Wish Fulfillment, Fanfic, and the Role of the Ideal Client

Have you ever read fan fiction? It’s become almost mainstream these days, with every fandom from Dr. Who to My Little Pony to the original Star Trek producing reams and reams of the stuff. Or, more appropriately, bytes and bytes of the stuff, since it’s rarely ever printed. 
Although some is good, most of it is appallingly bad. Trust me, unless you have graded Creative Writing 101 fiction, you have never seen such dreck. And yet, people read (and write) the stuff insatiably.

Why is that, do you think?

It’s not (usually) because people dream of becoming famous authors. E.L. James notwithstanding, most people are writing for one simple reason– to make what they want to happen happen. Actually, E.L. James is a perfect example. She said, “The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise… [Fifty Shades of Grey is] my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.”

When people ‘ship John Watson with Sherlock Holmes, it’s to develop the fantasy even more clearly in their minds. And, if they’re lucky, to share the fantasy with others who share the same wishes for the characters.

You know who else does that?

We do. We microbiz owners.

Don’t believe me? Look at all the stuff we write about this fantastical beast The Ideal Client.

The Ideal Client will value our work highly. If we’re undercharging, this client will demand that we invoice for 20% more. They won’t argue with our better judgment. They always pay on time. And they work tirelessly to make sure their entire circle is aware of our talents.

Now, to be fair, we know that’s unreasonable. We know these Ideal Clients might as well be named Prince Charming, and we’ll meet them about as often.

But when you do stumble over your perfect client, it will surprise you as much as finding a True Love.

Because your ideal client will click with you– but they won’t kowtow. If anything, they’ll challenge you. Not in a “client from hell” sense, but in a way that forces you to dig deeper, become more resourceful, and grow more vigorously than you were before. Often they won’t be anything like you expect them to be– and yet they’ll be exactly what you wanted.

Your Ideal Client should be someone who not only allows you to work in your sphere of genius, but whose own strengths and insights push you to be more.

When your client gives you as much as you give them, that’s when you’ll have the perfect client. Not mere wish fulfillment.

Please share!


16 thoughts on “Wish Fulfillment, Fanfic, and the Role of the Ideal Client”

  1. Oh god yes. Most fanfiction is terrible. And now I have some understanding of why – it’s not about writing a good story, it’s about writing the story the way they wanted it to be. 
    I’m certainly guilty of some wish fulfillment. Isn’t everyone?

  2. HappierHuman I wouldn’t believe someone if they told me they weren’t guilty of wish fulfillment, Amit. That, or I’d accuse them of being part of the Borg.

    I still don’t have a business model where I think of myself as someone with “clients.” But all the people who opt into my email newsletter, follow me on social media, listen to my podcast, or exchange their hard-earned dollars for something I sell are human and flawed … just like me. I’ll say this though: the people who have purchased tickets to SimpleREV are way closer to my perfect client than anyone else I’ve sold something to. It shows me that my values are more closely aligned with my customers values and that they appreciate the value of what they’re getting.

    P.S. I just wanted to write the word “value” three times in a sentence. I don’t think I’ve ever done that on Value of Simple.

  3. HappierHuman Oh, sure, we all are. But the analogy of Prince Charming holds perfectly. With a little experience, we learn who’s right for us because they compliment and challenge us in the right way, share our values but don’t let us become hidebound, etc, etc. The wishes become healthier and more realistic, you know?

  4. I feel so lucky to have great clients, students, friends, lovers, even ex-wives! None perfect. All perfectly human. They give me more than they know, my biggest wish come true.

  5. What a great comparison! I’ve certainly written my share of Ideal Client Fan Fiction…and none of my best clients fit the description I so carefully crafted 🙂 But your description of meeting an *actual* ideal client is spot on, and I’m thankful to have experienced that kind of synergy!

    Curious…would you say, then, that trying to work out who your right people are is an exercise in futility?

  6. erinkurup No, not at all. I mean, most of what you do when you first start a business is hazard an educated guess, so you can begin your marketing. Then, as you get more clients, you gather data about which clients work for you and which don’t, your Ideal Client avatar gets more human, more realistic, and more right for both of you. It’s just the perspective that experience brings, and there’s no way to get that except by trying different things.

  7. roderickrussell

    Shanna Mann erinkurup I couldn’t agree more – my original “ideal client” turned out to be far from ideal.  I was much better suited to other markets entirely, in fact.  I suffered the whole “nightmare” of “you get what you wish for,” but it’s only through such experience that you can truly find your proper and ideal place in the world. 🙂

  8. I want to add that in my work as a user experience designer, there is a clear distinction between an “ideal” user and a “primary personna.” Personas are powerful tools for all businesses I believe. By creating and accurate profile of the user who will best benefit from your product, you can focus your priorities and design based on meeting their needs. It’s never about meeting your own needs, the way finding good clients is. I think it helps to decide, I’m I putting this effort into my business to grow customer / client loyalty, or am I trying to make me happier. You can do both obviously, but they are different pursuits.

  9. David Delp That’s a great point. I know that I can help more people than I would be willing to work with, personally. That’s what’s really great about products, in my opinion. You can help a much wider range of client that you wouldn’t necessarily be good for in a 1:1 relationship.

  10. Shanna Mann Ok, cool, I feel like that’s what I’m starting to experience now, which is awesome. So much better than fan fiction Ideal Client 😉

  11. Lyn Bowker Online

    Love this viewpoint about my ideal client. You’ve described her perrrrfectly!
    She’s FULLY engaged, she’s sassy, she’s got BIG questions but is smart enough to be patient as we work through the myriad things that can often show up along the pathway to the SOLVE moment where the pieces seem to fall miraculously into place.
    She gets that the IMMEDIATE answer can often be all about ME wanting to prove my awesomeness. Whereas, the more circuitous route is all about HER because she doesn’t yet know what she doesn’t know.
    Building that kind of relationship is worthy of the time it takes to build TRUST & ALLOWING to a level where this client with her big questions – that wonderful woman who wants it all and is smart enough to know that GETTING it all needs the space and time to fully show up.
    The other client – the one that at first glance seems the EASY one – she doesn’t CHALLENGE you to grow, show up BRIGHTER, or go in search of something you might not have in your head or your knowledge base – she takes up precious time you could be spending more wisely – such as being STILL and attracting more of those perfect clients – and she doesn’t get the FULL benefit of having you there.
    When the energy is well balanced everything FLOWS – and what challenges you feels more like FUN and it’s all about POSSIBILITIES – it’s a CREATIVE RELATIONSHIP and that’s what makes my heart sing.
    In a single word – it’s JOY.

  12. This is a powerful point your making here. Your ideal client is one that wants exactly what you have.. not someone you make promises to that you can’t fulfill!

  13. As a former writer of fan fiction… lol. I can see where this comes into play in experimental fiction: it’s a prod I use to get myself going sometimes: ‘what would happen if…’ I think it’s funny to compare these two as wish fulfillment exercises, which they totally are/ can be. Insightful, as always!
    I suppose this applies to me as I envision my target reader. Hmm… I haven’t gotten as particular in defining that person as a biz owner would, but maybe I should… always seems a bit forced and more limiting than I’d like, though. Will have to give this a think.

  14. MargaretTLT It’s tough for you, because the story is actually a higher power than the audience. I mean, you want to build a loyal following, of course, but not at the expense of the integrity of the work. Actually, this post covers that dilemma for you: http://shannamann.com/index.php/blog/the-maslow-problem

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