Getting There: Greener Grasses of Good Clients
There is a better way to get and keep good clients.
Although you could just take whatever clients come your way. Many businesses will take anyone who will pay them, especially the young businesses starting out. I understand that well. It is good — and important – to get paid. But I give you a warning (from someone who has been there): If you keep going in this same pattern of taking everyone who comes your way, you will eventually run into some problems. You will learn first hand (if you haven’t already) that…
“Not all business is good business. Bad business is far worse than no business.” –Chip Camden
Good vs. Unnecessary Challenges
Problems and challenges — and overcoming them — are the very nature of business. Many products and services are themselves solutions to problems and answers to needs. Those aren’t the kind of problems this article is addressing, though. We are talking about unnecessary problems your business doesn’t need to have. Just taking whoever wants to hire you, leads to eventual client-firing.
Sometimes those client-firings wouldn’t have happened if you had filtered the clients you were taking on. And what about all the pain you’ve been dealing with in the mean-time? Lost hours, lost wages, lost income, lost sleep and maybe even lost health …could be some of the side-effects from your lack of vetting clients.
Sometimes a lack of preparation in your business structure leads to the wrong clients. A big one for a lot of businesses is the mistake of realizing you haven’t charged appropriately for your time.
You take on ten different clients, each with mini tasks, of $100–300 each. That’s a lot more work and effort to organize and deal with, for less money overall. Don’t forget the proposals you have to write, numerous emails, admin set up and billing you need to factor in just to service these clients.
- $1,000-$3,000 total for that month for 20+ hours per week minimum.
- 10 clients to set up in your system, communicate with and keep track of
- Multiple projects to juggle and demands to meet each week
Just like your business plan, your production plan, your marketing plan, and everything about your business, a good plan provides better opportunities for success. The wrong clients can sabotage your business. Plan for the clients you want.
You agree to work with just two clients, paying you a guaranteed monthly retainer of $2,000 per month each for a minimum three-month contract. You now know your guaranteed monthly income for the next three months is $4k and, that you only have two clients to serve and two projects to work on.
- $4,000 for a set amount of hours or work.
- Peace of mind in dealing with just two high end clients
- Ease of set up of client in your system for project management and billing
Done Your Research?
How do you grow good business while finding and keeping the good clients? First, prepare for it. No plan equals getting nowhere fast. Do your homework. Do research. You interview your employees that you consider working with, so interview your clients carefully too. Remember that an interview is a two way street, and you should prepare and present yourself purposefully. Are you both a good fit for each other?
What are their expectations?
What is their workflow?
How do they handle accounts payable?
How do they expense reimbursement?
“If they volunteer information about why they “got rid of” the last consultant, listen carefully and ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand their role in the failure of that relationship. Be particularly keen to detect assumptions on their part about what they expected from the consultant, and why they were disappointed.” –TechRepublic
Do reference checks. Research social media connections and listed clients. Talk with whoever is available from those lists, keeping in mind to evaluate this sort of information objectively. Check the Better Business Bureau site for complaints. Look for negative reviews. Look for how the company handles customers and it’s employees.
“Whatever you find, take it under consideration, but don’t make it your sole factor in deciding whether or not to take the engagement. I’ve had a couple of clients, each of whom I was warned about, who turned out just fine. Some people have odd personality traits or hot-button issues that have to be handled a certain way or they feel cheated. As long as you’re OK with that, and establish the right expectations up front, the relationship can work out splendidly. In fact, you might become their darling because you’re the only person who seems to understand how business ought to be carried on.” –Tips on Vetting Prospective Clients
Welcome Your Red Carpet Clients
Ultimately you want to attract more of your ideal clients. When you set up your business you probably…
“…envisioned working with people who respected your talents, paid you what you’re worth and were a complete dream to deal with. I think that’s entirely possible, you just need to create a vision for your what this looks like and who this person is.” –Bidsketch
Make an “Ideal Client Checklist”.
- Respect your opinion and suggestions on what needs to be done
- Won’t quibble on price and are happy to pay you what you’re worth
- Work with you and get information you need in a timely fashion so you can deliver on time
- Are open to talk or meet with you anytime to ensure you do your best work for them
- Send you quality referrals on a regular basis and are happy to work with you again and again
Check out this thorough client checklist printable PDF. It works well for many types of businesses.
In return for gaining the best clients, you obviously need to hold up your end of the bargain. Be the kind of business your clients want to work with. You have the likeability factors — friendliness, being genuine, empathy and relevancy — and you also need to consistently produce great work that meets their needs. Since we are already in checklist-mode, why not create your own checklist of how you’ll be what your clients want?
The Ideal Business Checklist
Perhaps it looks like this:
- Create a clear project brief that the client signs off on before we begin work to make sure everyone is all on the same page
- Communicate regularly with your client to ensure their expectations are kept in check, and exceeded
- Give your client realistic time frames on the work you are doing and when you need them to get feedback to you by so that all goes smoothly
- Provide a weekly report that details what’s been achieved and what’s left to do so the client feels assured you have their best interests at heart
- Follow up once the contract is complete to make sure they’re truly happy — or better yet — thrilled with the outcome
- Go one step further. Set a reminder in your calendar or via your CRM tool to say a friendly hello 2–4 weeks later to show you care
- Check in Regularly. Send them a personalized card one month later, thanking them for working with you and inviting them to contact you for future projects
You Are of Value
Lastly, if you don’t think you are worth treating well, you won’t be. Value yourself. Value your business and it’s service and products. If you are undervaluing yourself at a deeper level, and you’ll need to delve into why that is and resolve it. Your business — and all the people you work with — depend on it.
Are you charging what you’re worth? Are you working with your ideal clients and working on projects that light your fire? Whether you are or not, it comes down to you and your mindset. So, what’s your plan?