Let’s talk about something I know a lot of small business owners struggle with – identifying your Ideal Client.

This is especially tough when you’re starting a business and money is usually tight. Afraid to turn down work, we take on anyone who can fog a mirror. And often we regret some of those choices.

I write short fiction (and even taught it for a time) but even I struggled with creating a ‘character sketch’ of my Ideal Client. However, a couple of simple shortcuts got me started on the right road and things fell into place after that. I hope they will for you as well. Because when you get clear on who you want to work with everything else gets a LOT easier. Things like what social media channels to focus on; what networking groups to attend; what your website copy needs to say.

When people don’t recognize themselves in your messaging and marketing they simply move on, never knowing you THOUGHT you were talking to them.

So stop telling yourself you don’t have time to do this. The real truth is – you don’t have time to flounder around confusing people! Spraying and praying your marketing will work is a huge waste of your precious time and money.

1. Make a list of 100 people you admire most. Living or dead. Celebrity or a personal friend.

Ask yourself, “Who do I admire? Who would make my day – my year! — if they phoned me today and said they wanted to work with me?”

Spend some real time with this. The first ones will be no-brainers but as you dig deeper you’ll discover people you may have forgotten about. Look at all of your past clients and add the ones you enjoyed working with most to your list.

You’ve now got a lot of valuable information. Look at the list as a whole and identify what these people hold in common.

Be sure to include specific people to your list who would make you feel you’d died and gone to heaven if they hired you.

For instance, since I was a young girl I’ve admired Jane Goodall. Not long ago I attended a lecture she gave and realized she was the personification of my Ideal Client. I already had an idea of who that was but Dr. Goodall gives me a reference point to expand this definition of my I.C.

Another nugget of wisdom I gleaned is that Dr. Goodall has achieved what I’d like to help my own clients achieve. Now I can better understand the results my I.C wants which is the kind of impact Jane Goodall has achieved. One more piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Just as importantly I spent time thinking about who Jane Goodall was BEFORE she achieved her success. What qualities got her there? Because in order to grow something, the seeds must be available.

What did she want or need? What were her challenges and how could I have been the solution? Of course, some of this is guesswork, but I believe you can see how it will lead you in the right direction.

It always helps when you know who you’re talking to, even if it is an imaginary friend. Now when I write or speak I picture a young Jane sitting across from me.

When you make your own list, think carefully about what qualities the people on it possess which make them attractive to you. You can make educated guesses about their likes, dislikes, habits, etc. As you get to understand your list and why you put certain names there, you’ll discover people like them in the world around you.

2. Make a second list of people you DIDN’T enjoy working with.

The key questions here is “What were those qualities which weren't a good fit for me?”

That doesn’t mean they are awful human beings, rather you simply didn’t connect on a personal level.

You know what I'm talking about. The client or customer who you know, in your gut, you shouldn't get involved with because there’s just no connection. If you ignore that nudge (and we've all done it) you’re both going to be unhappy.

What are your non-negotiables in a client or customer?

I won’t work with people who refuse to take responsibility for their success. Actually, there’s nothing I can help them with.

It’s important to explore the flip side of the Ideal Client question so that you don’t get blind-sided and take on someone who becomes an energetic drag. Because if you don’t enjoy working with them, it will suck the life out of you and your small business.

3. If you’re a B2B there’s one more area to explore which is “What industry or profession would I like to work in?”

A few years after I left corporate consulting I was talking with a friend and said something about how I would have loved working in the film industry. She asked me why I hadn't. It was one of those “DUH” moments because I COULD have chosen that industry. Instead I drifted into a different one as an employee simply because it was the first one to make a job offer. When I shifted to consulting, I stayed within that industry and never considered other possibilities. My bad!

Particularly if you are a coach or consultant, take some time to choose the industry or profession of your ideal clients.

What would be an ideal project for you to be involved with? What type of work do you enjoy most? What industry/ profession or movement excites you? And which delivers the biggest profit for you?

There’s no point in marketing to ‘ideal clients’ if you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing with them.

Once you explore these questions then details like age, demographics and economics will be found in your answers.

Author's Bio: 

Aprille Janes spent 20 years as a successful business consultant until she followed her true purpose, threw away the corporate suit and began building a tribe of entrepreneurs who wanted to make a real difference in their lives and the world. Aprille is now a sought after speaker, author, podcast host of the Bolder Business Podcast and successful small business mentor.