Do Not Marry or Do Business with Every One That Proposes to You

Man holding roseI had to stop myself from doing the long, dramatic “No” scream when talking to a business owner the other day.

We were discussing branding and the conversation turned to clients.  This is when they told me that they would work with anyone.

Anyone?  As in anyone and everyone?


Their reason was simple: they need the money.  They did not want to turn down prospective clients.  They did not want to lose a sale.  They need to reach a quota.

Been there, done that; lesson learned.

I had lean times where I took on clients that I knew, absolutely knew, were going to be a nightmare and lo and behold – they were.  That fee that helped keep the utilities on ended up costing me a lot more than a reconnection charge.

I learned I need my integrity and to be true to myself more than a I need a fee with strings and daggers attached.

Defining your target market is critical to success.  It allows you to stop chasing the puppies and cleaning up puddles of pee when you want to run with the big dogs.

The first step in defining your target market is to define yourself, your value and your limits.

This starts with a pretty blunt question: what are you willing to do, sacrifice and put up with?

I often compare job searching and business building to dating, and here is another great opportunity for me to do so.

You are selective about your personal relationships, why not your business relationships?  Let’s take a dating prospective to defining your target clients:

Really – anyone and everyone?

If you were single, would you go out with everyone and anyone who asked you?  I don’t think so.  Would you have a long term relationship or marry anyone who asked you?  I don’t think so.  I do mean anyone, even some random stranger at a bar.  It happens.

I was proposed to by a guy in a bar at my cousin’s reception in California.  He said he had been married five times and asked if I wanted to be number six.  I said no, hoping the conversation would be over.  But then he asked why not.  I told him he didn’t seem to be very good at it having been married so many times.  That ended the conversation.

What is your Type?

What type of clients do you really click with?  Are they in certain industries, positions, stages of their career/business or certain personality traits?  What are the characteristics of a person that are an absolute, a willing to deal with and a oh hell no?

In dating an absolute may be someone who is of the same faith, a willing to deal with is someone who is a die-hard fan of a sport you cannot stand and a hell no could be someone who is a self-centered narcissist.

What is important to you and do these things align with your clients?  It makes for a more harmonious relationship.

Know your value.

Everyone has value to give.  What is yours?  Take a moment to think about your strengths, abilities, assets and positives.  Live in that moment for a minute and take it in.  Be appreciative of yourself and proud of yourself.  Know this is your value and feel good about it.

Being in this feel good place, do you really want to bring someone in your life that is going to take you out of it?  No.  If they cannot see or appreciate your value it will lesson your appreciation of it.  You want clients that understand and appreciate this value.  I am not saying you should expect every client to throw you praises every day about what you do; you just do not want the clients who take it for granted.

I am a nature freak.  I enjoy cutting the grass, trimming the yard, having beautiful landscaping and just generally being outside even taking the dogs on walks. Just because I love to do these things does not mean I want someone to take it for granted and expect me to do it for them.  “You like taking your dogs on a walk, couldn’t you just take mine (while I sit inside and do nothing) since you like being outside so much?”  No.

The take for granted prospective clients are the ones that say things like, “Well, you do this for a living, couldn’t you just do it for free?”  or “Since you are doing this part anyway, couldn’t you just do the rest for free.”  Do you see a theme there?

Set parameters. 

Know what you will and will not accept or tolerate and be willing to walk away.  It is ok to break up with someone who is not respectful of you, just as it is ok to fire a client for the same.

Without parameters, “The client is always right” can go from a cheer for exceptional customer service to a sneer of contempt when you have to redo the proposal or work – again – because they changed their mind, which they expect you to read, and wanted the work done yesterday.

Be clear, professional and firm in defining and stating your parameters.  I would not suggest starting any relationship, personal or business, with a list of demands or “if you do not meet these it is over” type language.  However, when a client has crossed the line or is getting a bit too close, speak up.

Vet the field

Your time is important and valuable, both on a person and professional level.  Take time to vet a prospective date or client before you decide to spend time or get into a relationship with them.  Talk to your prospects and more importantly – listen.

Sometimes the key to knowing this is not the right client for you is in what is said, how it is said or what is not said.

Twenty years of failed relationships without any accountability and each one was someone else’s fault would be a major red flag.

Why do they need your services, what brought them to this place, what are their short term and long term goals?  Are they coming to you for a partnership, a solution or as another person to blame for them not taking ownership of their own business/path?

Give and give with passion.

I heard a quote along the lines that relationships are not 50/50, they are 100/100; you go in giving all you have, as does the other person.

In a business relationship, this equation is not the same; however to give your clients the best of you, your service and your value you must go in 100%, and have the passion and enthusiasm to do so.

When you find your ideal clients, work is no longer work, it is fulfilling a passion, providing a value, a challenge, fun and rewarding.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

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