If you’re a creative service provider of any kind, then to sign the right kind of clients — for the right kind of projects at the right kind of fees — then you basically need to do two things.
Just about every client I’ve coached who was struggling to make sales when they knew who they wanted to serve and when they were good at the actual work, was failing to do one or other of these things – or doing them the wrong way round, or striking the wrong balance between them.
The first thing you need to to is inspire your potential client with a vision of what’s possible with your help.
If you’re a designer you can do this with a portfolio of beautifully designed work. And maybe an Instagram feed that’s a feast for the eyes. Or a product or project of your own.
If you’re a copywriter you can do it with a beautifully and persuasively written website, with examples of beautifully written website, sales pages and other work you’ve done for clients. Plus articles and a book or two that are helpful to your kind of client.
If you’re a web developer or programmer or offering another kind of technical service, then you could write articles or produce videos with solutions to common problems experienced by your clientele, and explaining – in clear, everyday language – how your technical skills can solve problems and deliver results for your clients.
If you’re a coach or consultant, you can produce educational material that will be helpful for the kind of people you would like to serve as clients. This can include books, a blog, a newsletter, a podcast, videos or e-learning courses.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea – whatever your line of work, put something out into the world that is not just marketing material, but an extension of your work for clients. This gives potential clients a taste of your work, and the right kind of prospect will be inspired by this.
Inspiration is essential – if you don’t inspire someone, if they don’t get any feeling of excitement or interest when they see what you’re putting out into the world, then why would they be interested in working with you? And why would they want to work with you instead of the thousands of other options out there?
But inspiration is not enough.
You also need to inspire confidence that you will deliver results. That you are a professional with the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, commitment and integrity to deliver for them.
Obvious ways to do this include adding your qualifications, your client list, and some testimonials to your website, or offering a guarantee.
It also inspires confidence when your website, especially your About page and Services pages, effectively communicates who you are, who you serve, and how you help them. And don’t forget to talk about WHY you love doing this kind of work, and serving this kind of client – the best kind of client will want to know that you care about your clients and that there is a purpose to your work beyond merely earning money.
One very powerful way to inspire confidence is to have a first step in working together that is available at a modest fee, or even no fee at all, where you get right down to work with the client and demonstrate the value of your work for real.
For example, whenever I receive an application from a potential coaching client, if I think we may be a good fit, then I will block off 2 hours in my diary and coach them for real, at no charge. By the end of that 2 hours, we have a very good idea of how well we work together – and whether we both want to continue.
Similarly, I’ve worked with editors who undertake to edit a short chapter or article before they will commit to working on a book with a client. Or designers and copywriters who offer brand consultations up front, to understand a client’s situation and aspirations, and advise about options, before they will take the client on.
As well as inspiring confidence in the client, this kind of preliminary engagement also helps you. Because when you work with them you see how they show up in the relationship, and whether they are prepared to do their part of the work, and let you do yours effectively.
You learn whether you enjoy working with them, and whether they represent an opportunity to do your best work.
If you do both of these things, in this order – inspire first, then inspire confidence – your schedule will fill up with the right kind of clients.
Some people like the inspiration part – they love putting out blog posts or videos, or engaging with people on social media, or networking and meeting new people, or speaking at events. Inspiring people is fun! But if you fail to follow through by inspiring confidence, your positive energy will fizzle out, without bringing you the clients you want.
Maybe your website looks a little old fashioned, or it doesn’t explain what you do and how to become a client. Or maybe you get nervous when you’re talking to a prospect, so that they like you, but they don’t feel confident trusting you with their business.
Other people make sure you are aware of their impressive qualifications and client list, but they don’t share or inspire. If this is you, and someone lands on your website or meets you in person, they may be impressed, but also a little intimidated. Or just not engaged enough to want to work with you.
Even if you do both, you may encounter dry spells in your business, so thinking about inspiring + inspiring confidence can help you diagnose and fix the problem:
1. If you’re not getting enough attention, in the form of readers, listeners, website visitors, and ultimately new enquiries, then you need to reach out and inspire people more. Write a book, speak at conferences, launch a podcast or a live event.
2. If you’re getting a decent amount of attention or social media engagement or website traffic, but not enough enquiries, or not enough enquirers are signing up and becoming clients, then you need to look at how you can inspire more confidence.
Look at everything from your website to your client enrolment process, and ask yourself: does this really inspire confidence, and demonstrate who I serve and how I can help them? Does anything raise a doubt, however small?
If you’re not sure, ask a colleague, or better still your existing clients. You may be surprised by what you learn – and hopefully, inspired to act on it…
You can hear an audio version of this article on this episode of The 21st Century Creative podcast, starting at 2’45”.
Image credit: Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante in a sales meeting with Pope Julius II, by Horace Vernet