People talk about opportunities like they’re a nebulous, disembodied thing. Like they’re floating around and will land on your shoulder and boom, your life is changed forever. Let’s say they are. Imagine opportunities are all floating around like balloons. Every balloon is connected to a string. And at the end of the string, even though you might not be able to see it, there is a person holding the string.
You see, opportunities are not standalone. They’re always connected to a person.
Think about all of the opportunities you’ve had in your life. Maybe you had a boss who believed in you, an agent who saw talent in you, a manager who knew someone you should be connected with, a friend who sent you a client, or a client who referred you some business. Opportunities always show up as people.
When you trying to make shit happen in life, more often than not, you need help from other people. Especially when you’re trying to build a business or if you’re a freelancer, you have to find and create your own opportunities. It’s still not enough that you’re solving a problem for a specific group of people. You have to also connect with people. This is a huge part of business - your ability to build trust, to communicate and to be likable. All things being equal - skills, talent and ability - people will work with the person they know, like and trust.
Connecting with people has two sides. There’s the you side and then the people side. First let’s talk about you.
Do you know how you make people feel?
This is a big one and I don’t think it gets enough attention. Human beings are silly. We try to act like we’re these super rational people who make decisions based on logic alone, but we couldn’t be further from that. We make many decisions based on how we feel and how other people make us feel.
If a car sales person made you feel like an idiot and you felt like they were schiesting you, I’m sure you probably wouldn’t buy a car from them. But if they really listened to you and gave you honest feedback that a different car - one that they didn’t sell - would be a better fit for your needs. You would probably feel heard and respected. And you might even wish they did sell that particular car because you’d like to buy from someone like that.
On the other hand, in other types of businesses, where power and intimidation rule, you bet your ass the folks in charge understand how they make people feel.
If you don’t understand how you make people feel, it’s like you're walking around with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, stomping around, giving no fucks about other people. Nobody likes that guy. That guy doesn’t realize when he’s stomping on a kid’s sandcastle.
Yes, you are the star of your own personal movie of your life, but so is everyone else. And if you want to get good at making money, you have to be tuned into other people’s feelings. If you can’t do the work to gain the self-awareness, you’ll always lose to people who can.
My casual recommendation to get some self-awareness might be a tall order, but I promise you, no one will be bummed if you develop this skill. In fact, all of humanity thanks you for dealing with your crap so that we don’t have to. (And see, I know I make people feel a strange combination of inspired and like ‘damn, she’s not afraid to be real').
Now let’s talk about the other people involved in this equation: the opportunities; the people. Here’s the first thing: you have to make sure you really care about these people. Like, really, really care about them.
You Have to Care About the People You’re Serving
For the past several months, more often than not, I’ve been waking up around 5:30 a.m. After I peel my body out of bed, I wake up by doing some stretching, some yoga, and I mediate as the sun comes up. Then I head out to a 7 a.m workout. By 8:15ish, my ass in a chair at a nearby coffee shop, where I write. For about an hour and half most days of the week, I write for you - the person reading this, who needs help with their finances, who is probably a freelancer or small business owner and likely does “creative” work.
I daydream about you. I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea or a new perspective that I want to share with you. I want you to feel less scared in the world. And even though we might watch capitalism burn to the ground during our lifetime, the fact of the matter is, we’re in lockstep with this system and I want you to understand it because it impacts your real life.
I’ve organized my whole day to make sure I’m creating the right conditions to have the genius give me these gifts; all these words I’m writing and all their illustrations.
I care way too much about you. But it’s a beautiful cycle because caring leads to listening which leads to me being able to create the exact solutions you’re looking for. And that leads to more opportunities, that reinforces my care, that pushes me to be better for my audience.
If you don’t care about the people you’re helping, you’re not going to want to put in all the work required to reach them and really be pivotal in helping them.
Who are the people you’re helping?
Let’s focus only on the people you want to sell to.
The two main groups are your idea client (aka ideal customer) and your target market (aka target audience).
Your Ideal Client
Going forward, I’m going to use ideal client and ideal customer interchangeably. Your ideal client is a specific person you want to work with based on their values, characteristics and qualities. They’re awesome in all the ways you want them to be awesome and it’s a damn joy working with them or making things for them.
Part of getting good at making money, is really knowing who your ideal client is. When you know who they are, you’re uniquely positioned to understanding their needs and you can speak directly to them with your marketing. A simple, but not easy slam dunk.
Exercise 1. When you think about your ideal client, ask yourself the following questions:
Can you think of a specific, real person that you are uniquely positioned to serve? (If you can’t, this is a red flag that maybe your ideal is too much of an ideal)
Marketers really love recommending that you create an ideal client avatar or persona. It’s basically taking the time to create a profile for your ideal client, a specific individual. How old are they? Where do they live? What is their job? What are their hobbies? How much money do they make?
Your Target Market
After you define your ideal customer, next you can figure out your target market. This is a marketing term that often gets confused with ideal client or niche. Your target market is the broad group of people or businesses you want to serve. The target market is the larger group that the ideal client fits into.
Think about the these two groups like a sunny side up egg (my favorite type of egg and my wife’s least favorite type of egg). The whole egg is your target market and the yolk is your ideal client.
So now you’re going from understanding how to reach just one person (the ideal client) to understanding how to reach group of people like them - the whole egg. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “If i already know who my ideal client is, why should I waste time caring about a target market?’ Because it’s how you find more people who might want to buy your products or services. You broaden the scope, then shoot for a target, and as a result, you’re increasing your chances of landing on the ideal.
Exercise 2. When you think about your target market, think about things in terms of broad strokes.
Which groups of people you are uniquely positioned to serve?
Broaden the scope of the characteristics, qualities and values of your ideal client.
Here’s an example of an ideal client and a target market for a web designer named Maria. Maria’s target market is service-based businesses that don’t have a website. Her ideal client is a service-based business that doesn’t have a website, with a business owner that values design, values a designer’s opinion and expertise and has a budget of at least $10,000 to build a website.
A Narrow Market is A Good Market (Be Specific)
I know it’s annoying that I keep mentioning this, but it’s because it’s important to make sure your target audience is narrow, so you can be specific and focused. Being specific and focused is how you make the biggest impact - like a magnifying glass focusing sun’s light, it’s so powerful it can burn things!
Exercise 3. Here are some questions that will help you determine whether or not you’ve narrowed down your market enough:
Do you know where to find your target market? (So you can concentrate your marketing efforts)
Are there existing networks (online and IRL) where you can find them?
When your target market sees your offering, will it resonate with them? Will they feel like you get them and you’re committed to serving them? This is another reason why really caring about the people you’re serving matters.
Two Big Buts
Through all your research it’s important that you choose a target market and ideal client that can afford what you’re selling and are willing to pay for your solution. If they can’t afford it, then you might have to find a new ideal client and target market. If they can afford it, but they aren’t willing to pay for it, you need to understand why that is. Is it because it’s not really a solution or is it because they’re unclear about how the solution will impact them?