« Back to Blog November 5, 2015 | Branding

Designing an Ideal Client

When you start a self-initiated project, you are going to need a “client” to work for. You will never be hired to do real projects without a client with expectations and goals. So why not come up with an ideal client that you’d want to work for?

Coming up a fictional client to do work for isn’t as simple as making up a business name. When you don’t treat a self-initiated project the same as a paid project, you lose all of the value and experience it can provide you. Real clients have a history to draw from, things that inspire them, competitors, goals, and aspirations. These are the things that drive good, meaningful work.

So instead of just coming up with a fun business name and moving on, let’s come up with an entire business.

To start, answer the all-important 5 W’s first.

Who runs this business?
What does the business do?
When did it start?
Where is the business located?
Why did they start this business?

You can answer each one with a single word if need be. These are the absolute basic facts that will provide the basis for your fictional client.

A photo posted by Airship Design Co (@airshipdesignco) on

Now that we know the 5Ws, we can start brainstorming ideas for names. This is the tricky part. A name is simultaneously both the most important and least important aspect of a business. The name is often the first impression people get of a company, but only the quality of the product or service that they provide will determine the success or failure of that business.

A name should capture the spirit of the company. A lot of businesses tend to go with the [insert-city] [insert-service] formula for naming themselves. There’s nothing wrong with the literal approach, but I tend to favor digging a bit deeper and choosing a name that really has some more meaning. It’s easier to build a brand around a story with meaning.

When brainstorming ideas for names, write down anything and everything that is related to the business. Get a big list of words together and start going through them. After writing down several dozen or even hundreds of words some patterns will begin to appear and a name with character and some backbone will emerge. (Be sure to do a bit of research to make sure your name isn’t already being used!)

A photo posted by Airship Design Co (@airshipdesignco) on

After you have all of these base details set, it’s time to start going through your process. Fill out your client questionnaire as if you were this fictional client. Answer everything from this client’s perspective and flesh out the remaining details. This will also give you a feel for what it’s like to go through these early stages of your process and look for improvements.

When you go through the process of designing an ideal client, you will learn what ideal clients look like to you. You will know pretty quickly when a request for work comes in if the client will be a good fit for you or not.

I doubt many of you will design a client who is apathetic, cheap, and unkind. So why on earth would you take on a real client like that? When you take on a client that is a poor fit, you are making yourself unavailable to potential good clients. It can hurt to say no and turn down paying gigs, but life is too short to do bad work for uncaring people. Learn what an ideal client looks like to you and start working with people who fit into that mold.

Know your standards. Stick to your guns. Do better work.

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