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How to work with clients who are exactly right for you

- April 30, 2015 2 MIN READ

We spend a lot of time figuring out when and how to say ‘no’ to clients. But what if it was possible to only ever work with clients you wanted to say ‘yes’ to?

Many of my clients when they’re just starting out find themselves saying ‘yes’ to any new work offered to them, regardless of who that work comes from. The consequences of this are: they spend a lot of time working for people who aren’t quite right for them, or doing work they don’t really want to be doing. Which leads to more work they don’t want to be doing, for the type of people they don’t really want to be working for!

I’ve found that when we’re unclear on exactly who we want to work with, anyone will turn up. And the reason why we say yes to those who do is because we’re uncertain.

Here are four things you can do to help you work with clients who are exactly right for you:

1. Determine your purpose

What is it that you’re really in business for and why? Once you’ve identified this, stick to it. When you waver on your ‘why’, clients will sense that and do their best to mould you into their why. It’s super empowering sitting across from a potential client and being able to say, “Actually, that doesn’t fit my m.o., but x, y, z does and I’m happy to help with that.”

2. Determine your values

This may seem contradictory to understanding your client but the only way to be clear on what values you’d like your client to possess is to be clear on your own. What standards of behaviour do you desire? This will help you filter out those who don’t match.

3. Determine your boundaries

Where do you draw the line? What are your deal breakers? What do you NOT want to happen? This can be as simple as not wanting a client to cancel within 24 hours. Your time is valuable. You can now build that into your contract. Be clear from the start and you’ll both know where each other stands.

4. Identify the exact person you’d like to work with

Be really specific here. How old are they? What income are they earning? Gender? Marital status? Industry? Hobbies? Interests? Lifestyle? Favourite food? (This is known as your avatar.)

Now go even further. Where does this person hang out? What teachers/gurus/experts do they follow? Where do they like to vacation? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their guilty pleasures? What do they type into Google?

Once you have this clarity, it’s hard to speak to the wrong people through your marketing. After all, you know them intimately now.

It’s so easy to spend the early years of your business working for clients who aren’t quite right. Unfortunately this prevents us from servicing the ‘absolutely right’ clients we’ve got at the level we’d like. Be brave. A bit of discipline and backbone at the start of our business ventures can eliminate a lot of frustration in later years.

Do you ever turn work away because you know a client isn’t quite right for you?