Jun 23 / Matt Saunders

How to Identify Your Ideal Client (3-Step Process)

Earn more money working with people who respect and trust you. It all begins by zeroing in on that perfect client.
Want to identify your ideal client so you can stop working with anyone and everyone? Tired of taking on any old customer just to pay the bills?

As a business coach I've helped hundreds of freelancers identify and target their ideal clients so they can build businesses they truly love. 

In this article I'm going to share the exact 3 step process I follow with my clients to help you identify your ideal client.

This exercise is perfect for solo businesses and freelancers, but can also be applied to micro agencies and co-founders.

This is deep, important work that will stand you in good stead for years to come. The vast majority of small businesses owners don't have clarity on their ideal client, so they stay stuck in a perpetual cycle of taking on the wrong work. And every time they tell themselves that next time it will be different. Don't let that be you. 
The Dream Client Playbook

Attract higher quality clients

Want to find more clients for your freelance business? You'll find an end-to-end system in The Dream Client Playbook.

How to identify your ideal client

  1. Determine the things you care about
  2. Define what this means to your business
  3. Describe how this shows up in your ideal client's world

Step 1: Determine the things you care about

After 300+ hours working with freelancers to help them establish their business, guess what consistently ranks as highly important?

Enjoyment. Flow. Ease. 

Truth is, most small business owners aren't in it for mega bucks. They just want a nice business that earns them a solid living.

There is nothing wrong with prioritising freedom and joy above profitability, but it does mean that identifying those ideal customers is absolutely critical to your success. There is little point in running a business that neither buys you a super yacht nor brings you joy.

Ideally you'd have both, but if it's joy you're going for, you'll need to get into alignment with your clients. You must meet them at the level of core values, so let's begin by exploring what to look for in a great client.

Values - the bedrock of client relationships

When I speak with freelancers about finding your ideal client, they don't want to commit to a niche or a market sector. Instead, they tell me they want to work with nice people; people who aren't dicks. 

Fair enough.

But what does that actually look like? If somebody isn't a dick, what are they? This is where your values come in.

Values are essentially the things that a person cares about. This influences how they behave. The more aligned your values are with your clients, the better you'll get along. The more "ideal" they will be as a client. Take a look at some of the example values below to see if any resonate with you.
  • Ambitious
  • Visionary
  • Authentic
  • Spiritual
  • Courageous
  • Fun
  • Independent
  • Traditional
  • Optimistic
  • Warm
  • Progressive
  • Conservative
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Savvy
  • Focused
  • Practical
  • Family-oriented
Are you nodding at any of these values? Can you think of any more that might apply to you? (my book contains a deep-dive values exercise if you'd like to explore this in more detail).

Step 1 task: write down 5-7 values that your perfect client must possess. Next up, we'll expand on each to so we can deepen our understanding.

Step 2: Define what your values mean

Do you know what's magic about this exercise? The values you've written down for your ideal customers are probably your values.

Like attracts like. Your dream client probably shares similar interests and goals to you. Knowing this is the first step toward finding those people and projects that just flow.

Now let's take a look at what each value actually means. For each value complete the sentence "I define this as..."

Here are some examples to get you started:
Value: Ambitious

I define this as: Ready and able to invest in their personal growth and in the growth of their business.
Value: Optimistic

I define this as: They're positive and good-humoured. During times of hardship their positivity helps them see a way out.
Are you starting to see how these values are relevant to your business relationships? If not, think about a person from your past or present whom you admire. What is it about them that you like?

Unfortunately, most people spend most of their time judging others, focusing on the negative. This is not a great mentality to take into freelancing or business ownership. Great projects start with your ability to take a more positive and open-minded view.

Step 2 task: for each value complete the sentence "I define this as..."

Step 3: Describe how this shows up in your ideal client's world

So far we have listed out the values we look for in our perfect clients (which will probably chime with what we care about, too) and we have expanded on each value with a definition. Great work! 

In this final step we are going to put the pieces together so you can not only identify but also find your ideal clients. You'll now answer the question "How does this show up on my prospect's website or LinkedIn profile?" Here are the examples above expanded further to answer this .
Value: Ambitious

I define this as: Ready and able to invest in their personal growth and in the growth of their business.

How does this show up on my prospect's website or LinkedIn profile?

  • They talk publicly about their results, awards and achievements
  • Their marketing materials are professionally designed
  • They are consistently active in marketing their business (regular social posts and blog entries)
  • Their work history shows a clear progression
  • They have a team
Value: Optimistic

I define this as:
They're positive and good-humoured. During times of hardship their positivity helps them see a way out.

How does this show up on my prospect's website or LinkedIn profile?

  • They don’t complain, and if they do it is constructive and intelligent rather than emotional and destructive
  • They tend to find a positive spin on "bad" news
  • They're early-adopters, making use of new tech before anyone else
  • They give away advice and resources for free
  • Their work tends to be high-end and expansive, indicating a significant investment
As a coach people ask me all the time "how do I find clients?"

Well, the 3-step process I have outlined here is a fantastic starting point. Not only will this help you find potential clients, it will also draw you towards those with whom you resonate. Great businesses are built on great relationships. Here's how to put that into practice right now:

  1. Head over to LinkedIn
  2. Search for "marketing director", "CEO" or whatever title the decision-maker might carry
  3. Browse their profiles and posts, keeping an eye out for the ways in which your target values show up
  4. Comment on one of their posts then send a connection request
  5. After a day or two drop them a message to introduce yourself (HINT: don't pitch slap them - watch the video below for some tips on how to do cold outreach on LinkedIn)

Frequently asked questions

Why identify your ideal client?

Simply put: getting clients as a service-based business isn't difficult. You could fire off 100 cold emails and probably land a couple of projects. But this approach does not tend to yield high value work. The best, most highly-paid projects are born from strong business relationships. And to achieve this, you need to find business owners who share your values. Knowing your values enables you to turn down the wrong sort of work and attract only the best-fit projects. You can only do this consistently if you take the time to identify your best-fit client.

What is an example of an ideal client?

In general you should be seeking people who:

  • Have a problem that your skills can solve
  • Are able and willing to invest in solving that problem

The specific definition of an ideal client is personal to you. You may be motivated to help businesses in the healthcare space, having experienced poor health yourself. Or perhaps you want to work with solopreneurs because you love the flexible nature of freelancing. The values exercise in this article will help give you a framework for identifying and targeting your ideal clients.

What is a successful client relationship?

In my experience the best projects come from solid client relationships. This means:

  • Mutual trust and respect
  • Clear goals from the outset
  • Sufficient time and money investment

The good news is that when you work with your ideal clients, the points above simply happen naturally. You don't need to fight for budget or respect because those things come as a natural byproduct of working with those you gel with.

Time to find your ideal clients

The reason this 3-step process is so powerful is because it is an expression of who you are. Beautiful businesses are born from the inside out. So to find those dream clients, we begin by looking inward. And that is what this process facilitates. Determine your values, define what they mean, describe how they show up in your target client.

Most businesses don't go this deep. That is why there is so much misalignment out there in the business world. But if you do this work, you'll build a unique, values-led business that will serve you for many years to come.

If you'd like to get more examples of how to attract inbound leads from your ideal clients be sure to check out my book The Dream Client Playbook. It costs just £5 and comes with a money-back guarantee if it doesn't wow your socks off.
Created with