January 18, 2024

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:

Quick links:

Figma

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’ve talked before about making strategy maps, beautiful charts and more in Figma. I even ran a cohort based course around non-design uses of Figma called Figma Thinkers.

Much like the underlying javascript technology of ajax ushered in Gmail and with it a whole paradigm of “apps in the browser” I believe that the technical advances in making the open canvas work will usher in a whole new paradigm of canvas-based apps.

Relevant: infinitecanvas.tools

I’m such a fanboy that I’d work with Figma on anything ha. But here’s a few ideas:

Replit

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:

Remarkable

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:

Oh, and when are we getting a Google Calendar integration? :)

Stripe

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:

LinkedIn

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:

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.

Maybe:

More Weird Indie Collabs

I learned how to use Figma because of a client collaboration with Toby Shorin. I learned to love brand positioning because of working with Elan Miller.

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.

Some ideas:

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.

  1. Last time I calculated it, the average length for a client retainer was over 2 years. 

  2. See screenshot 


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January 31, 2024

This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: