One of the joys of freelancing is the control you have over who you take on as clients, how you present yourself, and more. One of the aggravations of freelancing is, well, the same stuff as the joys. In particular, many freelancers have a hard time describing what they do in a way that not only helps attract prospects, but referrals from people who can connect you to great prospects. This makes it much harder to grow your business.

For example, over a million people live here in Austin. Anecdotally, it seems half of them are freelance web designers. When I meet one, I always ask what their ideal client would be, so I can make appropriate referrals. The answer I usually get is, “Anyone with a website. Or, if they don’t have a website, they can really use my help.” There’s no way to refer this person, especially not with dozens of other people saying the same thing.

So step one if defining a target market that makes it easy to know if you’re part of the tribe or not. Rather than anyone with or without a website, a category so broad as to be meaningless, what if you said, “I help people with pet-related websites make more sales.” This makes it easy to know if you’re part of the tribe. It also makes it easy to recommend to a friend who is part of the tribe. (You could even narrow it further to “dogs”, or “cats”, or whatever.)

This is a great step. The goal is not to get a sale, or even a meeting. It’s just to get people who might be interested to say, “Oh, really? That’s cool. How do you do that?”

Then, instead of saying something generic like, “I make sure I focus on what you really need”, you can say “we make it super easy for your customers to upload and share videos of them with their pets, which they then share to their friends”, or whatever.

You can go a step deeper and talk about the typical approach people have used to solve this problem and why it doesn’t work (“people use a lot of paid ads, but they keywords have gotten so expensive it’s hard to make any money”). And even offer a snippet of backstory that helps people connect to you on a human level (“When I first learned to code, my dog Rusty was always bugging me to go outside. He never seemed to get it until I could make pictures of him show up on my screen.”)

I have a lot of these types of conversations with my clients, so I created a web page where you can enter in some “Mad Libs” style answers and generate some simple positioning language that you can use in person and online.

Spend a few minutes and have some fun. There’s even a version you can use that saves your answers and lets you collaborate with friends, colleagues, clients, coaches, etc. This will help you have more effective conversations, both in person and online, leading to more clients and more interesting work. People frequently ask if this means they have to turn away work that’s not in the exact niche. You can still do those projects! People can still refer you for them. And, if you have a strong, interesting message, they are more likely to make the mental leap to connect your work to their needs than if you’re a generic “website person”.



Article brought to you by Reuben Swartz, the founder of Mimiran, the CRM tool for people who want more clients but hate sales, and the host of the Sales for Nerds podcast. He also led the “Proposals the Right Way” session at #FREECON18. He has a set of free resources for freelancers.