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How to choose the right clients.

Your business is no business if it has no clients who pay you for your work. And the kind of business you have ­– how enjoyable and profitable it is – depends more on who your clients are, and less on how good you are at what you do.

Your clients shape your business.

A client is a person or a group that uses your professional advice or services and is willing to pay for them. The kind of client that you take on will determine the real success of your business.

Most people say “yes” to any client with a checkbook. That’s because most people operate from a place of fear of going out of business. They put very little time or energy in assessing if the client is a good client for them. Often times they discover that the client with that huge budget turned out to be a nightmare to work with.

That’s not healthy. Not for you and not for your business.

Unless you take time to identify which client is calling you to serve them, you are bound to take on the wrong client and get yourself in trouble, yet again. It’s easy to be seduced by big name clients with big budgets and fame-promising projects.

Nevertheless, beware.

You owe it to your business to choose the right clients. When you do, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this at some point, there is a healthy flow to the work, the client does not question your fees and the whole experience of working together is joyful throughout. Plus, you will always do your best work for the right clients.

When you work with the right client, you are free to truly be the creator that you are. Your work, your choices, your ideas aren’t questioned or challenged. Your client trusts you and, they will most likely be back for more work and happily refer you to their friends and colleagues.

I’ve served clients for over 25 years and one thing I found in common, in both my career as a designer and in my current work as a coach, is that there are only two types of clients out there.

There is the “save me” client and there is the “lead me” client.

The “save me” client is operating from fear. They like to be in control, they want to call the shots and they want to hire you to be an order taker. They want deliverables. They want to hit certain goals. And they want you to help them look good.

The “save me” client has very little integrity. Often times, they don’t stick to agreed deadlines, they change the scope of the project mid way, and they expect you to be at their beck and call. Their world is usually a mess. They are unorganized, unprepared and are more concerned with looking out for themselves.

They will be late for meetings, not pay you on time (or sometimes not at all), they will abuse and disrespect you and will quickly drain your time and profits.

The “save me” client is bad news. They aren’t willing to take responsibility for the mess they created in their business and look for someone (you) to fix things for them.

I can’t tell you how many businesses I’ve coached that are used to having this type of client as the norm.

Then there’s the “lead me” client.

This is the client who is smart enough to know where their limitations are and when to hire a professional to help solve their problem and lead them towards a solution.

They are opened to be lead because they trust you. They see the value you provide and are willing to let you do your magic. They believe in your vision. They respect your opinion. They allow you to do your job.

A “lead me” client has high integrity. They operate from a place of commitment, good communication and trust. They will allow space for questions, they pay well because they know you are a valuable asset to their success and they allow reasonable time for the work.

They are more concerned about finding an expert they can trust than getting the lowest bid. They are willing to listen and take advice and have a single point of contact that actually has the power to make decisions. They participate in your process, but not too much. They allow you to lead the way.

Imagine if every one of your clients was a “lead me” client. What would your business look like? Where would your stress level be?

Knowing how to identify if the prospect whom you are talking to is a “lead me” or “save me” client is crucial. You need to learn to identify the red flags early on. You need to know which questions to ask and listen not only to what the answers are but also to how they are being delivered.

This is a skill that takes time to develop.

But that’s not enough.

Attracting a “lead me” client also requires smart positioning and authentic marketing. Without those, you will spend more time saying “yes” to the wrong clients more often. If your business is attracting more “save me” type clients, your current positioning and marketing is failing as well as the language you use and the way you show up.

You are the creator of your clients.

To attract more “lead me” clients you must lead first.

You must put your best self out there and value your work in a way that projects confidence and trust. If you are operating from a place of fear and low self worth, you will attract the kind of clients that respond to that.

Being a leader in your business means that you are willing to say “no” when you identify the wrong client for you. It means that you don’t compromise yourself. That you respect your work enough to walk away from what may seem to be a good opportunity if it comes from the wrong source.


Image: © 2015 Peleg Top

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