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Creating a potential client directory (also referred to as your prospect directory or prospect list) is a must for streamlining and better organizing your business management and marketing efforts. If you want to get clients for your freelance business, then having a variety of prospects in a database is a fantastic way to reduce overwhelm and connect with clients you actually want to work with.

The idea behind creating a prospect directory is that you can brainstorm ideas for all of the clients you would LOVE to work with, and then from there you can come up with a concrete plan for reaching out to those specific companies/individuals.

By the way—if you’re a freelance writer, you can absolutely use this prospect directory concept for listing websites, magazines, and other publications you’d like to write for.

Your client directory doesn’t need to be anything fancy. In fact, you can use a basic spreadsheet to keep your thoughts and ideas organized and all in one place.

When it comes to creating your client directory, you’ll want to follow this step-by-step guide:

Know who your ideal client is

You can’t exactly market your business unless you know who you want to market yourself to. Building a prospect list is about identifying the RIGHT people for your unique set of services.

Find your first 10—20 prospects

Here, you’re going to take your ideal client profile and begin going on the hunt for prospects. In particular, pay attention to who you would most love to work with.

Let’s say that you specialize in managing Instagram accounts for people, and in particular you want to work with local boutique restaurants in your city. You can start compiling your list of all your favorite restaurants.
Or, in another example, if you specialize in editing articles for fashion bloggers, you may want to go into Facebook groups where they hang out or start a Google search to identify which fashion bloggers would be the best fit for you (based on your ideal client profile).

You’ll want to add to your prospect list over time, but starting out with just 10 will be much more manageable in the beginning. Once you have your first 10, then you can add the next 10, and the next, and the next.

Plus, when you start with the first 10 individuals/organizations that you’d love to build relationships with and have as clients, then you’ll also be able to get an even clearer idea of your ideal prospect.

Do your research for each prospect

Once you have your first 10—20 prospects listed in your directory, then you can start researching them.

Identify key contact people for each company; gather contact information for them and learn what you can about their businesses. Look into where these prospects spend their time (for example, on social media platforms and/or in-person networking events, etc.). Keep track of any particularly useful and interesting tidbits in your spreadsheet.

At this stage, you might realize that some of these prospects aren’t a good fit after all. That’s okay! Scrap them from the list and go back to Step 2. You might even want to include a separate tab on your spreadsheet for businesses that don’t fit your ideal client profile after all, so that you don’t accidentally add them to your directory again in the future.

Connect the dots between the services you offer & the prospects you’ve identified

Now that you have your list of prospects, you’ll want to have a firm understanding of why exactly your business is the right fit for them. What about you and your services will most appeal to each individual prospect? Explore how you can be “of service” to each prospect on your list.

You’ll want to consider why will they benefit from your services and what makes YOU the right person to work with them. Focusing on the benefits they’ll get from you—rather than why you think they’d be cool to work with—is going to help you to shift your perspective and better frame your pitch later on.

Brainstorm how you’ll build relationships with each prospect on your list

It’s not enough to just have a list of prospects! You also need to figure out a concrete plan of action for connecting with them in meaningful ways so that they can get to know, like, and trust you. This will help you to “warm them up” before you pitch them.

Consider your current relationship status with each prospect on your list: Have you connected with them in the past? Do they know who you are? Do you have a shared connection who can introduce the two of you, or who can put in a good word for you? What can you do to cultivate relationships with them?

Identify at least 3 actionable ways you can cultivate relationships with each prospect, and add that to your directory spreadsheet.

Sagan Morrow has a decade of experience as a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager. She is the Chief Communications Officer at Juxta Communications.