Getting the work you want
Isn't it frustrating how some people float through life picking up the sorts of projects you can only dream of? They get the best clients, the best work and they seem to be having a ball doing it. How do they do it? The good news is that with the right focus you can do the same. Getting the sort of work you dream of really doesn't need to be impossible, in fact, it's really very simple.
You establish the sort of projects you dream of, the sort of clients you'd love to work with and you remind yourself of precisely why you are perfectly capable and well qualified to do the job. Then, and this is the important bit, you make sure that every single thing that you communicate shows those dream clients that you're the only person or company for the job.
It really is so simple, so why do we make business so complicated?
In my last post we explored how you can radically change how you see your business and start to go after the work you really want, see this as the follow up.
Celebrate your distinctive style and build your business
I know from painful experience how tempting it is to want to make your business as appealing as possible to everyone.
You have overheads to meet, staff to pay and suppliers snapping at your heels. You want to take on as many projects as possible and the last thing you want to do is put anyone off. So you create a safe brand identity. You show a little of everything in your portfolio; you talk to a generic audience and you start to become very, very disillusioned with your business.
You find yourself 'quoting' for a lot of work and winning very little.
People just don't seem to want to spend money any more. The projects you do take on are a mixed bag. You have some lovely clients and a fair few who are a pain in the backside, but hey, this is running a business isn't it? Who said it was going to be easy?
Projects don't run quite as smoothly as you'd like and your clients micromanage you more than you'd choose but you accept that this is just how it needs to be if you want to be your own boss. You're frustrated that people can't just trust in your expertise but it's hard to see that things could be any other way.
When you're running a business like this it's so easy to think that business is always going to be tough. It's so hard to see the wood for the trees and when you're in the thick of everything, even making a small change can be totally overwhelming. I've been there.
Start by getting focused
But it doesn't have to be that way. Getting the work you want really is very, very simple. It's simply a case of working out who you want to work with, the sorts of projects you want to work on and showing that you are the people for the job. Celebrate your unique creative style, find your distinctive voice and communicate on a deep and meaningful level with your dream clients. It's the only way.
What you probably don't realise is that by creating the generic sort of communications I describe above, you may think you're not putting anyone off, but you are! You're putting off the sort of client with taste, the sort of client who values good design and will invest in your creativity because she's fallen hook line and sinker for what you do and she can't comprehend working with anyone else.
Why? Because she'll take one look at your website and run a mile. Because what you're showing is a mishmash of everything and she's looking for something a little bit special - and she's prepared to pay for it too. Because she doesn't have time to search through your portfolio for the one design she likes when there are others out there with more streamlined and polished portfolios and a strong design style.
Isn't that sad? In your attempt to appeal to everyone you've actually put off the person you really want to be working with!
My friend Rona and I run business workshops for florists (in fact, we have a couple coming up in the autumn you might be interested in) and at every single workshop we have the same conversations with florists struggling to get the work they want. It's the same in every case: rather than celebrating their own floral style they are shoehorning every floral style under the sun onto their website on the off chance that someone will see something they like.
It doesn't work.
If you work in a creative industry people are coming to you because of your creativity. If you want to be valued for what you do and paid properly for it then you need to identify, hone and celebrate your distinctive style. You need to define your aesthetic, your voice and your creative style. And you need to communicate that throughout everything you do. Here's how.
Cull your portfolio. Only show the work you're achingly proud of and that reflects the sort of work you want to win in the future. While you're transitioning your business I'm not saying you can't take on the 'wrong' sort of work; but you certainly shouldn't blog about it!
Stay focused in your social communications. Build your communication around what your dream clients want to see. Stay true to your aesthetic and build a strong picture around what you want to be known for.
Create a compelling and distinctive brand identity that reflects where you want to be right now. If you've recently changed your focus - perhaps you've gone more luxe, for example, then it's time to check in with your brand and make sure that it reflects where you're headed right now. Don't be afraid to change it if it's wrong - it'll be holding you back.
Show why you're the only choice for your dream client. You're not right for everyone, but you are the only choice for your dream clients with their dream projects. Your portfolio is one way you can communicate that, but think about the way you write your copy and your creative process - is it relevant to put that one your website? And think also about how you respond to enquiries, how your invoices, proposals, quotes and creative presentations look. Every single impression matters - make each one count.
I know it's scary, but once you understand what your brand is all about, you can communicate with more focus and polish. And the more focused you are, the more compelling your business will be to those clients you really ache to work with. Good luck!