One of the most interesting things about working and hanging with coaches and creatives in the online biz world? I’ve developed a kind of x-ray vision for patterns.
And lately, there’s a particular pattern I want to talk about; a pattern I see over and over, largely among women, and creatives. (Looking at you especially, graphic designers!)
It’s a pattern of hard-working, awesomely-talented professionals severely undercharging, working themselves to the bone, and saying yes to every little thing.
This is what I like to call: the surviving-off-scraps cycle. And it might sound familiar!
It starts when you find yourself in a bit of a money panic. We all know what that’s like, especially at the beginning, right?
So, because you’re feeling a bit anxious, you end up taking any client that comes your way, no matter who they are, or what the task at hand is.
Soon, your pile of small-time, not-a-great-fit clientele starts to grow bigger and bigger.
Then, while you’re juggling all these clients, and all these projects great and small, you still haven’t gotten over the panic that your next project might be your last. So you keep taking on anything and everything.
After a while, exhausted, depleted, and still trying to make ends meet, you look back at the work you’ve created, and the clients you’ve attracted, and think:
“… Damn. This isn’t what I wanted for my business at all!”
Suddenly, you remember the types of clients you wanted to work with and the kind of work you wanted to do when you started out.
You didn’t want to find yourself in an avalanche of projects you hate! You wanted to let your brilliance shine, and create work you’re proud to put into the world.
So you look at the other people around you in your industry for inspiration… and the doubt creeps back in again.
You realise you’re charging rates way below others in your industry who do the same kind and quality of work you do… and even worse, they’re working with clients who’d be a perfect fit for you!
You wonder: “Maybe they have something I don’t?”
So, with your confidence crushed, you resign yourself to working on those less-than-perfect projects for those less-than-perfect clients, for less money than you deserve.
Lady, if this has ever happened to you, please don’t be ashamed! This is a story I’ve seen play out over and over again. It’s a challenge many creative entrepreneurs face; especially (well, it seems especially to me anyway…) women.
The solution: You need to get serious about the calibre of clients you want to attract.
So if you’ve been stuck in a holding pattern, doing way too much unfulfilling work for way too little payoff, I’ve got a few tips you should try.
These are strategies that have had a huge impact on my professional life, and the lives of my clients. In fact, when peeps I work with start applying what you’re about to learn?
I often hear that they finally feel like a “real entrepreneur”, like they’ve finally gone pro, and they’re ready to take over the world.
Ready for this post’s tips? Here we go.
Introducing: 7 tips for attracting higher calibre clients:
Tip 1: Upgrade your mindset
I find so many of the talented creatives stuck in the surviving-off-scraps cycle have a pretty low view of themselves. There’s a lot of self-doubt (which, btw, I totally get! I’ve been there myself, for sure.).
They assume others in their industry who are charging more are better, smarter, or a higher value than them.
Sound familiar? Well, know this: chances are, those other people aren’t better than you in the slightest. They’re just more confident about charging more.
I once had an incredible graphic designer as a client. She’d do a full website redesign and development, all in ridiculous time constraints… for LESS THAN $2k a pop. (That’s crazy cheap, in my humble opinion!)
I was shocked! It was clear the problem had nothing to do with the quality of her work — it was about the way she felt about herself.
So the first step we took was to reassess her mindset, because, ultimately, the biggest difference between that designer and the designer making triple her rate was how much she had the courage to charge. The deeper we dug, the clearer I could see: my client saw herself as second tier in her industry. But in reality, she was truly one of the best in her field.
And when she got past that? It was downhill from there. Her approach to business, her happiness, and her profit margins skyrocketed.
Tip 2: Get very, very clear on who you actually want to work with
Who is your dream client anyway? Get specific:
What do they do?
What kind of impact do they want to make on the world?
What will make working with them so awesome (for you and for your potential client – from the projects you take on with them, to the way you’re treated as a member of their team)?
What’s their budget normally like?
What stage of business are they in?
When you’re clear on who your ideal client is, it also becomes much easier to say no to clients who aren’t a fit.
Tip 3: Create a signature package
The transformational power of packaging up your services is something I’ve been banging on about for years now – and I still strongly reckon this is seriously important if you want to up your client game.
If you’re not sure what you’d included in your signature package, start thinking of a grouping of different features that work together to help your dream client solve a problem that they have. You should also take into account what you’d like to be known for, your strengths, and what kind of projects would really light you up.
Design with your dreams in mind – and watch what happens.
Tip 4: Commit to step-laddering your pricing over the next 3-6 months
This is my favourite non-scary way to raise your prices. And raising your prices IS something you’ll probably need to do to start attracting higher-end clients.
If you’re serious, I recommend you commit to increasing your pricing over the coming months based on how valuable your service is to your ideal clients. Mind you, that’s not to you, not to some random on the internet, but to your ideal client. (Read those last 2 sentences again. They’re important, lady.)
A good way to gauge how valuable your service is is to simply ask for feedback. Send clients and others you know who fit your “ideal client” bill a short questionnaire or zap them an email to see how things are going. Then use their feedback to decide where you’d like your pricing to be.
Tip 5: Reach out to people who represent your ideal client
If you’re shy, you might immediately write off this tip. And if you are, I get it – and I can be too! But getting used to approaching your ideal clients directly, in the places they hang out, is the absolute best way to get on their radar, build awareness and eventually connect with them.
So start reaching out to people who represent your ideal client in a way that feels right for you. For example, if your ideal clients are bloggers, you may want to start leaving regular, meaningful comments on their blog posts or social media platforms. If your ideal client is someone who regularly hangs out in a particular FB group, perhaps you might like to share free value in that group and become known that way.
Dedicate yourself to being consistent and persistent with this over time. If you’re looking to change the calibre of your clients, you’re going to have to start becoming more known in the circles they move in.
Tip 6: Set some sales targets
Challenge yourself over the next 90 days! Decide how many ideal clients you would like to work with in the next quarter, and go for it!
Will you hit your target perfectly? I can’t say. The key is to take smart action daily and not get discouraged – it’s all part of the process. Stick with it, work out the kinks in your strategy, and soon your business will be completely transformed.
Tip 7: Make room in your schedule NOW for working with your ideal clients
If your days are full to the brim with the small-time/ unaligned clients you’re currently working with, it’s going to be difficult to find time to work with your ideal clients in the way you’d like. The key is to design your master schedule in a way that takes into account the exact way you’d like to work with your ideal clients. And for the record, yes, bringing this newly aligned master schedule to life and committing to it may mean you’ll have to start saying “No” to more small-time projects, too.
I totally get this might make you feel a bit panicky. Take a deep breath. Remember, letting go of small-time projects is actually freeing you up to work with people who are a perfect fit for you.
I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen it happen time and time again: the Universe has a weird way of filling up those spaces when you’re brave enough to make room for them. And when you free up slots in your schedule? That shift and upleveling is way more likely to occur than if you were still scrambling to complete a dozen projects at once.
And remember: big shifts can take a little time. So be patient!
These tips are built for the long-haul. So stick with them, keep experimenting, and keep going after those perfect clients and projects you’ve been dreaming of.
It’s a process, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change tomorrow; but the more dream clients you attract, the more you say no to projects that aren’t a fit, and the harder you work to build a business you actually want?
The end result will be absolutely awesome. And you have my word on that. 😉