Earlier this month veteran blogger Chris Brogan, published a blog post called Don’t Take a Bad Deal. In that post, he wrote that recently he’d run into some tough times and as a result he accepted some “deals and offers that weren’t my typical arrangement” in order to quickly generate revenue. (In my experience, this is not an uncommon thing, for many entrepreneurs when they get stuck in a “cash flow interruptus” situation, to use a phrase favoured by one one my clients.)
Brogan then says that he affixed a kind of “mental chip on his shoulder” when working on the projects, so no one was all that pleased with the results (neither him, nor the client). (I do suggest that you pop on over to Brogan’s blog and take a look at the rest of the post and the comments).
When I read this post, it reminded me of my earlier post (It’s in the contract. Isn’t it?) where I talked about taking on a project that wasn’t a perfect fit for reasons other than the actual work. (And while I’m not trying to make “turning down work” a theme of my writing, I think it is an important thing to think about when you’re an entrepreneur running any sort of business).
What’s your “ideal client”?
One of my three words for 2012 is contemplate, and I’ve been doing a great deal of reading this year. What struck me when reading Brogan’s piece is that he lost sight of his ideal customer. A number of authors (like Escape from Cubicle Nation’s Pamela Slim or The Referral Engine’s John Jantsch) have written about how important it is to identify this creature, but their focus is often on doing so in order to hone your marketing message, define your brand, or decide on where to network. (Jantsch also says that it’s important in ensuring that you make and receive the right referrals; more on that later).
Now I have always felt that one of the nicest things about working for yourself, is that you’re able to choose who you want to (and get to) work with, as opposed to when you work as an in-house employee (otherwise known around here as a “T4 wage slave”). And that’s your “ideal client”.
Life is much happier and the process is much smoother if everyone is in sync—and that happens if I want to work for you and you want me there. And I’ll want to be there, if you fit that rubric of “perfect client” (whatever it may be—because my perfect client isn’t necessarily yours and vice versa). If you really don’t want to be there, then you do have an attitude issue or a “chip on your shoulder”—which the client will see. And as a result, you don’t have a good assignment and the client doesn’t get a good result (and you can’t get a glowing referral!) And in the long run, nobody is happy—and that’s no good.
When I attend networking events or participate in a tele-class or tele-coaching group, I admit to being very impressed by people who have clearly identified their ideal client—I heard one the other day where the consultant had an entire checklist of attributes that fully described the client; I confess that I have not so to the same degree.
Turn business down? Are you crazy?
(As Phineas from Phineas & Ferb, would say, “Yes, yes I am”. But that’s besides the point).
I receive a lot of my new business from referrals, especially from accountants who know my work and have a client that they know could use the services of a top-notch bookkeeper. Recently I received a referral from an accountant (newly met through a shared client) but I turned it down. Almost everything about the potential client was perfect, except for one thing—she worked out of her condo in downtown Toronto. I don’t like to take on clients in the downtown core; it seems that every time I’ve done it, it just doesn’t work out. I don’t know if it’s an urban-suburban thing, or timing,or just karma. I don’t think it’s the commute (I don’t mind getting in the WizardMobile for a hour-long drive out to the wilds of Caledon or Etobicoke, but somehow getting on the TTC and shlepping downtown just doesn’t do it for me).
Being able to identify your ideal client, and being able to pass that profile along to potential referrers, is important because it doesn’t waste anybody’s time. When I got the referral I did tell the referrer that, yes this was right in my wheelhouse (entrepreneur, semi-established-to-established, needed me once a month, etc), except for the location. Now he wasn’t offended (I hope) and maybe some other business will come my way but I do know that next time he wants to refer me or suggest me, he won’t do it when the client is downtown.
And that’s the way it should be.
Have you identified your ideal client? Taken any assignments with “less-than-ideal” ones? How did they work out for you? I welcome your comments!