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 are unlikely to 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.
Defining your target market allows you to allocate your resources in a more effective and efficient way. 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
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 those definitions, going with a target market is the more logical choice for a freelance graphic designer, since the purpose of your services is to fulfill specific needs.
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 is arguably the most impactful. 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 — understanding psychographics will allow you to create an emotional connection with your target market, thereby making it easier to persuade them to use your services.
STEPS TO DEFINING YOUR TARGET MARKET
First, define the benefits of your services and businesses and individuals that might 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. It will give you a general idea of your target market and a basis to work with.
If you have tried offering your services for free to build your portfolio, you should have some experience working with clients. It’s a small sample size, but should provide you with some information about who your target market should be.
See also: Building Your Portfolio
Also, be sure to register your portfolio site on Google Analytics 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 usually located.
If possible, try to reach out to your target market and do some 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 where your target market might be active on and extract information from them. Social media is a good place to start, and gives you a chance to find out what your target market thinks about the types of services you will be offering.
Consider checking out your competition and what kind of people they are targeting. From there, think of ways to differentiate your target market from the others.
By following the steps above, you should have enough information to find commonalities and group them according to geographics, demographics and psychographics, thus clearly defining your target market. In addition, make sure your target market is wide enough to be sustainable. If not, you might want to rethink your services and modify them to appeal to a wider market.
If you want to extend the reach of your brand, consider reaching out to influencers who have strong relationships with your target market.
It’s also a good idea to redefine your target market from time to time. The services you provide may remain the same, but consumer behavior can change over time as visual trends come and go.
You should invest time and effort to define your target market. Don’t underestimate its importance — having a clear picture of who you are selling your services to will definitely help you succeed as a freelance graphic designer.