When it comes to my business, nothing is more frustrating than working with a client who is just plain NOT a good fit. Those clients can be draining, and it is just not enjoyable to be working with someone who, for whatever reason, makes you doing your job feel nearly impossible! Most of us have had clients like these, and after each one, we vow to never put ourselves in that position again. Only, how are you supposed to know if someone is going to become a “problem client” down the line? I’ll show you how!
In my world, running your business should be FUN, so working with difficult clients is so not something I want to spend my time doing. There is no better feeling than working with excited business owners that are eager to learn, proactive, and ready to step out of their comfort zones so that they can dominate their businesses! Even better, I often find myself attracting people I get along with really stinkin’ well on a personal level, so often friendship blooms, which is a wonderful bonus! Clients like that show me that I’m spot on when it comes to attracting my ideal clients, and it is fabulous!
Only, once in a while, I’m duped. I discover that someone I thought was a great fit for my business, isn’t, and I find myself completely drained after each interaction. Maybe it’s that our personalities are really different and just don’t gel, perhaps it’s that the person does not take our calls seriously, always showing up late, rescheduling, and not getting thing done for one reason or another. It makes what I do HARD, as I’m not a big fan of pulling teeth, and I’m not in the business of hunting people down and demanding they show up for their business (which doesn’t work, because demands aren’t usually very effective!). Difficult clients stress me out, and make what I do tricky!
Regardless of what industry you’re in, you likely can name a few super-awesome clients and a few that you wouldn’t work with again.
Recently, I made a change to my business, that has been HUGE, because I’ve already been able to spot a few potential “problem clients” and address my concerns before we entered into a contract, saving me oodles of time, stress, and frustration!
I’m pregnant, which means no red wine, so I have no room for difficult clients!
While I’ve always sent surveys to new clients, it was something they filled out AFTER they became my clients. It allowed me to get to know their business, and them as people, which was really helpful, but didn’t do me any good in terms of weeding people out if I got bad vibes from their answers. By then, I was already locked in, making proceeding and hoping for the best feel like my only option.
Now, I screen potential clients BEFORE I ever agree to work with them. Because I don’t have time to mess around, and neither do you!
If you’re ready to weed out clients that aren’t a good fit, for whatever reason, consider sending out a survey for them to fill out BEFORE you ever agree to work with them. Not only will this help to separate the serious inquiries from the casual ones, but it will help you get a great reading on whether or not the person will be a good fit. No more difficult clients for you!
Nothing is worse than doing your best, and showing up for someone who doesn’t show up themselves, and then being blamed for the mediocre outcome.
One of my clients, a wedding photographer, shared with me a story of an engaged couple she shot, that turned ugly real quick. Leading up to their booking, the couple was a dream. A week before the session, the bride-to-be was calling the photographer at all hours of the night, changing her mind constantly about the style she wanted, and expecting miracles from the terrified photographer (“Make my arms look thinner! Edit out my guys eye wrinkles! Change the color of my shoes to blue because the ones I ordered haven’t arrived yet!”).
Her expectations were unrealistic, and the day of the session was no different. The couple refused to take direction and appeared stiff and not at all in love. The photographer tried all she could, and was heartbroken when she saw that the final results were just what she cautioned the couple they would be if they did not take her direction: stiff, forced, and disconnected. The bride-to-be was furious. She blamed the photographer, who did everything in her power to facilitate a great session and coach the couple into looking more relaxed, but the couple’s lack of cooperation and unrealistic expectations made a happy final result nearly impossible. Needless to say, she did not shoot their wedding and was determined to do everything in her power to repel these types of clients and attract the kinds she loved working with.
Not sure how to screen potential clients to find out if they’d be a good fit down the road? Unfortunately, you really can’t (er, shouldn’t at least) ask questions like:
- Are you a demanding diva that will contact me at 3 AM and demand in instant response?
- Will you turn into a lunatic at any point in our working relationship?
- Do you show up late to everything and think the whole world should revolve around your schedule?
- Will you get weird about payments and stiff me?
BUT, you can ask leading questions that will allow you to gauge their commitment level to the service you provide, their vision for what working with you would look like, their degree of financial commitment, their personality traits, their potential roadblocks, and their overall views on getting sh*t done.
Granted, people can lie. They can tell you what they think you want to hear. But, if you can read between the lines, and create strategic questions, and then follow up on any potential concerns over the phone, you’re a lot less likely to feel like you were a victim of the ol’ bait and switch thing!
Another great way to weed out people that would cause major headaches down the line is to work REALLY hard on attracting your ideal clients (check out this post for some tips!). By designing your business around the people you’re dying to work with, you’ll attract more of them, and less of the people that leave you banging your head against a wall while ugly crying and eating a whole bag of peanut butter M&M’s.
Do this by revamping your website, your social media pages, and the way you interact with new inquiries! By being detailed in explaining what you do, who you work with, and your why, you’ll be much more likely to attract people that would be on your wavelengths! This doesn’t mean your ideal client is necessarily only one kind of person, or that they have to be just like you. I am obsessed with Kate Spade, Carrie Bradshaw, and bright lipstick. That doesn’t mean all my clients are, but they love me for my silly obsessions, and sometimes I open my mailbox to find a killer shade of bright pink lipstick that a client saw and had to buy me, even though she would never use anything other than ChapStick on her pout.
Are you dying to discover, and understand, who your ideal clients are? Check out my Client Avatar Guide, and download it instantly for $5 (that’s less money than a latte at Starbucks!). It will help you get crystal clear on who you need to target, and give you clear tips for finding (and attracting) them!
If you’re not sure how screening clients would work for your business, tell me so in the comments; let’s make a plan! Feelin’ shy? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will make magic happen!
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