How to Get Your Ideal Freelance Clients

ideal clientsClient-focused marketing shows you understand the needs of your ideal clients and highlights the benefits they get when they work with you.

Ideal clients pay freelancers well, give us steady work that we enjoy, and treat us with respect. And when we work with our ideal clients, we do better work and are happier—and this attracts more ideal clients.

So how do you attract your ideal clients?

The answer is simple:

Focus on them, not you.

Yet, most freelancers don’t do this. “One of the biggest mistakes I see creative professionals making in their own self-promotion is talking only about themselves and their work,” says Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun. I see this all of the time too.

Attract Your Ideal Clients by Focusing on their Needs

I’ll be blunt. Clients only care about what we can do for them.  That’s why we need to understand their needs and then do what I call client-focused marketing.

Client-focused marketing focuses on the needs of your clients and how you can meet their needs. And it highlights the benefits they get when they work with you.

Know the Needs of Your Ideal Clients

So how do you know what your ideal clients need? Figuring this out isn’t as hard as you probably think it is.

Clients have 3 types of needs:

  1. General
  2. Freelancer-specific
  3. Target market or company-specific.

Learning about the general and freelancer-specific needs is easy.

General Needs

Common general, or big picture, needs of clients include:

  • Get more business (usually by selling more products or services)
  • Make more money (also by selling more products or services but the language you’ll use to attract these clients may be somewhat different)
  • Help their clients build their businesses
  • Be seen as a thought leader
  • Educate and inform people
  • Stay on budget and on deadline.

If you focus on getting more business or making more money, break this down into the way the target market does this. Here are some examples of general needs for different target markets.

  • Hospitals need to get more patients in a competitive marketplace (get more business).
  • Communications agencies need to help their clients get more business, make more money, and stay on budget and on deadline.
  • Non-profit organizations need to educate and inform people, get more funding (this is the non-profit version of making more money), and stay on budget.

Freelancer-Specific Needs

Freelancer-specific needs start with working with freelancers who are excellent at what they do (writing, editing, etc.). You don’t always need experience in the type of work the client is looking for help with, but you do need to have experience that’s relevant to the type of work or the client’s industry.

Making the client’s life easier is the key overall need of all clients. Here are other things that clients need from freelancers.

ideal clients

Target Market and Company-Specific Needs

Target market needs and company-specific needs take more time to learn about. Port defines a target market as “the group of people you serve,” in Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling. Target markets are groups of clients (usually part of an industry) that you work with or want to work with.

Examples of target markets are:

  • Medical writing and editing: Hospitals/health systems, medical communication agencies, and medical education agencies
  • Financial services: Banks, investment banks, investment companies, and personal finance.

Professional associations are an easy way to to learn about target market needs. They offer great resources and give you opportunities to network with people in your target markets and other freelancers working with clients in your target markets.

Also, follow industry news. There’s lots of great free information on the web. Easy ways to learn and stay updated include Google alerts, email newsletters like Smart Briefs, and online publications and websites in your industries and target markets.

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Know Your Industries and Target Markets

Even more important than knowing your ideal client’s general and freelance-specific needs is knowing your industries and target markets.

Choose the Right Specialty

That’s why you need to specialize.

Your ideal clients want to work with freelancers who understand them and have the expertise to meet their needs and solve their problems. These freelancers are specialists.

As a specialist, you’ll also make more money, because you can choose:

  • Clients who can pay freelancers well
  • Industries and target markets with lots of opportunity now and in the future.

Specializing by industry, like healthcare or technology, is the easiest way to find your ideal clients and learn about them.

To illustrate this, let’s look at my work. I’m a freelance medical writer so my industry is health and healthcare. Within health and healthcare, my target markets are hospitals, large medical practices, disease-focused health organizations, and communications agencies working in healthcare. Each of these target markets has different needs, although industry trends usually impact most or all of my target markets.

Choosing your specialty takes time and effort. But it’s worth it—because having the right specialty will make it much easier to attract your ideal clients and build a stable, successful freelance business.

Learn about Your Industries and Target Markets

Like choosing your specialty, learning about your industries and target markets takes time and effort.

Professional associations are a great way to learn about your industries and target markets—and to easily find ideal clients through membership directories. All professional associations have resources, many of which are only available to members, to help you learn about your target market and stay updated on what’s happening in the industry.

By networking with people at events and online, you’ll also learn about industry, target market, and client-specific needs. And you can build a strong network that will help you get more referrals, especially at live conferences and other events.

Industry news, reports on trends, blog posts, podcasts, etc. also help you learn about the needs of your ideal clients. Find some good resources and sign up for their email lists.

Learn about Individual Ideal Clients

Learning about the needs of each ideal client isn’t hard or time consuming. Just spend a few minutes on each ideal client’s website. The “Home” and “About” pages usually have all of the information you need.

So for each target market, visit the websites of about 10 of your ideal clients. Take some notes about each client’s mission/vision/values and needs, and the key language they use.  When you look at this for about 10 clients in a target market, you should see some themes and language (words or phrases) that you can use in your marketing to attract them.

Show that You Understand Your Ideal Clients

Now you’re ready to develop the client-focused marketing that will help you get your ideal clients. Answer the question “What Is In It For Me?” and focus on the benefits clients get when they work with you.

Choose a few needs to focus on in your marketing. Then develop your key client-focused marketing messages. Use these on your LinkedIn profile and website and in direct email.

ideal clients

To illustrate this, here’s an example from my freelance business.


Targeted Medical Content. On time. Every time.

Website headline:

Targeted Medical Content that Attracts, Engages, and Motivates Your Audiences

My tagline and my website headline help me attract my ideal clients by quickly and clearly showing them that I understand their needs and can help them meet those needs. Here’s how I’ve used client needs to focus my marketing:

General need:

  • Stay on deadline

Freelancer-specific need:

  • Work with freelancers who can meet deadlines

Industry-specific need:

  • Get more business

Target market need:

  • Hospitals: Get more business by getting more patients
  • Health care marketing agencies: Get more business by helping their clients build their businesses
  • Disease-focused associations: Get more business by educating and informing more people.

Benefits clients get when they work with me:

“Targeted Medical Content that Attracts, Engages, and Motivates Your Audiences” shows I can help clients get more business.

“On time. Every time.” shows I help clients meet their deadlines.

Thrive by Working with Your Ideal Clients

Developing client-focused marketing will help you move beyond working for any clients that offer you freelance work to choosing the clients you want to work with. Port calls this the red velvet rope policy.

“Don’t waste your valuable time working with people who aren’t your ideal clients. I promise that this never works out well. Get very clear on who you want to work with and only work with those clients. Your business will thrive when you work with the right people,” says Port.

Choose which clients you allow past your red velvet rope.

Learn how 3 freelancers use their red velvet rope policy and why you should have one too.
How to Be on the Right Side of the Red Velvet Rope

Click here.

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Michael Port, Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling

Ilise Benun. How to find your clients’ pain points.