23 March 2015

Putting a name and a real-world profile on your ideal client

The best news of the year so far, for me as a freelance translator, has been the realisation that my client portfolio includes two 'ideal clients.' In fact, one of them deserves super-ideal status, because it not only is fantastic but also points the way to finding other similarly great business partners.

I entered 2015 convinced that marketing would be a crucial element of my year, the one thing that would make or break my translation business in the medium term. I realised that, until now, most of my clients, and certainly the good ones, have found me on their own. I have made sure that my name is out there and that people around me know that I am a professional freelance translator, but so far I have not really managed to attract clients 'on purpose.' Directories and word of mouth have indeed worked, but I am sure I can do more than simply sit and wait for people to knock on my door. 

There was one little problem, of course: I did not really know what 'doing more' meant in more concrete terms. So I had some homework to do. In October, I attended a one-day seminar with Marta Stelmaszak in Buenos Aires, I have avidly listened to every episode in Tess Whitty's podcast, read Tess's book as well as Andrew Morris's and even explored online materials on marketing beyond the world of translation. All of that has delivered very valuable awareness of what I like to do and can do particularly well, along with a sense of how to go about increasing my portfolio of people who hire me to do precisely such things.

First of all, I had a good look at my existing client base. I realised that I have one fantastic client, a firm that requires a lot of translation on topics I love, pays a great rate and has brilliant in-house project managers, so I get all the good things of working with a direct client without any of the hassle. I love them.

Then, I realised that that client, my star client, is probably not my most valuable client. My most valuable client is also great. They pay a lower rate but also send me lot of very interesting work and are easy to handle. What makes them really special at the particular spot in my career where I currently find myself is the fact that they are hardly unique: There are plenty of potential clients out there with very similar characteristics and, at the moment, it has become almost my life's mission to find a few of those near-clones and convince them that I can work well with them too.

That is precisely the good thing about coming up with an ideal client, in marketing terms. An ideal client is a key factor when it comes to building a sustainable, long-term business, because it should be the person or firm you are in business for. You can work for anyone else who is looking for your services and willing to pay what they are worth, of course, but growth prospects should be based on identifying and convincing ideal clients that your services are just right for them.

In an ideal world, I would like to have at least two more such ideal clients, and I am working on that. However, the very realisation that my ideal client does exist, that they are not just a random illusion but rather people who can indeed benefit from my services and do value them has been a massive boost to my confidence and my will to find further outlets for my services.

Now it is up to me to work hard to bridge the gap between an ideal client and an actual client, to identify and win over more of those clients for whom the translation work I do best and most happily is an asset they need on a daily basis. That is clearly no easy task, but then neither was actually identifying what to look for in an originally big, broad and impersonal market. The exercise of breaking down 'the market' into pieces with an easily recognisable name who are clearly connected with who I am as a professional feels like a major leap forward.

I feel like I have achieved that first goal of the year and I am delighted about that, although there are many months still ahead and many tasks left to do. I will keep you posted about any further developments!

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