If you’re ready to go on the journey of defining your target client, first things first — we need to identify some basic things about your target client.
First, we need to answer:
- What industry does your target client work in?
- What size company does your target client work at?
- What stage in their career is your target client at?
- What role does your target client have?
- Where does your target client live?
- What does your target client think they need?
- What's your target client's general perception of businesses like yours?
- What does your target client care about most?
- How clear is your target client's vision?
- What's your target client's financial outlook?
- What does your target client expect working with you to deliver?
This might seem basic, but this high level is gonna lay the foundation for some serious insights.
1. What industry does your target client work in?
First, you need to start at the highest level — what industry do you want to work in?
If you want to focus on a specific industry, now’s the time to decide if you want to niche down. Niching down means choosing a specific industry, like fintech or SaaS, to exclusively offer your services.
It's not necessary to niche down, but it can be a real game-changer when you're starting out to get found.
Some pros and cons of choosing a niche are:
Pros of picking a niche:
- More deeply and accurately target clients
- Higher hit rate with obvious expertise
- Straightforward marketing plan since you have a specific industry
Cons of picking a niche:
- Can feel limiting
- You might get tired of your niche (but you can always switch)
I started out with a fintech niche because I had some fintech experience. My first fintech client was Verizon financial services team, and they found me through my LinkedIn headline that was something like, “Freelance UX Writer for fintech apps.”
If you don’t want to focus on a specific industry or niche, you don’t have to. Instead, you could pick a subset of the population. For example, my focus right now is “growing startups.” Another population subset might be “enterprise companies” or “Fortune 500 companies.”
You could even have some fun with it and do something like “overworked Product Managers who hate writing copy.” The importance of doing this is having a specific vision of whom you help, so don’t skip this step.
As we go through this lesson, we're going to pretend we're a freelance UX writer with an interest in beauty. Ipso facto, the niche we're gonna go with is beauty startups.
2. What size company does your target client work at?
Now that you’ve picked an industry, niche, or population subset, you need to place your target client at a company.
Think about the size of the company you want to work with and the sizes of companies that fit your industry, niche, or population subset.
- Seed stage
- Series A
- Series B
- Series C
- Series D/E/F
- Corporate company
They all have their pros and cons, so you need to pick a target client that has the right pros and cons for the freelance lifestyle you want to live.
For example, if you go for seed-stage companies, expect lower pay and faster turnarounds. But you might really love the thrill of it all.
If you go for series C companies, expect better pay but maybe more full-time role expectations vs. off on your own.
For our example, our freelance UX writer wants to be on the ground floor and is gonna go with seed-stage startups with 15 – 30 people.
3. What stage in their career is your target client at?
You also want to think about the career stage this person is in. Are they financially set and just playing around with fun money, so they don't get bored? Or is this new job a promotion where they feel they need to prove themselves?
Knowing this helps you solve their specific problem.
For our example, our freelance UX writer identified their target client has had senior leadership positions at large companies and are now taking on a C-level role
4. What role does your target client have?
Now that you know what stage of their career your target client is at, you can figure out their role. Think about the kind of person who would hire you to do freelance work.
As freelance UX writer, Someone who might hire you could be:
- Design Ops Manager
- Program Manager
- Product Design Manager
- Director of Product Design
- Creative Director
That's a lotta different roles. And I don't expect you to build a brand around each of them.
The large differentiation in these roles is the stage and size of the company the potential client works at. If it's a 5-person seed-stage startup, the CTO or Co-Founder will likely be the one to reach out. Compared to a series E tech company, it'll more likely be the Design Ops Manager.
For our example, since our freelance UX writer is targeting seed-stage startups, the target role is CTO.
5. Where does your target client live?
It's also important to think about where your target client lives.
If you live and work in Pacific Time, do you really want to be working with someone in Europe? You're gonna have some early AF mornings.
For our example, our freelance UX writer is US-based and has pinpointed most seed-stage beauty startups are in major US cities (Los Angeles, New York. Chicago, San Francisco, etc.)
6. What does your target client think they need?
Per our example, we already pinpointed our target client is CTOs at seed-stage beauty startups in major cities.
Now, imagine a beauty startup CTO reaches out to us (yay!) asking for help creating a product voice for their sign-up flow.
That's what this potential client thinks they need. Yes, they probably do need a product voice for their new sign-up flow. But, what do they need that product voice in the sign-up flow to do?
In this freelancer’s shoes, think about the startup’s position in the beauty industry. They're competing with big players like L'Oréal and Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty, too. It seems like a pretty crowded market to stand out in.
On top of that, think about what this product voice will do to solve the beauty product's pain points.
Will it help build a relationship with potential clients? Will that lead to an increase in sales? Will that increase in sales lead to retention?
Here's an example of how this freelance beauty UX writer might answer the question, “What does your client think they need?”:
Seed-stage beauty startups need to find their voice in their crowded market. Users get bombarded with beauty brand options, from L'Oréal to celeb brands like Rare Beauty. New beauty startups need to claim their unique position in the market to build authentic relationships with buyers, so the business can thrive, and buyers come back for more. To do this, new beauty brands need an opinionated product voice that creates a feeling of belonging and loyalty.
Well, that's a lot more than just a sign-up flow. A sign-up is just the vehicle. The power comes from the root problem — needing to successfully compete in a crowded market and build loyalty.
7. What general perception does your target client have of businesses like yours?
Do startup beauty startup CTOs think they need a product voice? Or do they need to be convinced it's the missing link?
Does our potential client think UX writing is something they can do themselves? Or is it something they feel intimidated by and wouldn't touch without a pro by their side?
Most importantly, do they understand the value of what we do, or do we need to prove it in our marketing? This is an important distinction that’ll define a lot of your personal brand and marketing.
Continuing with the beauty UX writer example, here’s how that freelancer would answer, “What's your client's general perception of businesses like yours?”:
CTOs at startup beauty brands have worked with UX writers in the past at larger companies, and they’re very familiar with the value UX copy and content strategy work brings to the table when done right. They're open to working with freelancers, but they’re hesitant to hire someone without beauty experience, since the company is moving at such a fast pace and doesn't have time to bring someone, even a freelancer, up to speed. That said, they perceive retention to be critical and are willing to pay top-dollar to invest in it if they find the right person.
8. What does your target client care about most?
- What are my target client's values?
- Do they value time? Money? Happiness? Status?
- What drives my target client on an individual level?
This is about getting personal now. Start thinking about who your potential client is as a well-rounded person, not just at work.
What does their life look like at work? What does it look like outside of work?
As humans, we can only give a sh*t about so many things. What few things does your target client give a sh*t about?
Continuing with the freelance beauty UX writer example, here’s how that freelancer would answer, “What does your target client care about most?”:
This beauty startup CTO has big ambitions and a lot on their plate. They’re raising a family in LA and have the pressure to build a successful beauty brand. Their time is limited, but they’re ambitious and use their time wisely. Their goal is to become a well-known CTO and make their mark in the beauty industry. That said, family comes first, and they value their priorities.
9. How clear is the vision of your target client?
Is your potential client coming to you with a crystal-clear plan they just want you to execute? Or do they kinda sorta know what they want, but it's more of a feeling than something they can really describe?
Both have their pros and cons. If you just want to execute, targeting clients with a plan might be your jam. If you want to be more of a consultant and have a playground, you might want to target clients who are open-minded but don't totally have a vision.
What you want to avoid is clients who aren't open-minded and think they have a vision, but it's not something they can describe. This kind of client will never be happy. Red flag alert. Being clear about your target client's vision will help you formulate messaging.
For example, if you're targeting clients whose vision is for you to execute, your website could read: “I can bring your vision to life.” Vs if you’re targeting a client who doesn't have a vision, your website might read: “I'll read your mind and design your perfect product voice.”
Back to the freelance beauty UX writer example, here’s how that freelancer would answer, “How clear is your target client's vision?”:
The beauty startup CTO has a very clear vision of what they want the brand to sound like. They have competitors already picked out that they’d like to sound like, inspirational products, and brands they hate. They’re looking for a freelance UX writer to come in and execute this vision.
10. What is the financial outlook of your target client?
In other words, what's the money sitch. Does your potential client have the funds to comfortably buy your services? Or is it a stretch for them?
If it's a stretch, your messaging and sales pitch need to convince them it's worth the stretch in their wallet.
In the words of the freelance beauty UX writer, here’s how that freelancer would answer, “What's your target client's financial outlook?:
The beauty startup CTO has a $30,000 budget to spend on the product this quarter. They’re investing in building the foundation of the product, and they know the value foundational work like UX writing will bring. Bringing on freelance help will take a big chunk of their budget, and they know that. That's why they’re picky with whom they bring on board.
11. What does your target client expect working with you to deliver?
Meaning, what are the tangible outputs of your work. What does this client walk away with in their hands? What is their $$$ getting them?
Continuing with the freelance beauty UX writer example, here’s how that freelancer would answer, “What does your target client expect working with you to deliver?”:
The beauty startup CTO expects the freelance UX writer to deliver a PDF product voice and tone guide. They expect to have a formal review when the work is done and to have been brought along for the ride, so the presentation isn't a surprise. They expect the freelancer to work very independently and not take up much of their short work day. Through the product guidelines, the freelancer delivers a design system the CTO and their team can implement on a daily basis. With a distinct product voice, the beauty startup will now have an easy-to-follow blueprint for attracting sticky users and standing out from the competition.
Define pains and actions
We're almost done creating a well-rounded perspective of who our target client is.
This last exercise will get very tangible with how you can help and make a difference in the life of your potential client. That's defining the pains your target client's customers experience, and how using your services is the antidote to that.
For example, back to the freelance beauty UX writer, a pain and action for the beauty startup CTO might be:
Pain: Potential user Jessica is looking for a new mascara and doesn't know which brand to buy from. She wants a brand that gets her and aligns with her values. She likes to buy from purpose-driven brands, and she struggles to weed through all the ones that exist.
Action: I need a UX writer to create a mission-driven but unique product voice for our startup and update our sign-up flow with that voice, so we can be the clear option for users like Jessica.
Clearly stating how you’re the solution to your target client's pain points will make coming up with your messaging a walk in the park. Drum up as many of these as are helpful.
Where do I find these answers?
Don't just make 'em up — that's not going to make your marketing and positioning on-point. Intsead, you gotta do some research. And by research, I mean go find examples of your target client on LinkedIn and ask them what's keeping them up at night.
How to do it
- Identify ~10 companies that fit your target profile and niche
- Go to the LinkedIn company pages
- Identify your target client
- Send them a personalized connection request proposing an exchange (see template below)
- If they accept, follow up about the exchange and ask to schedule a time/coordinate a timeline (if done async)
Connection request template
Hi NAME! I’m building a UX writing business to help NICHE startups. But to solve problems leaders like you have, I need to pinpoint those problems. Are you open to chatting? Not selling anything — just want to learn, so I can best help startups like yours. Can give UX writing tips in exchange.
Questions to ask when you chat
- What product challenges are you actively working to solve?
- Which challenge is the most important to solve ASAP?
- What do you think is causing the challenge?
- How are you currently working toward solving these challenges?
- What’s your perception of the value UX writing provides?
Then, complete your taget client worksheet based on those answers.
Putting it all together
Keep this complete target client by your side. It’s going to be your guide for every branding move you make.
Update your website to speak specifically to what this target client needs to hear. Write your social media posts directly to this person. Specifically touch on their pain points in your sales pitch.
This level of specificity will be a complete game-changer when it comes to clients seeing you as the perfect solution. Also, it’ll make promoting your biz über easy, because you know exactly what your target client needs out of your services.
Because the backbone of all great brands is their client. And you’re on track to have the greatest brand.
Happy UX writing 🖖