Sunday, July 27, 2008

Where are your clients?

I just happened upon this post by Jeff Fisher, one of my creative buddies over at the HOW Forum, who speaks about the geographic boundaries often imposed by creatives upon themselves. In the post, he expresses surprise that so many creatives think they have to restrict themselves to their specific location:

Huh? I don't think I got the memo about the Federal government building walls around local communities to keep designers, writers, photographers and others trapped in their hometown environments.

Admittedly, when my initial Internet presence went live in 1998, my website was intended to primarily serve as a portfolio for a predominantly local clientele. I wasn't expecting email requests for information about my services from potential clients across the United States - and then from around the globe. Suddenly there were no restrictions to the target market for my business. In the decade since, 80-85% of my business has been for clients outside of the State of Oregon.

He makes a great point. I, too, have had great success with clients from around the country as a result of maintaining an active Web presence and being active on forums, e-mail lists and the like. But one thing I'll add is that, in my mind, there's a lot of good to be said for working with local clients. For one thing, it's often easier to make solid connections, since you get instant face-to-face contact. For another, I for one find that collaboration is much easier when you can get face time with a client - as wonderful as the Internet and cell phones are, it's just no match for being in a room with someone hashing out what needs to be done. And for yet another, I just happen to enjoy supporting my local economy.

All this said, I don't think that focusing on either is really the best choice. Currently, I'd guess my clients are about 50% local/50% non-local. The key, in my opinion, is not to rule either out, but to figure out who you want to attract, and then set up your communications to speak to those specific people - and then set out looking for those people.

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