I am a business owner. I’ve been writing for years but I just my company an official LLC last year. I’ve been working at the craft of writing poetry since 2008 while I was in college. I started performing at college open mics and then heard about open mics in the city of Louisville, and the rest was history. At some point, I began to have people reaching out to me requesting custom poems. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but those were clients! Those were people who saw and valued my talent, and they wanted to use my talent to fill a need.
Many artists will tell you horror stories about their first clients. Customers not knowing how to properly appreciate art. Folks assuming your services are free, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. We all have examples and definitions for the worst client, but what about your best client? Who is your ideal client? If you can identify your ideal client, this will save you time, energy, and emotional investment when approached by those who aren’t ideal. For me, ideal doesn’t mean perfect; it just means I can work with them in a professional manner. I don’t have a thesis statement for what makes for the best client, but I do have some benchmarks.
The first thing I look for in a client is if they can follow directions . I am fairly accessible on social media, so many inquire about my services via inbox. I’m fine with that but I don’t do deals in my inbox. I’ve had a website since 2013 and that’s where I prefer to be contacted. If a client reaches out to me and I direct them to the website, I see if they did. I just believe that if a client can’t follow the simplest direction of visiting my website, what other instructions will they fail to follow?
The next trait for my ideal client is that they know what they want. That sounds as if it should be obvious but you have no idea. I think that folks believe telling a creative entrepreneur to “just do whatever” is s compliment, but it is not. It’s one of the most frustrating things to be told. A creative has numerous ways of approaching a project, but without vision, there is no guarantee a client will like any of them. It’s logical for a client to tell me what they want. I can’t interpret dreams and I can’t pull your vision out of your mind and make it real. Either tell me what you want, or come back when you figure it out.
The last and arguably most important factor for the ideal client is: the budget. I've been at this for a few years, but in the early days it was hard to ask for money. Then I quickly realized the best way to keep folks from wasting my time was to ask for their budget. The crickets that chirped in my inbox after I posed the question about a budget are incalculable. When newer artists ask me about charging clients, I make sure it's the first question they ask their prospective clients. I was paid in gift cards and food at the beginning of my career, but when you know better you do better.
A brief aside when it comes to budget: there is a point when the money becomes "too expensive." This simply means that no matter how good the money is, it could cost too much. Some clients think that just because they are paying you, they can treat you or talk to you any kind of way. There are some worrisome clients who keep trying to micromanage obsessively and other sorts of behaviors that makes for a terrible experience. Know when to walk away (with that non-refundable deposit in hand).
Compensation was the last attribute listed but it is the most important. You don't get to waste my time and not pay me. For all you business owners out there, just know there are people who want your products and services and will pay you well for them. Find them and walk away from those who want to haggle with you. I guarantee they don't haggle at restaurants, shopping centers, or grocery stores, so why should they haggle with you?
I've been at this a while and I believe I know who my ideal client is. Her name is Lavon Chattin. Mrs. Chattin has supported evert endeavor I've undertaken. She has bought merch from my website and took advantage of my poetry sales whenever I had them. She trusted me to write a poem for her 25th marriage anniversary and trusted me to write a poem about being a grandparent. She's been a supporter since 2013 and interacts with my Facebook page regularly. I wish I had a thousand more supporters like her, but I'm blessed to have just one Lavon Chattin.
Your best supporters and clients are out there waiting for you, you just have to have to find them or put yourself in a position to be found. It's not all doom and gloom. Starting and maintaining a business is hard, but with 7 billion people on planet Earth, I guarantee some of them value you and see your worth.