect with them.
  • Use some variation of your answer to question #2 in your LinkedIn headline and/or on your website/portfolio. You get back what you put out - so start talking about the stuff you'd LOVE to do.
  • Start saying "no" to clients who are obviously wrong. You'll never make space for what's truly important if you just keep repeating the behaviour that has gotten you to where you are today.

In case you're in any doubt, this stuff works. But you need to work it. Keep the questions in mind, allow yourself to ponder on them regularly, and take action whenever you feel the urge. With this approach, you'll find yourself moving closer and closer to what you really want.

If you enjoyed this article I go into a lot more depth in my book The Dream Client Playbook which you can download here for just £5.
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