How to stop wasting time on clients that never buy

Being a freelance creative is hard enough. You’re strapped for time. Income isn’t exactly stable. The last thing you need to do is waste your time.

One of the most frustrating things you experience as a freelancer is all the time you waste writing unanswered emails, sending ignored proposals and taking pointless driving trips to see clients that you never hear back from.

Most freelancers I work with tell me they experience similar frustrations.

The first thing I have to do is tell you that ultimately, some of your potential clients will fall through. It’s just life.

Things get in the way. Life takes unexpected U-turns. You just have to accept it.

But when people first join the Business Accelerator, they tell me they are spending way too much time trying just trying to keep their business afloat.

And so many of them are making the same mistakes, so I thought I’d share with you what I tell them:

Why your prospects don’t convert

Ok – as I said there are a million reasons why your prospect might not become a client.

But most of the time you’re wasting your time on someone who was never going to convert in the first place.

“What?” I hear you cry, “But they approached me!”

aI’m afraid it’s true. Often people are just shopping for a price, or they changed their mind, or life got on the way, or the project got put on hold.

The fact is that you can’t work with everyone. In fact, you SHOULDN’T work with everyone. You shouldn’t want to.

It’s like dating, some clients are just not going to be your ‘type’.

Finding your ‘type’: Why a target audience will help you grow

I’m going to keep with the dating analogy because it works well here.

Most people will have a ‘type’ of person they like to date. It may be physical appearance or mental traits; whatever it is – they’re looking for it in a partner. Even if they don’t think it.

You need to have a type of business, a type of client that you know you can work with, and that are likely to want (and be able) to work with you.

Particularly now, when there is so much choice and information available online, it’s SO important not to waste your time trying to please everyone. It just doesn’t work. Even the largest, most successful companies on the planet can’t do it. On top of that, Quite often when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no-one.

Have you ever walked into a Pizza restaurant that also serves burgers, chicken, curries, and spring rolls? The menu takes 15 minutes to read. And you just know that it’s not going to be as authentic or as good quality as it would be in a family restaurant who have been serving the same dishes for generations.

What makes you think you can appeal to everyone? Why would you want to? Even though most freelancers I work with can tell me the types of client they hate working with, they rarely act upon their experiences.

If you can’t tell me what your ideal client looks like in under 10 words, you don’t know who they are. But that’s OK because this post will help you to figure out what they look like.

How to create your ideal client personas

There’s a group of people that you already know like you and want to do business with you. They’re going to be your key ally here in working out who your ideal client looks like. Who are they? Your existing clients.

1.  Survey/Interview existing clients

Without this survey, the whole thing will fail. Your buyer personas won’t be as useful if you try to do them all by yourself.

First of all, you need to reach out to your existing clients, past and present, to find out who your clients are and what they want from you, in a deep way.

Send them a quick email asking to fill out a micro-survey.

All the ‘survey’ needs to be is: ‘What is your single greatest business challenge’, and ‘Why did you choose to do business with me?’.

You can use Google Forms or Survey Monkey for the survey but an email works too.

The other part of this ‘survey’ you’re going to do yourself.

Use our Target Audience Worksheet to help you think through your clients and their similarities.

This will help you to group your clients into ‘types’ based on more than just their survey answers.

2. Use their answers to build your profiles

Ideally, the answers to their questions (and your own target audience worksheet) are going to give you a lot of really rich data about who your customer is, and what they like about your business.

You’re probably going to get quite a bit of ‘fluff’ as well but that’s ok.

Put your clients’ answers into a spreadsheet and you’ll start to see some similarities in the language people use when talking about their business and their challenges. This is exactly what you’re looking for.

You’ll likely notice is a ‘pattern of problems’ that people have relating to your service and there may be a few of these. This is great.

You want to try and put your customers into ‘groups’ or ‘buckets’, so try to find the similarities between them. To help you do this you may find it useful to add surrounding data you have on your clients from the Target Audience Worksheet.

Create maybe three or four of these groups of issues, the kinds of customers that experienced them and their corresponding solutions (or anything the client said about them in their response).

3. Filter your prospects with a survey

Once you’ve put together your customer surveys and merged it with the answers on your Target Audience Worksheet, you should have three or four groups of similar people and their issues. These are your ‘target clients’ or ‘ideal client personas’.

But simply having a client persona isn’t going to help you stop wasting time with non-ideal clients. You need to act on them.

There are various ways of using your personas, all of which will help grow your business, but the one we’re focusing on today is the filter survey.

This is simply getting all your new prospects to answer a few key questions, which will enable you to sort them into groups.

Each of your groups should have one main ‘headline’ problem – this would be an ideal question to instantly filter your prospects.

This could be a simple drop-down or checkbox with options chosen from the actual words people have said back to you.

For example, you might ask:

What is your biggest challenge as a business:
1) Finding new customers
2) Delivering assets on time/to budget
3) Developing new products/services
4) Other: (leave space for them to write).

The answers you get should help you to sort your clients into groups, so you know what language to use and what solutions they are likely to want.

Usually, you’ll need more than one question to accurately sort your prospects but you can continue to ask ‘filtering’ questions as you get to know them.
Don’t be afraid to say no

One of the hardest parts about using a target audience or buyer persona is saying ‘no’ when the prospect is not a good fit. But you must stick to your guns. I talked about this on my September Webinar (click here to watch it).

You don’t have to be mean about it and you’ll find people often appreciate your honesty.

When you get a prospect that doesn’t fit in your persona, be as polite and helpful as possible but make sure they understand that you are not the right person to help them out. Instead, point them in the direction of someone who might be able to help them out. Then move on.

Not only will you find yourself wasting less time chasing clients that never buy, but if you’ve done your personas properly, you’ll also find those clients coming back to work with you again and again.

Let me know in the comments below if you have any techniques or questions you use to find your perfect clients – I’d love to hear them