When we start a creative business, our approach can be a bit self-indulgent. We get a spark seemingly out of nowhere one day, and hustle to form our thoughts into a project or piece of content.
We make or write what we like because we see a vision in our heads that we believe needs to become a reality. There are a lucky few that hit on an idea that resonates with a group of customers and are able to earn money doing what they love.
This is a great way to start, but to get serious about growing a creative business that can make a living income, you have to know who you’re making for. The difference between a hobby and a business is the group of followers who want that beautiful thing that only you can offer. You may have heard them called many things from ideal clients, target market, to dream customers.
You need to spend some time with these people and learn as much as you can about them. I’m here to walk you through the process step by step!
This exercise will help you humanize them, instead of thinking of them as just numbers or worse, potential dollar signs. It’s one of the first steps and the most important pieces of information before you design your brand or build your website.
You have to know who you are creating for.
STEP 1: Find your people
This is admittedly one of the hardest steps, but the most necessary. You will essentially be doing research on a group of people, and there are a few different ways to do this.
If you’ve been in business for awhile, choose up to 3 of your favorite clients and ask if they would answer a set of questions for you. You can do this through email, over the phone, or better yet in person. Sometimes there are physical cues about a person’s behavior that can tell you more than just words alone.
Find out where groups of these people hang out. Get bold and ask people nicely to participate. Most of us love to talk about ourselves, so this shouldn’t be too difficult! Offer them a free gift of some kind if you would like to repay them for their time.
Turn to social media. You need to be VERY strategic with this one, and not just ask the vortex if you can have a few moments of their time. Hone in on a few people you follow that you would love to work with in the future, and ask if they wouldn’t mind answering these questions for you in the name of research. You can also post in a niche Facebook group where you know your people are participating on a regular basis.
STEP 2: Ask them some probing questions
Most ideal client questionnaires out there will have you focus on demographics. I’m moving further and further away from this as I realize what’s really important in any group of people is their worldview and values. This is what connects them on a deeper level, not things like their age or income level. I’ve purposefully left those out of this questionnaire.
What kind of work do you do?
Do you enjoy your career or are you searching for more?
What are you doing or feeling when you interested in a service or product like mine?
What is your most prized possession?
How do you decorate your home?
What do you find yourself doing if there is nothing “to do”. What activities really nourish you?
What are some personality traits your friends would use to describe you?
What is your worldview?
What do you value in life above everything else?
What is a dream vacation of yours and why?
What is your biggest fear? What keeps you up at night?
What are you wearing when you feel really good about yourself?
STEP 3: CREATE A PERSONA
Now that you have all this data, you’re going to create what’s called a “persona” from it. You’re a creative visionary, so use your imagination to form one single person from the collection of thoughts you received. Give this person a name, and find a photo of them. Make a collage of this photo along with other images that describe their views and answers to the questions, or write out their character traits. Put this up by your desk or workspace so that you are always reminded of who you are making for. The more real you make this person in your head, the closer you will come to creating products that really speak to their needs.
The digital version of this method is obviously making a Pinterest board that illustrates your ideal client’s wants and desires. I recently picked up this method from Erica Midkiff (you need to check her out, especially if you want more clarity and consistency in your business!). It helped me finally visualize who my dream client really is, and got me into her head. Whenever I create now, I consult this board or have it open while making, designing, or writing.
This post is a sample from my free email course, Your Creative Business, Up & Running. If you are an entrepreneur that needs to go from creative idea to online presence in a calm and focused way, this is for you.