7 things that every client tells me they want in THEIR clients

Who Am I ?

It’s one of my standard questions: Tell me about your ideal clients. What qualities do they have?

And the answers are always the same, to start with.

  • They’re smart.
  • They’re funny.
  • They’re women. (Or entrepreneurs. Or middle-aged.)
  • They’re willing to do the work.
  • They don’t argue about the prices.
  • They turn up on time.
  • They’re not, you know, broken.

Most clients will tell me every single one of these more or less verbatim, and then get to the end and say, “They sound like… everyone. Don’t they.”

I don’t even need to say yes. Instead I say, “Well, let’s dig a little deeper, so they start sounding specific.”

And so. And so.

They’re smart.

What kind of smart? Book smart, street smart, mamma-dint-raise-no-fools-smart? Emotionally, kinesthetically? Is smart a shorthand for wise, witty, practical, common-sensical, educated or something completely different?

And when you know that: what does their smart mean for them, and how they interact with the world?

And when you know that: what does that mean for you?

Practical example: describe the style of article you’d write for these different flavours of smart:

  • reads encyclopaedia for fun
  • solves Agatha Christies in the first two chapters
  • always knows when you’re feeling edgy
  • can fix anything, even without duct tape
  • never without a witty retort
  • constantly self-aware and self-correcting

Ah. Smart now means something.

They’re funny.

Again, what kind of funny? Smart and sarcastic? Sweet and silly? Pun-tacular? The humour that flows from an understanding of just how ridiculous the world we live in is?

And when you know that: what does their sense of humour say about them and how they see the world?

And when you know that: what does that mean for you?

Practical example: describe the tone you’d use in your newsletter for these different flavours of funny:

  • absurdism
  • gently amused
  • hard-edged mockery
  • satire
  • observational humour
  • word nerdery

Again, they’re very, very different.

They’re women.

Why do they have to be women?

90% or more of the time with my clients it turns out that “women” (or most of the other demographic-y information) is, like funny and smart, trying to be a shorthand for some other, necessary quality.


  • empathy
  • willingness to change
  • communication skills
  • lovingness
  • self-awareness
  • undergoing a dramatic life change

So, does it actually have to be middle-aged women entrepreneurs in North America? Or are you trying to say something else?

They’re willing to do the work.

This one falls into the “Duh” category. (But don’t beat yourself up. Everyone says it.)

Of course you want people who value the work you’re doing and won’t just leave it on the metaphorical shelf behind the Boggle set.

This is a sign that you’re ready to leave behind the dabblers and the dilettantes to embrace those who are ready to truly ROCK IT THE FUCK OUT.

So how do you know? What do your clients do (or NOT do) to indicate their willingness to get down and dirty and embrace the transformation you’re creating?

How do you create the situation where they display that willingness?

For makers of physical thingies: your flavour of this tends to manifest in statements like, “They deeply care about handmade/quality/the craft.” Otherwise it is exactly the same.

They don’t argue about the prices./They turn up on time.

Similar, but related. This is about them respecting you and the work.

The question is: why do they respect you and your work? What about the work, and how you deliver it, is worthy of respect?

I mean, you (as a human being) are innately awesome. This is not up for discussion.

But what is it about what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, that makes them think your prices are amazing?

Why do they value your work and time so highly?

They’re not, you know, broken.

You’re not here to fix your clients. They bring a basic level of self-awareness, self-esteem, financial capacity and creativity to the work.

The funny thing is that those standards are different for everyone. Your “have enough money” is someone else’s “broke as fuck”. (And someone different’s “bajillionaire”.)

So what do your standards look like?

And how do you communicate them: in your offerings, your word choice, your pricing, your assumptions, your barriers, your boundaries?

There are a few other patterns, but you get the idea.

Most client-demographic questions suck a giant pile of ass, because they never go under the hood and say, Why does this matter?

It’s the level underneath the superficial where the connection happens, where you find your Hells Yes I Am! identity.

It is always awesome to ask yourself this about any of the ways you’ve identified your right clients. Often, the “Because…” is more valuable, meaningful and special than the quality above it.

If so, skip the superficial and get right down to the meat.

Nom nom nom.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: AhmadHammoud

3 thoughts on “7 things that every client tells me they want in THEIR clients

  1. The way of customer profiling that works for me is from The Innovators Solution.  It is ‘occasions of use’ – that is: What job are your customers hiring your product to do for them.  This kind of cuts across and adds to the demographic and psychographic.  Though finding out can be harder.

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