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Imagine this: you have a full pipeline of high-quality clients who have great projects and budgets to match. Your clients respect what you do, you love your work, and your business affords the lifestyle you wish to have.

Does that feel like an inspiring and attainable goal? Or are you so stuck in a cycle of unfulfilling, low-budget projects, you don’t even have time to think about it?

If it’s the latter, don’t feel bad, everyone’s been there at some point. But if you have the talent (and I know you do!), those projects and budgets are within your reach, and this post is all about taking the first step to making that dream a reality.

How can I be so sure? Before I became a business coach for creative freelancers and entrepreneurs, I was a rep for high-level art directors, copywriters and fashion illustrators – all of them commanding a day rate of $1500 or more.

I learned that high-quality clients will hire the most qualified person to solve their problem, and are willing to pay top-dollar for their services. It was my job was to position each creative professional on my roster as a specialist within their field, uniquely qualified to solve the problems their ideal clients had.

One of the reasons I decided to transition my business from representing, to coaching creative professionals, was a belief that everyone should have access to the tools and strategies to position themselves as experts. I’ve spent the last 5 years creating a step-by-step system that will teach any creative professional how to achieve that goal and today I’m going to share the first, and most important step with you.

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Ready?

Identify what makes you unique and how that is of value to your ideal clients.

Whether you know it or not, we are all born with a unique gift or talent. No exceptions! Whether you’re a photographer, illustrator, graphic designer or video producer, your unique talent or specialty is how you create positive transformation in the lives of others. And when you identify your talent and share it with your ideal clients, you can’t help but achieve the fulfillment and success that you wish for.

Whoa!

But here’s the thing, most freelancers and creative entrepreneurs resist positioning themselves as a specialist because they worry they will lose perfectly good clients in doing so. As a result, they are seen as a generalist and continue to get the last minute, small budget gigs that keep their business and income small.

If this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault and you are definitely not alone. Most of us didn’t embark on creative entrepreneurship or freelancing with an MBA under our belt and are kind of winging it. And that’s OK…for a while. But if you want to start landing those juicy projects (with budgets to match), you need to indentify what you are uniquely equipped to offer.

Knowing what makes you unique will help you:

  • Re-connect with what you love to do
  • Articulate what you do confidently, clearly and effectively
  • Build your business around your specialty, including: the clients you serve, what services you offer, how you price them and how you engage with your audience.

If you’re ready to leave the generalists in your dust and start playing a bigger game, these 6 questions will help you identify what makes you unique.

  1. What elements of your work do you enjoy the most?
  2. What do you love to do the most? (Note this isn’t the same as number 1. Examples might include gardening, theatre or amateur photography)
  3. What do people come to you for? (If people are always seeking you out for something specific, it’s an indicator or where they see your greatest value or talent)
  4. What problems do you solve? (We tend to describe our business in terms of what we do and what our process is. Try articulating what you do in terms of what problems you solve instead)
  5. What do you offer that others do not? (You might initially blank on this, but I promise that there’s something different about the way you approach a creative problem. Stick with it and write down anything that comes to mind)
  6. What would you do all day for free? (chances are, this is your unique gift and passion)

I've consolidated my experience as a career coach for creative professionals into an online course, Market & Grow Your Creative Business, which starts next Monday, November 16th, 2015.

The 6-week course is designed to help you gain clarity around what makes you unique, build relationships with high-quality clients, and get paid what you’re worth. For more details visit profitablecreativebusiness.com.

Justine Clay has been helping freelance creative talent build thriving careers for more than 15 years. As a business coach for creative professionals at Pitch Perfect, Justine helps her clients define what makes them unique, create a clear marketing message and get more, high-quality, better-paying clients. She is also a regular contributor to the Freelancer’s Union blog