“The most exciting acting tends to happen in the roles you never thought you could play.” -John Lithgow
Getting clear on my ideal client was something that mystified me at the start of my business.
It seemed liked everywhere I turned, someone was asking me all about my client avatar. I spent (ahem, wasted) so much freaking time drilling into this fictitious person who was going to come and save my business like a knight-in-shining-armor.
Turns out, in real business life it doesn’t exactly work that way.
While knowing who you serve and what problem you solve for your people is incredibly important, sometimes the whole ideal client thing is a cop-out and an excuse to stay stuck and play small.
Sure, we want to be intimate with our people's needs, desires, fears, and problems. We want to be able to communicate our message to the right people. We also want to be clear on who we can’t help. But instead of getting clear on the type of person we can serve and help, I see a lot of us deciding why someone isn’t ideal.
We're doing what my old acting teacher used to call ‘casting ourselves out of the role’.
With acting, as you probably know, in order to book a part, you have to audition for the role. Your agent submits you for different parts, and then, if you seem like a potential fit, a casting director will invite you in for an audition.
An invitation to audition usually includes a character breakdown that describes what they’re looking for.
I can’t tell you how many times, I’d get one of these character breakdowns, look at it, and rattle of a list of reasons why I wasn’t right for that particular part.
Sometimes I was the wrong age range, sometimes a different ethnicity, or sometimes the role had attributes I just KNEW I didn’t have.
Luckily I had an acting teacher who called BS on these stories and would remind me that it’s not up to me to cast the part. Casting had seen my photo and resume, they were calling me in for a reason, and I had no idea what they really wanted.
He would remind me to stop casting myself out of the part.
This piece of advice helped me work through so many stories over the years. The majority of the roles I booked? I was dead ‘wrong’ for the part on paper.
These were roles that took me to Italy, South Africa, and all over the US. They ended up being really fun parts where I got to play outside what I had thought was my ‘range’ and ‘type’.
The same thing can happen when it comes to you and your business.
There’s a tendency to cast ourselves out of work. I see this all.the.time. with my clients, and hey, I’ve had to catch myself on this as well.
We decide ahead of time what people can afford and rule out people as ‘not ideal’ based on these assumptions. Um, I’m sorry, when did we become all-knowing mind readers?
We know before launching a program why no one on our list wants it. We’re sure we need to build an entirely new audience of the ‘right’ people first.
And the biggest one I see over and over again? We think we need new ideal clients.
Friends, stop casting yourself out of work.
What I see here isn’t a problem with our ideal clients. It’s fear and stories we tell ourselves about not being good enough. It’s a way we try to protect ourselves from being rejected. It’s wanting to avoid making offers and selling. It’s thinking the grass is greener.
It’s a want for control.
It’s thinking that there is one perfect human who won’t have any objections and will buy out everything we offer.
It’s hiding in plain sight.
It’s also kind of rude to our potential clients, who are probably pretty ideal. We essentially tell them that they’re not good enough and that we know better than they do about what they want. Not very empowering, is it?
What if, instead of using the whole ‘ideal client’ thing as a way to hide and prejudge potential clients, we use it the way it was intended?
The same way a character breakdown isn’t set in stone and is meant to help casting directors identify and locate potential fits for a part, our ideal client avatar is meant to help us find and connect with the people we can potentially help.
Client avatars were never meant to become fictitious characters. They were meant to help us become better marketers, so we can show up and share our message with the people who want to hear it.
Ideal clients are meant to give us a framework, so we’re clear on the needs, wants, desires, fears, concerns, and problems our people face.
For context, I’ll share that some of the most ideal clients I work with don’t fit into the same client avatar mold. I’ve also found some clients become more ideal the longer we work together.
As we get ready to close out this year and start to look to our business goals for the new year, let’s keep our integrity and boundaries, but let’s also loosen the grip on our fear that has us casting ourselves out of work.
Wishing you your version of success!