The Hunt for The Perfect Client

Originally published here by Elizabeth Morris

Like good ol’ Captain Ahab, we service providers are on the hunt for our proverbial whale.

We’re all on the constant quest to find the perfect client. Some of us find it and some of us don’t. So what really is the key to finding the perfect client and what does the perfect client even look like?

The first thing you need to think about when idealizing your perfect client is to create an avatar. What is an avatar you might ask? An avatar is basically an imaginary representation of the type of person you would like to work on. It’s a representation of a particular person, figure, or icon.

Avatars can be very useful in all types of business analysis whether we’re talking about employees, clients, vendors, collaborators, or even our own personal avatar of how we want to be perceived in our communities. Step number one to find your ideal client is to take some time to develop an avatar of your ideal client. You can easily grab a piece of paper and a pen and start writing down all the things that would make up your ideal client.

What type of personality do they have? How often do they want to get their nails done? What’s their socioeconomic status? What’s their age range? What type of style do they like? Do they have children? Are they career-oriented? What do they do for a living? How do they spend their day? What are their hobbies?

These might sound like weird questions, and also might make any HR department wince, but when we think about these things privately they help to identify the type of person that you’re ultimately looking for. Just don’t do this in an interview! Lol. The goal here isn’t to be judgmental, it’s to be matter-of-fact about truly what type of people would be best suited for us and our business and strategizing our “plan of attack” so that the clients we end up with are the ones we truly wanted.

How does this relate to a client who wants to get their nails done? We each want to get the right type of person in our chair who is in need of the type of services we’re each trying to offer. A good example of a disconnected client/service provider relationship is a nail tech who wants to provide wild and crazy nail art, long extreme nail shapes, and bright fun colors because it’s something that drives them in their passion for nails and nail art, however, their client base are mid-40 to 50s career-focused conservative clients that need short and natural looking nail services because they spend all day in a corporate office.

Sure they might be great clients from the perspective they can pay for the service, are on time, keep their appointments and have a nice professional attitude, but eventually the nail tech may become dissatisfied with a book of people they can’t exercise their love of nail art on. Nothing burns a service provider out more than filling their days with services they don’t want to be doing. It happens really frequently, and more and more beauty professionals are finding themselves successfully booked but with a book of services they hate doing.

It can also apply to personalities as well. Maybe you’re more alternative and you just can’t relate to overly conservative clientele? Or vice-versa. So figuring out the type of person you want to be working on is very important, and that’s where having an avatar comes in. Take the time to detail out this ideal client. If you could punch everything into a computer and spit out your wishlist client (a la Weird Science magic) what would this person be like? It is different for everyone. It’s also important to note your avatar might also change over time as you evolve in your career, so it’s a good idea to regularly review the avatar you’re ultimately trying to market your business to and make adjustments as needed.

The services you provide and advertise also play a key role in finding your ideal client. A lot of us when we start out in our careers take on any appointment that comes our way. I like to jokingly call this the “prostitute” phase. Rude and crude? Yeah ok. Offensive? Maybe. But funny and memorable? Absolutely.

And I like using this analogy because it helps illustrate that time period any business goes through when you just need the money. We may find ourselves doing pink and whites when we had dreamed of doing more adventurous nail designs. Or maybe we get stuck doing pedicures because we can charge more.

It all starts out very innocently as we need to take on all the appointments we get in the beginning as a source of income so we can grow and develop our business. This is completely normal. However, what can happen over time is the clients we inadvertently worked on without long term strategy in mind, go out into the world, show others their nails or fresh pedi, talk about you as their service provider, and end up sending you clones of themselves via client referrals. You find yourself months or years later with a full book of ______ appointments, when you hadn’t really planned on that and were just trying to make it buck. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing as getting fully booked is the goal of any service provider, but again you may get burned out continually doing services that you didn’t really want to do.

So how do we prevent this? The services you offer and say yes to play a large role in what you end up becoming known for. Ultimately the goal should be to find our own unique niche. Something we offer and excel at that no one else does (or at least not exactly the way we do it). You’ll get recognition and repeat business, and you’ll find yourself in that “well oiled machine” position. So it’s important to remove services from your offerings if you really don’t ultimately want to be doing them.

This is something a lot of nail technicians don’t think about until it is too late, and it is very difficult and scary to completely revamp your whole book when you’ve gotten used to the security of your current status. If you don’t want to be doing polish changes why put them on your menu? If you don’t want to be doing pink and whites why put them on your menu? And this decision will vary from service provider to service provider. Just because others are doing a specific service doesn’t mean you have to as well. Take some time to strategize what you really want to become known for, and focus on only providing those services. Yes it may mean you have to say no, and yes you may grit your teeth doing so, but long term you’ll end up in a much happier place. Strategizing your offerings will ensure that any client you work on will ultimately be advertising the services that you want to continue to provide, and they’ll end up “cloning themselves” into a full book that makes you happy to go to work.

Lastly and probably most importantly is a final tidbit a lot of service providers don’t take into account; value and demand. What does this mean? Any customer really continues to visit a business because they find value in the service or product they are receiving. It’s not about feelings. It’s not about friendship. It’s about the satisfaction in the transaction. In order for a transaction to be successful the buyer must value the service/ product more than the money in their pocket. And the service/product provider must value that money more than the service/product they have to offer.

This is the most fundamental principle of business. If the two sides are not happy with the transaction it will cause a disconnect and yield an unhappy result. So where am I going with this? Ultimately your services have to provide value. As artists we would love to be able to provide whatever we want and have people pay premium top dollar for it, but this isn’t always reality. I often hear nail techs say things like “charge what you’re worth,” or “clients should value my artistry,” but it’s not as simple as that.

Yes, we are artists, and what we do is a lot of time very magical, but we have to remember we are in a business of transactions. If one side of the transaction is out of sync it really doesn’t matter how amazing of an artist you are because you’re not providing value to your client base.

You may have a dream doing long stiletto nails with tons of 3D nail art (this was my dream when I started), but this type of service may not be in demand in your area. Can you fight the fight and shove stiletto nails and 3D art down everyone’s throat? Sure! But will you be successful or profitable?

Now this concept doesn’t mean you have to completely go the opposite direction and only provide what’s in high demand, but you at least need to think about this and decide whether or not you are going to be able to change your local market. Fighting this fight is also a big culprit of burn out and even if you’re fire doesn’t burn out your money may before you achieve your goal. Instead of being extreme one way or the other (not budging vs. completely selling out), you can also slightly change your offerings to be different, but still valued by your community. Maybe instead of crazy long nails with 3D nail art on all your clients, you can wear what you love and have 1 or 2 people who do too, and the rest of your clients get a modified rendition that is still fun and different, but better aligns with their needs, wants, and what they value.

A lot of service providers run themselves out of business trying to offer something that no one really wants, and although this isn’t really the fun part you do need to take into consideration. It’s not impossible to change our markets, but it is something that takes a lot of time, energy, and money many service providers just don’t have.

So after you’ve decided your wish list of services and you’ve developed your avatar, bounce that against your local market reality to see if it’s even possible and if adjustments need to be made. Ultimately, the goal is to arrive at some kind of triangulation between your ideal client, the services you want to provide, and what’s realistic for your market. If you can do that you’ll not only be satisfied with your book, but your book will be satisfied with you. It’s a win win!