I love my clients – said it before and I’ll say it again. I love my clients – each and every one of them. They’re all quite different as people and sure each of them has their quirks (I love that by the way), but they’re all people I would choose to have a drink and chat with out of hours. All of them make me laugh – not at them, but with them. Some of them, I swear should be in the comedy business – they’re that cool.
The weird thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that ever before in my 20-ish years of consulting. Oh, sure – I’ve adored some of my clients along the way, but others – well, let’s just say there were pre-set budgets and targets to be met all in the name of being part of someone else’s business and keeping a job. I couldn’t say “actually this client is wrong for the business.” I think I tried that once and got told to “suck it up”. Every time I had that beacon go off – there was pain. It usually involved being beaten up by the client for work would never live up to the expectations of the client no matter how good it was, getting stuck in someone’s internal political mess, not being paid or just work that felt like trying to swim through a vat of molasses. In short – not fun experiences.
Truth be told every business owner, particularly those in service businesses, will face the prospect of being hired by the ‘wrong’ client. Now my wrong client might be your dream client – it’s a completely personal decision. And when you’re just starting out, sometimes you might be more about the revenue through the door than whether it’s right for you or not – and that’s understandable. But once you’ve got some revenue flowing through the business, getting the right customer fit is important.
Hire the right customers and going to work each day will still be a joy – even if the work itself is challenging. However, hire the wrong customer and they can destroy you, your sanity and your business.
So how do you build a business of totally awesome clients?
6 tips to build a business of awesome clients
1. Only take on clients (or work) you really like/respect and work you believe in – the client and the work will inspire you to bring your A game and you’ll have a great time along the way
2. If you can, only take work that’s referred to you. That tends to weed out the total nutters and those that won’t pay. Don’t forget to thank the person who referred you!
3. If people call you on the phone, haven’t done any due diligence and talk about price on that call – that’s a fairly good indication that they’re not after you per se, they’re after anyone who’ll do the work for as little as possible. And they’ll continue to screw you for more along the way. If this happens – suggest they’d be better suited being serviced by someone else.
4. Be vigilant about staying true to your rules. I had a narrow escape the other day because the work was fabulous, gritty and challenging, but the client was known for being abrasive. So when it went another way due to budget constraints, I thanked my lucky stars and got annoyed at myself for wasting their and my own time – and yes, this prospect, despite being referred, hadn’t done due diligence and asked about price on that first call. Worse still, I got sucked into that conversation. Note to self: Don’t do that again!!!!
5. Before you meet with the client or even phone them back to talk turkey or set up meeting, do your due diligence – check them out on LinkedIn, Facebook, call someone who knows them and see what they’re like, check their website and Google them. See what comes up. After all, do you really want to work with an axe murderer that got off on a technicality?
6. Finally, ask yourself if you really like what you see. Could you make a difference in their business (or life) doing whatever it is you do. Is their work in a part of your business you’d like to do more of? Will you be happy and comfortable talking to them every other day? Is their business interesting, challenging, lovely or whatever it is that makes you jump out of bed in the mornings? If the answer’s yes, accept that client with open arms. If it’s a no – politely decline and help them in the direction of someone else for whom they might be a better fit.
When I mentor junior industry folk, I’ve been known to say to them when they’re considering changes of job (especially the ones where they’ve got nagging concerns but the money is fabulous), “never sell your soul – they can never pay you enough”. The same is true of business. We’ve all heard stories about or experienced ‘those’ bosses/employers (and in some cases that’s why we started a business). But guess what, those people also employ other businesses.
If, after everything suggested above, if you’re still in doubt, go with your gut – it never lies. Best of luck with it. Feel free to connect via social media, leave a comment about your experiences or drop me a note.