The key to creating professional relationships and being ‘in demand’ for your work is understanding who buys what you do. We’re going to get clarity around that by creating a customer persona or avatar through ideal client exercise.
It breaks my heart to think about how many creative ideas and initiatives wither on the vine because the creators don’t know who in the creative economy will buy what they’re offering.
Your 29 Day to Diva – Day 9 Assignment – Figure out who buys what you’re offering
Now is the time to really describe your ideal client, commissioner, director, student, collaborator, funder, presenter, or editor. You absolutely have different clients for each of your offers. I’m talking about getting very clear on who the person is who is responsible for giving you the job. This process is also described as understanding your target audience. (Listen, I’ve done multiple blog posts, a Fri-YAY video, and a Studio Class podcast episode about this topic because it’s so important and I constantly feel like artists avoid doing this critical work.)
Let’s address this right now: “Everyone” is not an acceptable answer for your target audience. Not everyone wants what you’re putting out into the world. Not everyone can afford your rates. Not everyone wants to learn in the way you teach. Not everyone has a schedule that’s conducive to yours. Not everyone presents work like yours in their venue. Not everyone finds your research topics applicable for their journal. Not everyone wants to commission music. Not everyone wants to prioritize live music events in their entertainment budget. Not everyone wants to use your resources in their studio. Obviously, this list can go on and on.
Ideal client exercise = clarity
The thing I love most about doing the ideal client exercise is the clarity I get afterwards. I feel confident about who I should be pitching. I feel clear about what I should highlight in my website copy or social media content to speak directly to the people who are the most likely to work with me. I feel like I have a plan. If you feel like you’re not working on the types of projects you want to be doing, or you feel like you want to be operating on a different level, or you want more gigs/students/commissions and you don’t know where to start… this is it. This is where you start. You need to create a clearer picture of WHO is going to hire you to do the thing you want to do. If you don’t know WHO buys what you do, you need to ask around! Do some research! Often the information you’re seeking is only a Google search away.
The most common mistake I see with describing your target audience is that artists consistently make it too vague. Or, they just describe the person they’ve worked with most recently regardless if they’d like to keep working with people like that, on projects like that, or in environments like that. They stop themselves from being honest about what they really want. They write down what they know they can already book without having to grow or challenge themselves.
Create your customer avatar
In its simplest form, a customer persona/avatar (or buyer persona) is an extremely distilled version of your ideal client/commissioner/student/etc.
To create a buyer persona, you’re going to go from macro to micro. You will take overarching information about your target customer and make it personal. You will use this to create an avatar of a single client/buyer. This one person represents your audience. Keeping your buyer persona in mind will allow you to create content that’s designed for a specific person, allowing you to present things in a relatable manner, almost as though you were speaking to a friend.
Understanding your audience involves thinking about both demographics and psychographics. Demographics is statistical information (age, gender, income, etc.) about a specific population/group. Psychographics is referring to the information about a particular person or group’s attitudes, values, and other psychological criteria. Use both to better understand your ideal client.
Prompts for creative professionals doing ideal client exercise:
- Is this person hiring you on behalf of themselves or someone else (e.g. a student or their audience?)
- Is their job title/role relevant?
- What is the median household income range or what is their budget?
- What geographic area do they exist in?
- How do they find out about [your thing]? (e.g. Music teachers, events in their area, up-and-coming artists in the field, recordings to review, people to write for their magazine/journal)
- What social media platforms do they use? Do they check any hashtags? Do they follow any influencers in this particular field?
- What is their preferred communication style?
- What are their goals at their job?
- What do they value both inside and outside of art?
- What other musicians, aesthetics, pedagogical approaches, creative pursuits interest them?
- What is the challenge that scares them the most in their day-to-day life?
- What are their pain points?
- How many people also get a say in how they spend their money?
I meet so many artists who seem to care about other people until it comes to their client or their audience. It doesn’t take away from your art or your art making to think about who wants to buy what you offer. I’m genuinely not telling you to only make art based on what other people want. I’m asking you to truly consider who wants exactly what you do. Then, when you’re thinking about that, you can find ways to show them that what you make/do is helpful, interesting, valuable, beneficial, problem-solving, and more to them.
I know that it’s scary and that imposter syndrome can flare up in a big hurry when you really pause to consider whether or not you’re creating work that is of interest to your ideal client. Don’t let that stop you. You can do this.