Manifesting My Dream Clients & Projects for 2024
Let's do good work together
New year, new me, new clients am I right?
I don’t work with many clients. In 2023 I worked with six clients. In 2022 it was four.
This is partly because I have the luxury to choose and partly because I really like to work with clients in a deep, transformational way1.
One of my active clients I’ve been working with for 7 years.
Right now though I have some capacity for new clients and I’m trying to be thoughtful about not just attracting clients, but attracting the the right kind of clients.
How do I find the next 7-year client?
Well, if you don’t ask you don’t get right so here’s some brands and projects I’ve love to work with in 2024:
- Perplexity & AI Search
- Weird Indie Collabs
- Academic & Educational Collabs
- More Strategic Advisor Roles
Figma has changed my life. I spend all day long staring at my glowing rectangle of a computer screen but what is on that screen has meaningfully changed in the last few years. Even though I’m not a designer and don’t get hired for “design” work I spend 50%+ of my time in Figma.
A canvas is just a beautiful and useful place to think.
I’m such a fanboy that I’d work with Figma on anything ha. But here’s a few ideas:
- Exploring non-design / non-product use cases for Figma. What if we built a new team inside Figma that aimed at winning over McKinsey and all the big consulting firms to use Figma day to day. What would that look like? How would the product need to evolve? How might we open up a whole new segment of the market?
- How can we do more interesting, adventurous editorial projects? Inspired by Stripe press and Figma essays. How might we explore a wider, more creative range of publishing and editorial projects to show off what Figma can do?
- From an SEO perspective, Canva has done a masterful job with templates, tools and content designed for SEO and gets… checks notes… about 3400% more Google traffic2. What would the Figma equivalent SEO play be here?
Tinkering with the web is a foundational part of my identity. I’ve called this digital bricolage before. I’m not a real developer, just like I’m not a real designer and yet I build things on Replit all the time!
I’m a huge advocate for tools that lower the bar to entry for more users and help people expand what they think is possible. Couple that with a deep frustration at how most developer tools on board users (see: why can’t I code inside my browser) and Replit is a dream client.
I recently built a little bookmarklet and app for a client using Replit that gave an x-ray vision overlay on their website with a bunch of custom analysis and stats - took me a few hours to prototype and opened up a bunch of interesting conversations! I love that kind of thing.
So how might we work together? Some ideas:
- Replit has a real search problem - if you search for examples and templates on Google you get stuck in a list of Replit pages that look the same, with many of them being low-quality. There’s a crawling, architecture and internal linking strategy here to dramatically improve the ability for people to find high quality Replit examples and templates.
- You can import Github repos directly into Replit which feels like magic when it works! Except it’s very hard to know if it’s going to work ahead of time. I think there are opportunities here around better messaging / workflows / community standards to help people better understand whether a github repo can be imported directly into Replit, and if so how to do it.
- The education play on Replit seems very successful with the 100 days of code in particular. I’d love to expand this idea into potentially more cohort-based models of building projects. Less “learn to code” and more “build something interesting, together”.
I bought a Remarkable tablet last year and it really changed my daily knowledge work. It’s a beautiful product that feels like a joy to use. It’s also directly led to me reading a lot more PDFs and academic papers - it’s such a perfect form factor for loading up a PDF and reading/annotating - deep focus work away from my other screens.
At the same time - it’s clearly still early in the “e-ink screen” world, it feels kind of like when I got my first Sonos product 12 years ago. Such a leap forward ahead of everything else but also kind of clunky, we’re still working our way through what this technology can and should do and how we interact with it.
Some things I’d love to work with Remarkable on:
- They’ve done a great job with Instagram content - it’s polished, engaging and clearly converts for them. But remarkable.com is somewhat neglected in terms of content. There’s a big opportunity to really take the web seriously and build an evergreen content library - both to show off the product and to do a better job on the product education and support side.
- When I’m working on my laptop I keep my Remarkable right next to me but this “passive second screen” use case is completely unexplored. I’d love to work through how you could enable new modes of working - what could you use your e-ink second screen for? There are all kinds of kindle jailbreak and raspberry pi examples of second-screens and displays that I think the Remarkable would be perfect for.
- While generally the Remarkable UX and interactions are well thought through there are a variety of things that would be fun to prototype and play with for example double-tap the power button to take a screenshot, or an “send this” action when you select a region.
- I’d love to explore different workflows and innovations around web <–> remarkable workflows for saving, reading, sharing content between the browser and the device. There’s lots of unexplored uses here.
Oh, and when are we getting a Google Calendar integration? :)
I use Stripe almost every day. Both as a consumer and as someone who sells things on the internet. Stripe is an astonishing service that has no right to be as polished, playful and fun to work with as they are.
And they have beautiful web-design! and they have a writing culture! and they have a whole experimental content/publishing approach!
Ever since they talked about increasing the GDP of the internet and linked to Craig Mod in their annual letter I’ve been a huge fan. (I think there’s actually a real economic argument to be said that blogging raises the GDP of the internet btw.)
How might we work together? Some thoughts:
- Stripe press is incredible in terms of their brand but still fairly limited in scope. I’d love to get involved with Stripe and see what their focus on writing culture can do for the web.
- I’d love to work with Stripe on training around their internal culture of writing. I don’t have any insight into how this writing is organized, shared or produced today but I’d love to work with the team on internal strategy and knowledge sharing. I’m kind of a geek when it comes to executive communication…
Actually, LinkedIn is a great social network. People hate on the quality of the feed at LinkedIn but I believe this is largely because most people never deliberately built their feed, they just connected with random co-workers and industry friends over the last 15 years…
Once you take the time to intentionally craft your feed it’s perhaps the most wholesome social feed on the web right now (?!)
Beyond just the feed though, LinkedIn is a social product that actually has a core utility! The value of a professional profile actually has value, distinct from other social sites.
I’d love to work with LinkedIn on:
- Positioning LinkedIn as a personal learning environment. Not just “LinkedIn learning” though that’s part of it - but actually everything on LinkedIn culminates in learning - the feed, your network, education content and more. There’s so much unexplored possibility around social learning environments, just-in-time learning, credentialing and more. I’ve got a deck pre-built about this if you want to take a peek just ping me :)
Perplexity & AI-search
There are a bunch of people like Perplexity, Metaphor and Elicit building AI-powered search engines. I’m not an expert in the AI technology but after working in search for almost 20 years there are a bunch of things that I think we can learn about how people search and searcher behavior that would be relatively easy to build and would help turn these from niche, single-purpose search engines into more complete general-purpose search engines.
- User research studies that focus on people’s searching behavior. Since we’re building something new this isn’t straightforward but I still believe that grounding in user research is useful and would uncover some smaller things that might change user adoption and retention.
- Benchmarking the user experience of key user journeys against other search tools to better understand where the product excels. One of the defining ideas is that teams don’t know what they’ve built - as Matt Webb says with AI we’re in a capability overhang. Or to say another way, we’re in a product marketing overhang - we don’t even know how good the product is that we’ve built!
- Brand exploration and user messaging to figure out how to educate and convert people into a new daily behavior. Based on the above I think there are some fun and interesting ways that we might build awareness and adoption of the new tools.
More Weird Indie Collabs
I’ve realized that working with other indie consultants isn’t always the most lucrative way to do consulting - but these projects are the best learning opportunities and periods of personal growth. So, more please.
- Right now I’m collaborating with some tech-heads who are pitching AI-content solutions where I can be the marketing and strategy lead in the room. That’s fun.
- I’ve been tangentially involved in a bunch of M&A projects over the last few years but I’d love to get more formally integrated into M&A workflows, private equity valuation projects and more.
- I’ve thought a lot about executive dashboards and built a monthly business review packet for one of my clients. If you’re working in this area holler at me, let’s share notes!
- Same for executive offsites - why are they so broken? If you’re working on fixing these give me a shout and let’s work together.
- For established, perhaps older, consultants a collaboration around knowledge sharing, publishing and blogging would be super fun.
- More broadly - if you’re coming at strategy from the creative and brand perspective I can make a great bridge to the more data-driven and technical end of marketing and business strategy.
Academic and Educational Collabs
I’ve been really digging the practice of teaching and would love to get involved in more academic and educational work. I’ve done a small amount of this in the past - I taught a class at a business school and I was an advisor for an ITP summer program.
So I guess management theory and innovation are the two areas I get most excited about?
If you’re in academia (in the broadest sense) and follow my writing maybe drop me a note. I’d love to chat.
More Strategic Advisor Roles
For bigger clients I typically play a marketing or growth role. The work itself is varied but I typically get a seat at the table because of my content and marketing background.
For smaller and mid-size clients though, I’m increasingly finding myself playing a generalist role - shaping strategy and supporting executives in all kinds of functions (including a small amount of executive coaching too). I talked about that a bit here: The roadmap is not the territory. I’d like to do more of this work - supporting business growth from first principles and looking at improving management performance more generally.
Challenge #1 I suppose is how to describe this work. The best I’ve come up with is “strategic advisor”…
Let’s manifest at least one or two of these in 2024! If you want to get in touch click here.
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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: