In order to succeed as a freelance graphic designer, you have to figure out who you are targeting. With a limited budget, you only have so much to spend on marketing. Furthermore, trying to get your services in front of everyone means competing with established professionals and design agencies — which is a battle you can’t win.
As such, you want to work smart, not hard, and that involves defining your target market and niching it down. There’s nothing wrong with being a big fish in a small pond. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to make good money from your services.
However, defining a target market doesn’t mean you exclude anyone; it’s just a more effective and efficient way to allocate your resources. You will be able to engage your target market more deeply, leading to more business for you in the long run.
ASPECTS OF A TARGET MARKET
First, it’s important to know the difference between target audience and target market. A target audience is usually a group that is most likely to respond positively to a brand message. A target market, on the other hand, groups consumers that share common needs or characteristics. Based on the definitions, going with a target market is the better choice, since you’re trying to figure out who to sell your services to.
In order to define your target market, you should focus on three aspects: geographics, demographics and psychographics.
Geographics divide the market by location. Because you will likely be dealing with international clients, it’s important to know if your services do better in one place than another.
Demographics are the ‘who’ in a target market, and include quantifiable characteristics such as age, gender, annual income and so on.
Psychographics, on the other hand, deal with the values, attitudes, and lifestyles of a target market. It is based on the assumption that such subjective factors influence the types of services an individual chooses.
Out of the three aspects, psychographics are arguably the most important. You can use demographics and geographics to form a general outline of your target market. However, to successfully market your services, you have to go deeper and connect with your target market on an emotional level — and psychographics allows you to do just that.
STEPS TO DEFINING YOUR TARGET MARKET
The first step is to link the benefits your services bring to those who need them. In other words, don’t think about who you would like to sell to, think about who is looking for the services you offer. Doing so will give you a general idea of your target market, from which you can start adding more information.
If you have build your portfolio by offering your services for free, you should some experience working with clients. It’s a small sample size, but should be enough for you to start figuring out your target market.
See also: Building Your Portfolio
Also, be sure to register your portfolio site on Google Analytics, which allows you to obtain useful data about your visitors. For example, you can discover the traffic sources to your portfolio site, and see where your visitors are located. If you want to learn more, Google has Analytics Help.
Now that you have some information to work with, it’s time to do more research. While primary research (questionnaires, surveys and focus groups) is ideal, it can get expensive and might not be affordable for you. An alternative would be to search for existing sources and extract information related to your target market. Social media is a good place to start, and gives you a chance to find out what they think about the types of services you will be offering.
At the same time, consider checking out your competition and their target markets. But don’t just include the same people — think of ways to differentiate your target market.
By following the steps above, you should have enough information to find commonalities and group them according to geographics, demographics and psychographics, thus defining your target market. In addition, make sure it’s big enough to be sustainable. If not, you will have to rethink your services and maybe modify them to appeal to a wider market.
If you want to extend the reach of your brand, consider reaching out influencers who have strong relationships with your target market.
It’s also a good idea to redefine your target market from time to time. Your services may remain the same, but consumer behavior can change over time as visual trends come and go.
You should invest time and effort in defining your target market. Don’t underestimate its importance — having a clear picture of who you’re selling your services will help you succeed as a freelance graphic designer.