Finding your Target Audience

I am not sure if a topic like this has been really talked about that much so I thought I would start a new thread.

So I have never really done any sort of true marketing other than creating my website and the occasional post on social media. However, I have started to do more and of course, the first thing any marketing expert tell’s you is “find your target audience”! I am not sure if any other freelance designers have fallen into the big black hole that I have fallen into but just like so many I have to ask myself as an overall general designer what would be “my target audience”.

If you’re like me and have worked as a freelancer for so many years on almost any project, I can safely say its hard to ask yourself “what or who is my target audience”?

For example, I can wake up and start work on a retail packaging project for one client, then jump over to a corporate brochure or flyer for another client and the end the day working on a social media ad for a totally different client. So by the end of the day I enjoyed working on a variety of projects and still ask myself “who or what is my target audience”?

I would love to hear from other seasoned freelance designers to get their opinions. No offense to the freelancers just starting off as this topic would probably be very beneficial to you so that you don’t fall into the same hole that I stepped in.

Waiting to hear some feedback… heck maybe even some suggestions!

Talk soon!
Rick

Why do you consider it a hole to be stepped in? You could define your target audience as anyone who needs a professional, experienced graphic designer. If you don’t have a specific niche, that means you have a broad target market. Nothing more, nothing less.
To narrow it down would most likely be detrimental to your bottom line. The only thing I can think of to be wary of is coming across as a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

Here’s a related ongoing thread discussing some of the same things from a different angle: Typecast

A generalist has an awfully broad target audience, which brings up the problem of it being difficult to develop promotional materials, like a website or portfolio, that reflects a style conducive to everything from designing corporate annual reports to web sites for tattoo parlors. Almost always, though, generalists aren’t quite that general and work within a more restricted range of clients.

Even so, as the thread I linked to points out, as our career progresses, inadvertently or not, we tend to specialize due to short-term choices that lead us down long-term paths that present opportunities that branch off still further into increased specialization. Being aware that this tends to happen, whether planned or not, suggests the importance of making career and target audience decisions based on where you want to end up rather than choosing a willy-nilly course based only on what seems appropriate at the moment.

As for specialization, though, it seems increasingly common for designers to deliberately narrow down to a niche field where they can present themselves to clients as the expert in that niche. I think there are pros and cons to doing this, but one good thing is that doing so makes it a lot easier to focus in on a well-defined target audience.

Hey PrintDriver, I should have sad it was hole that “I” stepped in. Sorry but defining your target audience to anyone that needs a professional would be like going out and selling plain bottle water for 25 cents. Your never going to get anyone that wants to pay for the good stuff like Fiji water. That is why I noted that “I have stepped in a hole with almost no way out”.

First if I market myself as a “jack of all trades” for anyone needing a professional then I basically in the same category as the designers on Fiverr that will do any job.

Second if I market myself as basic graphic designer then I will just be facing competion from all of the freelance sites that are already pimping out the designers to every Jack and Jill that needs a professional.

I will say that I am still trying to find my “nich” but it is starting to seem harder with the mass market of other designers.

I will also say that I have started by making sure that everyone know’s that my basic nich is in print design… now I just have to go to the next step from there.

Thanks for the reply!!

The best thing to do about crowdsource is ignore it.
I’m not really one to speak to this as I’m not personally a freelancer and I do work in a very niche (and strange) corner of the communication design world. Most of the designers I know are particularly specialized and have unique clients they market to. Not too many are generalists. Like B said, it was a conscious choice on their part what road to pursue. And a choice made at a time when there was far less competition starting out in the field.
Take a good hard look at where you think you might want to be in 10 years and aim there.

Hi Just-B, yeah I think I read that thread a few weeks ago… just never had a chance to discuss it.

I agree with your thoughts on being a generalist but all too many times the generalist starts wondering how to get go from from large stuff to small gigs that just pay that one bill. Sort of being something like a “handyman” wondering “I use to build closets and rooms” and now they just come out to fix a broken light bulb. It may be with a restricted client but now that are just taking wants thrown to them.

As far as the specialization aspect I agree there are a lot of pro’s and con’s and yes as our career progresses we do see ourselves changing or adapting to what needs to be done.

Take me for example, when I left my full time art job I was creating unique print concepts for big studios, and thinking up new innovative ways to create a printed marketing project. Now I create basic flyers or brochures and the clients I get don’t care or could afford doing a custom brochure. I didn’t want to change but I realized that I am no longer at a studio where I can promote that. Plus at the time years ago I just couldn’t get my foot in the door of the clients that “may” do something.

Thanks Just-B… I will make sure to go back and reread that thread!

I totally agree on the crowdsourcing… unfortunately right now it helps pay the bills!

Oh I am rethinking and trying to get back to not being a generalist and more back to what I like to do which was creating conceptual designs and ideas for studios, entertainment and large corporations… just facing a uphill battle with all of the competition out there now.

I’m in a similar situation. I’ve always had a freelance side business for decades, but now I’m relying on it for most of my income. The whole covid-19 thing resulted in me being furloughed from the university where I was working with nothing but uncertainty ahead for at least six months.

I’ve been relying on already-established freelance clients and searching for others. My previous full-time work has always been for larger companies and agencies, where I’ve been working with professionals and large budgets on good-sized projects. Even my freelance work was based around selectively taking on work from more savvy clients.

Now, my current situation has me looking for contract work and running head-first into, as you put it, handyman sorts of situations where I’m working with unsophisticated clients on somewhat ill-conceived projects. Instead of art directing six-figure regional ad campaigns and hiring professional photographers, I’m now working with clients who are naively self-publishing things like family recipe books using photos shot with their iPhones. It’s discouraging, but has also been enlightening.

I’m not all that far away from retirement age, and on the bright side, this is helping to prepare me for a more focused part-time thing after I retire. On the other hand, I was hoping to delay all that for a few more years. But honestly, retirement is looking more attractive all the time.

I totally feel for you! I was basically in the same shoes that you were in. My previous full-time work at me working on creating work (not just design but also manufacturing) that was unique. Clients like Disney and Fox would call on my team and I to create unique conceptional designs for future projects.

When I decided to go full-time freelance back in 2012 I was hoping to keep that momentum going. However, slowly and slowly I found myself in the same situation you are in with looking for contract work and “handyman” situations.

Yeah retirement is looking better all the time… I still have to keep waiting though :frowning:

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