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The Business of Private Practice
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How to Identify Your ‘Ideal Client’

By Deb Legge, PhD, CRC, LMHC

If you’ve read the “Finding Your Niche” installment of AMHCA’s Business of Private Practice Library, you know that identifying your “ideal client” is one of the prerequisites of finding your niche market. Knowing who your ideal client is enables you to really focus your marketing efforts. 

No matter how many niches you choose (and you certainly may have more than one niche, especially if you’ve chosen smaller markets), you need to identify your ideal client for each one. 

So … What Is an Ideal Client?

Your ideal client is the representation of your market 

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population. For example, let’s say your niche is working with individuals with panic disorder. Your ideal client would be the average member of the community of individuals with panic disorder.

The easiest way to identify your ideal client is to answer a series of questions, such as:

  • Who is she?
  • How old is she?
  • What does she need?
  • What is she desperate for?
  • What does she worry about?
  • What does she hope for?
  • Where does she hang out? (clubs, organizations, online groups …)
  • ?Who has influence over her?

Once you imagine your ideal client and you have answered the questions above, give her a name. Then you will feel “up-close and personal” with her. You’ll know what she wants and needs; you’ll know how to find her—and how to reach out to help her.

Answers to these questions can also help you determine which programs, products, and services you might offer. Knowing where she hangs out will help you know where you can best place your marketing efforts; you’ll know who has access to and influence over her (those people are your potential referral sources for that niche).

There are many ways to fine-tune your image of your “ideal client.” Since this is your niche, you will likely already be reading everything you can get your hands on about treating this population. You can find out even more by joining listservs and groups sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yahoo Groups. Keeping your fingers on the pulse of what your “ideal client” is talking about within her “tribe” is a great way to get to know her even better.

Certainly there is a range of variance within your niche; your ideal client is not a cookie-cutter replica of every member of the group. Having a clear picture of an individual who represents the people you serve, however, allows you to hone your work and your message so that you “speak” directly to her. 

Thinking about your ideal client will help you immeasurably when you are creating your website and your other marketing materials. With her in mind, be sure that your website and marketing materials answer the questions, “What does she need to see?” “What does she want to know about me?” “What do I have to offer her?” 

Getting to know your ideal client will give you an insider’s glimpse into her world. This advantage will allow you to become the expert in your niche—the person everyone thinks about when it comes to your target market. Being recognized as the expert will generate more referrals for you, as well as a much greater opportunity to serve.

To submit your questions and ideas for future articles in the Advocate, email Legge at

For information about the latest additions to AMHCA’s members-only Private Practice Library, see the box, left.

AMHCA Private Practice Library

Getting the information and support you need on the business of private practice can help you to build a successful and sustainable business. AMHCA members are invited to log-in to AMHCA’s Private Practice Library at to read articles by Dr. Deb Legge—for members only—on the business of running a clinical mental health counseling practice: 

  • “Getting on Insurance Panels” (March)
  • “Finding Your Niche” (February)
  • “Is Private Practice Really for You?” (January)