The 5 elements that make up an effective persona


Imagine you’ve been exchanging emails and phone calls with a prospect who seems promising, only to find out they decided NOT to hire you. Even worse, they dropped off the face of the earth and you never hear from them again.

Now you’re not only bummed that you didn’t get the project, but you’re mad about all the time you wasted pursuing a gig that never happened. That time could have been invested in things with greater (or any!) return.

If this happens to you often, you’re lacking focus. You might have a niche, but maybe you haven’t dug into your persona enough. In fact, you’ve probably never spent any time on defining a persona. Not good for business!

Without defining a persona, you’re missing out on the highest quality clients, and you’ll forever struggle with making sales (and I mean really good ones… like 5-digit sales).

What is a persona?

The better question to ask is: “Who is a persona?”

After all, “persona” is how we say “person” in Spanish (except we pronounce the sexy r’s when we say the word, heh).

First, if you don’t have a niche, you need to figure that out asap. Once you’ve chosen a niche, you’ll have specified an ideal client.

A persona is a profile of your ideal client, and it should serve as a detailed representation of your key audience.

Defining a persona means taking the time to study and paint a clear picture of your ideal client.

I was first introduced to personas by my dear teacher, Seth Godin (thank you, Seth). Since then, I’ve come up with my own framework and method for defining a persona.

A persona helps you understand, relate to, and assist your ideal client.

If you don’t see the value in that, you might want quit while you’re ahead (…because you’re so, so far behind!).

A business without a persona is like Donald Trump without ridiculous hair.

trump bald

Trump isn’t as effective without ridiculous hair or toupee or whatever that thing is. Your business isn’t either without a persona.

Here are the 5 elements that make up an effective persona:

  1. Problem
  2. Pain Points
  3. Demographics
  4. Psychographics
  5. Goals

Let’s briefly dig into each element to examine how it can help us become better freelancers.

1. Problem

Clearly understanding the problem your client faces should be a given for every business owner. Problems have many symptoms, and they usually create a chain of sub-problems. Study the problem in depth, and you’ll find clues about how to understand your clients better.

2. Pain Points

Learning the pain points your clients experience helps you empathize better, which in turn helps you sell better.

The symptoms and emotions tied to the problem you solve are what your clients really want to eliminate from their life and business.

3. Demographics

Demographics describe tangible characteristics about your client such as age, gender, marital status, location, etc. Demographics are the hardest piece to research, especially when you don’t have many clients. To be honest, I feel that while demographics can help a lot, they’re not as helpful as psychographics for most freelancers.

4. Psychographics

Psychographics describe intangible characteristics of a person, such as personality, opinions, values, emotions, interests, attitudes, and lifestyle (a lot, huh?). Psychographics shed light on how to provide the best experience for your clients. Once you discover how your ideal clients think, it impacts everything: from the colors of your website to the way you collect payments.

5. Goals

Discovering your clients’ common goals will help you assist them better. Understanding their main goal along with any sub-goals teaches you how to provide the best solution. If you find that no client has the same goals, you’re either not thinking hard enough or your niche is still too general.

Understand, relate, and assist

Remember how I said that defining a persona helps you understand, relate to, and assist your clients better?

Well, now that you know the elements of a solid persona, you can leverage and group the information accordingly:

  • The problems and pain points your client experiences helps you understand.
  • Demographics and psychographics help you relate.
  • Identifying common goals helps you assist.

If you can understand, relate to, and assist to your clients better, you’ll become one of the best (if not, the best!) in your niche.

Selling becomes waaaay easier, because your clients perceive that you somehow just “get” them. That’s what understanding their problems and pain points does.

Working with you becomes enjoyable and feels natural to your clients because you understand the way they live and think. That’s what demographics and psychographics teach you.

Your clients will be glad and thankful they hired you, because you solved their problem effectively and made their life easier. That’s what identifying goals will help you accomplish.

Ideas, decisions, and focus become easy breezy

Every decision in your business will become easier once you’ve defined a solid persona.

Your persona will guide you into building a business built to attract, influence, and serve your ideal clients.

Other freelancers and agencies will have a hard time topping you in your niche. You’ll dominate your niche like Tyson in his prime! (Just keep it clean and don’t bite anyone’s ear off.)

Just the other day, I brainstormed with a friend on how he could grow an audience for a new podcast he started. We talked about a lot of things for about two hours. However, our last 30 minutes were the most effective, because we were able to further specify his niche, which then allowed us to dig deeper into his persona.

His niche and persona were key to simplifying his podcast into a single focus. Ideas on how to grow his audience became easier to evaluate. He now has a clear direction, and he feels confident about reaching and impacting his audience effectively.

Amazing how that works, huh?

But I don’t have enough clients to define a persona…

Defining a persona can feel difficult because you encounter questions you’ve never asked before. Sometimes you won’t know the answers, or you’ll feel like you don’t have enough data to research. Don’t worry. In this case, something is better than nothing. Trust me!

As your business grows, you’ll refine your persona more and more. Every new client provides an opportunity to do so.

In reality, the only element of a persona that you need a large data set to research is demographics. The other information you can get directly from your clients or by scouring the internet for online conversations. Pay attention to the words people use to describe their problems, pain points, thought processes, and goals.

So there, now you don’t have an excuse!

Ok, but I’m not sure where to start?

Getting started is as easy as going through each of the persona elements and writing things down in a notebook.

You can also use the Refocus Your Business workbook. It’s an epic workbook that helps you ask and think about the right questions. You’ll also have an example persona + template you can use to continually refine your persona as your business grows. It’s exclusive to my beloved Creative Hustler Newsletter readers.

Now you REALLY don’t have any excuse! Go to a coffee shop, put some headphones on, and start defining your persona.

If you need some help brainstorming your niche or persona, I’m game. Just reach out to me via email or twitter.

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