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Art by Aron leah

Turns out, your ideal client does exist. Here's how to find them

In this guest post by Aron Leah of Fried Cactus Studio, get powerful advice for finding quality clients that align with your values and ideal working process.

One of the coolest things about being an independent creative is that you are your own boss and you get the kind of control over your life that is impossible with a 9-5 job.

Something that could jeopardize that is a bad client. But do you always get to choose whom you work with?

We’ve all heard those client horror stories and it’s likely you have a few of your own. Late payments, ghosting, driving the price down, unrealistic deadlines etc, the list goes on.

Working with assholes is all part of the territory, right?

Well if bad clients exist, then the laws of the universe dictate there should be such a thing as a good client. These good clients are often defined as an “ideal client” which can make them seem like a myth or something that only comes by once every hundred years.

Well, it turns out they do exist and there are a lot more than you think. But how do you find them?

Illustration by Aron Leah
By Aron Leah of Fried Cactus Studio

One of the most common pieces of advice is to just “be yourself”. But dare you be your complete self in front of a client? Maybe it would put them off. If you think like this, I know how you feel.

I listen to punk rock, I grew up riding BMX, and I’m covered in tattoos. On first impression, you might not think I have my shit together.

But I am a professional. I genuinely give a shit about the people I work with. I’m also generous, polite, and love to talk. I treat people with respect. I want to do this FOREVER! But new clients don’t know that yet.

When I started freelancing I said yes to everything. Mostly through fear of not having any work. As you can imagine, that resulted in both good and bad experiences. I got paid poorly, I said yes to work I didn’t really want to be doing, and generally just made a lot of mistakes and often got taken advantage of.

I wasn’t letting my personality or values come through. It was like I was a robot running a business out of fear.

I learned pretty quickly some clients were not interested in me personally or the extra value I could bring to the table. I was just a gun for hire. Disposable. I was acting like a gun for hire. I wasn’t letting my personality or values come through in my communication. It was like I was a robot running a business out of fear.

I would always maintain my professional and respectful approach — whether it’s a small independent business or a larger corporate business. I would take the time to understand their needs, set objectives, be clear on my process, deliverables and price. I was prompt and communicated clearly. I often felt this extra effort was wasted on some of them but others genuinely appreciated me taking it seriously and showing them that I actually cared.

Illustration by Aron Leah
By Aron Leah of Fried Cactus Studio

A lesson on finding your ideal clients

Eventually, I realized that in order to get more clients that wanted to go on this journey with me I had to build confidence in myself and my abilities. This led to defining my own way of working, based on what best suited the projects I wanted to take on, the type of clients I wanted to work with, and the lifestyle I wanted to live.

This realization motivated me, so I decided to develop a process of handling any new projects that come my way to ensure they were a good fit for me.

It’s as simple as being interested in what they did over the weekend or whether or not they like coffee.

Communication became really important to how I handled new clients. It was difficult at first as I was trying to show them that I lived and breathed my work. My personal life influenced my work life and vice versa. I wanted this to come across naturally so I just started talking to them as I would talk to a friend, in order to build a rapport with the client making it easier for us both to be ourselves when discussing the project.

It’s as simple as being interested in what they did over the weekend or whether or not they like coffee. This breaks down walls and opens up doors to new ways of building a relationship with the client.

Illustration by Aron Leah
By Aron Leah of Fried Cactus Studio

This was just the first part of the journey though. The next part was communicating how I had developed a process of working that got the best out of me and ultimately would benefit them and their new project. Because this process was born out of making so many mistakes and a desire to be more of myself, my communication was genuine and they felt how passionate I was about working with them.

They appreciated me walking them through the process and it reassured them.

Now, I offer my clients transparency when it comes to my work and my process which they appreciate but I also set boundaries that keep things professional. I do this over the phone, by email, on my website, and on social media platforms.

It’s easy to stay consistent with that because my process was developed by me and it benefits me the most. This allows me to enjoy every project and serve my clients to the best of my ability which I absolutely love.

So as it turns out, your ideal clients do actually exist and here’s how you find them.

❤️ Lean into your authentic self

The first thing you need to do is get clear about who you are and what aspects of your personality are important for your creativity and the projects you’d like to take on. Make sure your values in life align with your values in business.

🤝 Work on building relationships

Next, focus on your communication. How are you going to get your personality and values across to clients? Think about what you can to do to improve how you are representing yourself in different situations, whether that be in person, on the phone, on your website, or on social media.

Wherever possible, make sure you have proper conversations with clients so that you can practice and build a rapport with them.

✏️ Define your ideal working process

Finally, get clarity around your process and how you’d like to handle new projects from start to end. Design it in a way that is best suited to your way of working in order to best serve yourself and your clients. Communicate this to the client and lead them through the process in a way that is easy for them to understand and therefore get on board with.

Illustration by Aron Leah
By Aron Leah of Fried Cactus Studio

Get comfortable being yourself

I can wholeheartedly say that when I made those changes, life got easier and I started seeing improvements in areas of my business that I had no idea were possible. From dream projects, referrals, repeat clients, retainers, and beyond.

It’s hard to stand up for yourself and set boundaries. It’s easy to worry about your reputation and your confidence is never where you left it.

Finding your ideal client is as simple as being yourself. But if you can become more comfortable with doing that with every client whilst communicating your process with confidence. You might just stop working with so many assholes! â– 

✨ For more freelancing insights and advice from Aron, be sure to subscribe to the Fried Cactus Studio newsletter!

Aron leah About Aron Leah: Aron Leah is an illustrator from Bournemouth, England who runs Fried Cactus Studio and has worked with brands big and small all around the world. His work is informed by enthusiasm for uncovering meaning and emotion to develop ideas. Keep up with Aron and his work by subscribing to his newsletter.

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