It took years for me to realize that not all business was good business. My eagerness to grow and capture more clients made me vulnerable to some of the worst clients imaginable.
Some clients would beg for a good deal on services, so, I would render hours of work at a discounted price. Those clients would later become the most needy of all; demanding the most time which was usually unpaid.
Then there would be the client who always forgot to mail the check, making me chase money month after month all the while little me, in good faith, would continue to work on their account. Some even went rogue on me leaving me with months of unpaid work.
I believe the wrong clients do more damage than good to a small business. In my case, those who were needy often sucked the joy out of the work. In other words, their behavior caused me to resent them and not be grateful for them.
Resentfulness and ungratefulness is a really bad combo.
When you’re grateful for the work, more comes. When your bitter, the well dries up.
So how do you identify a client will be a wrong one when you haven’t started working with them? In my case my clients were all doctors and so I assumed they were responsible, courteous, and had money. I’ve now learned to never assume anything about a client.
Here are several questions that I ask today and scenarios I look out for before taking on a new client:
Can I truly deliver what they are asking for, in the time they are asking for it to be done?
Are they asking for a discount or installments? I like to ask them upfront, do you have a budget for this project and if so, how much is it?
I also cue in on now if they’ve questioned my 2-page proposal unnecessarily and clarify that they understand the work they are hiring me to do. I do this because if they don’t understand, this becomes a disaster with you ending up trying to convince them that they need you later on.
Another questions is, does their business reflect one that I want to represent or can help? – I made it a habit to do a background check on my potential clients (usually a Google search for doctors gives you enough info). If they looked shady online, I simply would tell them that I was not taking on new clients at the time.
It took me years to say no to business, but today I proudly turn it away. This is not an arrogant thing; this is simply eliminating future headaches and anxiety dealing with a bad client. No money is worth you resenting the work you once loved.
Chose wisely. Say no easily. And learn to walk away on the first gut feeling. Don’t wait for God to send you ten signs. Sometimes, you just get the one.