There is one important lesson my boss has taught me over the last couple of years:
You can’t work with everybody.
Subsequently, there is such a thing as an ideal client. One that you will enjoy working with, is cooperative and that you can actually help.
Since starting my own coaching practice in 2012 I have discovered this to be true. Now I know why life coaches and trainers everywhere have such detailed intake forms – they want to make sure the relationship will work. They want to make sure that this is a person they can ACTUALLY work with and help.
It was very rocky at first because I had no idea what my ideal coaching client would be. I like to face my scary demons head on so I just jumped into it like I usually do. Though the experience was rough I learned a very important lesson: I need to get very very clear on the kind of person I want to coach. Because the reality is that although I may try, I cannot help everyone. My services are not suited for everyone and in turn not everyone is suited for my services.
(I learned other things to – like trying to stay present, focusing on practicing power listening and a few other things I need to work on; but those are separate blog posts.)
By testing different techniques on different people I’ve been able to start narrowing down the kinds of people I want to work with and how I can better serve them. I want people who are a lot like me – ambitious, fire starters, hard workers, focused and with a good sense of humor. Of course I will have to refine this as I go on and with time I am sure this will become more clear.
The same rings true for my freelancing endeavors. I’ve had some clients that I adore and we really rock it! And I’ve had clients that were a complete waste of time (spider porn and bed bugs, anyone?) Furthermore, the same theory applies to this blog. Though most people love the content I have gotten flack for some of the things I write. But hey, I write for a specific group of people and it’s never going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
How this applies to you…
I’d like to take the time to point out how this theory applies to everything regardless of whether you’re working the daily grind or running your own business. Hell, this even applies to dating and frienships! You or your company have something to offer to the RIGHT people. These are the relationships that will flourish into something dynamic and beautiful. These are the relationships that will click.
So whether you’re a salesman, a blogger, a coach, a personal trainer, a secretary, a musician, a web designer or a dog walker it’s very important to keep in mind the kind of people you’d like to work with. Otherwise it’ll be a lot of wasted time and effort topped with frustration for the both of you.
You can start by asking yourself a few questions (these are some of the questions we ask at work as career consultants and I’ve begun using it in my coaching and freelancing):
What characteristics/personality traits does your ideal client/customer have?
What interests them?
How cooperative are they? (What is your definition of cooperative?)
Are they realistic in their wants/needs?
What kinds of problems do they have? (Be specific!)
How committed are they to the service/project/change?
Do you think they can actually pay you? (Haha! Very important one at the day job!)
These are just a few questions you can ask yourself in terms of narrowing down the clients you can serve. Now when it comes to what clients you’d LOVE to work with try making a list of 10 client attributes – as in, you won’t let anyone hire you unless they match these guidelines. Here are some of mine:
1. They are committed, focused and ready to crack open instead of dilly dallying around. I want action takers!
2. They have a big vision they can actually see in their mind. Maybe they don’t have all the details, but they can definitely smell the outcome.
3. They pay on time, and gladly.
4. They actually enjoy my brutal honesty and understand it comes from a place of love and compassion.
5. They treat me like a partner to share ideas with, not a guru or a life saver.
6. They like to have fun and joke around!
7. They recommend me to others.
8. They respect time schedules. I’m picky with my calendar.
9. They appreciate my services and show gratitude.
10. They have a sense of humor!
The theory of only working with the right clients is nothing new. In fact, it’s basically mentioned in every marketing and business blog there is.
Think Traffic mentions how people who are considered experts in their field do not take on just anybody as a client. They have an application process, a waiting list and only offer free services occasionally.
Marie Forleo talks about the importance of identifying ideal clients in her video “Do Your Clients Drain Your Energy?”. (Very good video!)
And of course, you can’t have a post like this without mentioning Seth Godin, who pretty much coined the idea of building your tribe. (If you don’t know who Seth Godin is at this point you need to watch this and this.)
So as you can see, some of the leading online experts in marketing, sales and numbers all seem to agree on the same thing.
Bottom line: Get clear on who you WANT to work with.