One of the biggest challenges for many freelancers is attracting "dream clients." Clients that are fun, friendly, appreciate your skills and let you get on with the job because they know you're the pro. They pay on time, respond quickly to emails and respect you.
Unfortunately, too many freelancers find themselves settling for less-than-ideal clients in order to keep the lights on. That's OK in the short run. But over time, these types of clients and projects will wear you down.
Is it an "image" issue? After all, we've heard how important our branding is in attracting better clients. Yet there are tons of freelancers with impressive logos, taglines and websites who still struggle month after month.
No, it's not your brand. But it may very well have to do with another aspect of branding. One you don't often hear about: Your brand voice.
Your brand voice is the way in which you speak to your potential clients and customers. You may be thinking, "Well, I speak as I speak. What's that got to do with my branding?"
Let's look at an example that drove this point home for me....
A few years ago, when we were just launching our own web design business we decided we needed to look and sound professional. So we set up a slick-looking website and filled the site with content that made us sound like the professionals we wanted to be.
While it did the job, it was unfortunately rather dull. It was boring. The same tired, vanilla copy you read all over the web. We used phrases like "streamlined", "iterative", "customer insights", "RFP" and other corporate buzzwords.
It sounded very corporate. And it sounded very boring.
We got clients... but they were pretty dull too. They certainly weren't the kind of clients we really wanted to be working with. Instead they were small corporations and other professional service firms. In other words, the types of traditional businesses that would naturally be attracted by our plain, vanilla branding.
Fast-forward to this year. We now work with eco-entrepreneurs, solo guitarists, relationship coaches, yogis and more. They're fun, friendly and just the kind of clients we like to work with.
Our website is fun, friendly and interesting. The copy speaks to the clients we love. We use phrases like "razzle dazzle", "Wowser!" and "pizazz". Because it sounds fun, we get fun clients who email us things like "Gimme some shine, baby"!.
Seriously. It's a world of difference.
So how do you find a brand voice that speaks to the kind of people you really want to work with? Here's where to start...
Who do you really want to work with?
You've probably already done some target market exercises where you've identified the demographics, industries and types of businesses and clients you want to work with.
But have you thought about the types of people and their personalities? Better yet, go deeper and consider their world view. What is it? What belief systems do they operate under? What kinds of things push their buttons? If you're looking to connect more deeply with them, you'll probably want to match all of these aspects with your own personal ones too.
When you consider your target market from a much more personal perspective, it becomes easier to identify the brand voice we'll use to speak to them. So give this some serious thought: What type of people do you really want to work with? Who do you want to connect with?
How do they speak?
Once you've nailed down the kind of clients you'd like to work with, you need to identify how they speak.
What kind of language do they use? Is it formal? Do they like to use buzzwords or certain phrases? Are they fanatical about correct grammar and spelling? Are they casual? Do they prefer conversational writing? Or do they like short, to-the-point facts and figures?
Identifying their preferred language and how they like to use it will help you identify the kind of brand voice that will really speak to them.
This idea of a branding voice is a subtle thing. But it's an incredibly smart branding device that can really set you apart from the competition and will help you develop stronger, deeper relationships with the type of clients you've always wanted to work with - individuals that jive with your values, personality and work style.
So Here's Your Assignment:
- Get out all your branding collateral - your business card, your mailers, your website, etc.
- Review the language you've used. Does it have a strong voice? Who does it currently speak to? Is it the same language your ideal clients use?
- If not, focus on creating a clear, strong brand voice that will speak directly to your target market.
Start today. Give your brand its own identifiable voice by using this subtle technique. I think you'll find that it will help you make stronger and better connections with your prospects... without necessarily having to sound "professional."