“I want to gouge my eyes out. Every time I see his name in my appointment book, that’s what I want to do. I just want to poke my own freakin’ eyes out.”

Amy was stabbing her salad with a fork, jamming it into her mouth, speaking between bites about a client she despised.

Her fork was making me nervous.  But I asked the obvious question…

“Why don’t you let him go?”

Her answer was accompanied by a spray of chewed lettuce bits. “Because he’s like my biggest client!  I can’t just ‘let him go’!”

I ignored the lettuce that landed on my wrist.

“Okay,” I said. “But is it possible you’re more pissed at yourself for how you got into this situation in the first place?”

“Huh-uh!” Amy said pointing her fork at me. “Don’t get all business coach-y on me. I had no idea this guy was a total misogynist! And you know it!”

“Got it,” I said. “So then, tell me where I’m wrong. You took him on without a system in place. You keep him because you’re scared. And you don’t have a plan for getting clients.”

Amy stopped.  She took a deep breath and looked across the café at nothing.   She’s smart, and she saw the truth in what I was saying.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I’m freaked. I need other clients. I need to not be working with someone who drains me. And I don’t know what to do.”

So, say you’re Amy.  Maybe not the exact details. But close enough.

The options for knee-jerk reactions are limitless. You could go out and hustle as many new clients as possible, nevermind who they are.  You could keep on dealing with this guy and remain trapped in blame and self-loathing. You could fire this client tomorrow and hurt yourself financially.

But the problem with knee-jerk reactions is that you don’t learn from them. There’s no stepping out of the pattern and pain long enough to examine what went wrong.

So, let’s start with some definitions.

First, what makes a bad client for you?

Get clear on what defines “non-ideal” for you so you can spot them instantly.

Here are some possible characteristics. The wrong client is anyone who:

  • doesn’t do the work.
  • bargains your price down or doesn’t pay on time.
  • continually has to be convinced.
  • verbally attacks, blames or abuses you.
  • is needy and ignores boundaries and professionalism.
  • doesn’t prepare for your calls and meetings.
  • doesn’t have the money to implement the strategies you advise.
  • wants a quick fix and doesn’t take the time to learn from your expertise.

How do you know you’re working with the wrong client?

Well, wanting to gouge your eyes out is your first clue.

Or dreading meetings with them.  Or feeling drained by them.

Or if they make you cry.

In other words, your feelings are a huge barometer. Pay attention to them.

This isn’t to say that you won’t go through challenging patches with even your best clients. But those can be worked through and are temporary.

The non-ideal client continues to attack, push back or slack.  You know the one I’m talking about.

And that brings us to the real issue here. It’s the issue behind any problem or challenge in your business…

Second: Why have you allowed any of it, why do you continue to tolerate it, and how did you end up in a situation where you’re desperate for clients?

The answer, typically, is fear.  Plain old procrastinating, sabotaging, debilitating fear.

  • Fear that you’re not enough yet.
  • Fear that you’re being ungrateful. (Hey, you’re lucky to even have clients.)
  • Fear that you’ll end up foraging through dumpsters for stale Krispy Kreme donuts.
  • Fear that you’re being cocky, and who do you think you are getting all choosy and selective?

There are, of course, many ways to handle fear.  But the worst option is to wait until you “get rid of it.”  Fear has a mind of its own.  And when you have a business, fear will keep you trapped in all kinds of bad situations. Do not wait.

Third, stop waiting until fear goes away. Start building a system now.

As panicked as you may be about your current situation and as little time as you have to create tedious systems, know this:

A system will prevent you from letting fear run your business.  A system is a restraining order for that part of you that jumps headlong into, well, everything.

Let’s look at how your system could work to make sure you get ONLY ideal clients…

It takes clarity and a dose of courage to set your systems up to weed out non-ideal clients, but in the long run, it’s so worth it.  You have to decide to step out of lizard brain long enough to build something, rather than just reacting to many things.

 

Step 1 – Know who your ideal client is.

Can’t stress this enough. You need to know (preferably in writing) everything about your ideal client.  Don’t hold back. If this person needs to be making a certain amount of money in order to benefit from working with you, then state that clearly.  If they have to have a company, a house, a family, a spouse, write it down. Get crystal clear. Take time with this.

Step 2 – Strategically price your services.

Do not look around to see other people’s prices and charge less than that. Do not charge by the hour. Do not let fear make you cheap.

Step 3 – Create a system – and use this six-word mantra often.

Quick. What’s the best answer to the question: “How much do you charge?”

No, it’s not sharing your price.

The answer is: “Well, here’s how I do things…”

And then, you share your client intake process, which involves several steps including some homework and required reading for your prospect before you even get on the phone.

Step 4 – Give homework to every prospect prior to their call.

Giving prospects homework before you have your first call with them will position you as someone who is selective and clear, right from the start.

What is homework?   Reading and writing.   Ask them to fill in a questionnaire, and give them some required reading (or listening) about who you are, the way you work, and the results you deliver.

Note: If they don’t do this work, they won’t do the work once they’re paying you!  Also, it pre-qualifies them and weeds out the apathetic. (And the assholes.)

Step 5 – Clearly state who you don’t work with.

In all of your materials, share who is NOT an ideal client for you.  The whiners will flee, criticizers will get offended, and people who don’t have the money will accuse you of being a jerk.  That’s all good. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Step 6 – Schedule a call.  (Reschedule one time only.)

Schedule a call to discuss their questionnaire.  Dig a little deeper to discover their needs and dreams before you share your packages and pricing.

If they do not show up for your initial call, or if they do not do the questionnaire, then reschedule one time only.  Let them know that your policy is to only allow for one reschedule.

Does this work?  Well, here’s the storybook ending…

It took Amy six months, but she fired her client.  She did it after she built up her client pool using these exact steps.  Not surprisingly, the guy offered to pay her more if she’d keep him. She said no.  (Systems prevent knee-jerk reactions and the temptation to prostitute yourself.)

Now you, dear reader…

…if you could pick ONE of these steps to begin with, which one do you think would make the most impact for you right now?

25 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Chelsia Berry

    Strategically pricing my services. I feel people look at me and decide they can pay less for what I do. I fallen into the get more degrees trap and what is actually happening is I’m desperate to show people I truly have talent.

  • Kala

    This was so good via your email list that it brought me to your website. Super clear and rings true. Luckily I see it and am in process of change. I’ll follow your work as you brought me value. I work with women who are recovering from burn out on the job. So far that’s fine, it’s some in person clients (in my healing practice that need clearer boundaries.)

  • Alicia

    I’ve always jumped to answer but It’s really good advice to not share pricing until you see how much the prospective client is going to show up and do the work! Thanks for that!

  • Valerie

    You didn’t mention it in your post but I like the idea that came to me about making a vision board about my ideal client.

  • Valerie

    You didn’t mention it in your post but I like my idea that came to me about making a vision board about my ideal client.

  • Pamela

    Christine I love this information !

    You hit the hammer on the nail !

    Thanks for your no fluff stuff, you come off as a very honest and no nonsense person and I want to find out more about you.

    Pamela
    ❤love life laugh

  • Paulette Hamel

    Knowing everything about your idea client is critical! Check them out online, know their encumbents, research the key players on FB and linked in, look at their products, check Hoover’s and BBB if they are businesses.

    I haven’t done surveys but I do ASK questions. I have a list of MUST KNOWS with questions under each one. I print this out and have infront of me when I call so I can guide the conversation by asking those questions as the moment arises.

    Here’s my MUST KNOWS list:
    -about them
    -about us
    -needs
    -wants
    -PAIN POINTS
    -process
    -financials
    -next steps
    -Recap of what will happen next
    -date and time of next call/meeting

    Hope this helps and thanks for the. valuable info Christine. Do you have a sample survey you could share?

  • Heather Reid

    Hi Christine, Everything shows up at the right time! I’m in the process of revamping my website which really means focusing on what I want and how to ask for it. (Engagement with my ideal clients!) I read this post today and it was confirmation I’m on the right path. Plus, I love the idea of homework before we start!

    Thank you for your work and inspiration!

  • Meri

    Thank you Christine, this is just what I needed. Some support to have clarity on the criteria for a difficult decision.
    I choose step one: know who my ideal co-worker/employee is.
    I am clear I don’t want to work with a person, so it’s not an easy situation. I am addressing it assap, monday probably.
    I love synchronicities!

  • Cheryle Yin Lo

    Ran my first workshop with a small group of four people but had amazing feedback and results . Now the word of mouth travelled and. Am getting people offering me venues and their groups of friends so am scheduling new workshops . I agree there is s real need for vision board workshops. I like the systematic approach and about not devaluing your services. That’s something I am disciplining myself in . Even the extra few dollars for booking fee clients seem a deterrent for people . So some people came and paid cash which I need to change the mindset and ensure that payments are made prior to workshop.
    My feeling is that people are extremely interested in attending the workshops but the they realise they may have to confront issues and change their mindset to step over the line to break their pattern of behaviour. I agree I am getting to the stage where I have zero tolerance for people who are slackers and don’t put in the time for the ore/ homework and follow up or don’t show up when they said they would!

  • Angella

    Hey Christine, you are so right! Fear causes me to think that if they are alive and breathing that should be good enough. I like the idea of giving homework. Perhaps you could elaborate on that or share some sample homework for prospective clients. Thanks!

  • Sanda

    Step 3 – Creating a System…..

    Thanks
    Sanda

  • Dee

    I believe that knowing who my ideal client should be would be most helpful at this time. Thank you for the insight in knowing the importance of this.

  • Linda Leviton

    Step 5…clearly stating who i don’t want to see. Great blog.

  • Dawn

    Hi. Great email. Loved it. I picked #4. I’ve been doing a prerecorded Facebook mini series and my second one I have done homework. Now I’m not very techie but it’s s start. But later this week, I filled out the homework myself and sm now gathering content to work on the next recording for a brief synopsis of what needs to happen next for growth. I see some nice possibilities with this and a system for the ideal client. Rushing the process causes me to fold but slow progress of getting clear content for my clients growth will ultimately draw the ideal client because the focus will be on that growth piece. I want that and these are the steps I want to take to get and your system works on all of these areas. This is what I’m working on right now.
    Thank you Christine!!
    Dawn

  • Chanie

    My mouth dropped open when I saw this in my inbox.

    I’m wrestling with this less than ideal (nicely said) client a few months.

    Started with him only because of his money. Was burnt. He requested once again I take him on now.
    I scheduled a call, ready to get clear and bring up my issues with him. And as I’m waiting on a call for him to call in, and he didn’t show up on time, I see this email.

    OMG. This is so supportive. Thank you Christine.

    Actually, I’ve got clear this week with what program I’m ready to offer (group program). So reading this calms me.

    I need to trust that I can reach my audience with the limited funds I have.

  • Velina

    Great article Christine. Love your writing style. The sugar helps the medicine go down!

  • Tammi Moses

    Fabulous and timely article for me! Thank you so much!

  • Renee Lanier

    I have been struggling with how to use your processes. I teach many different things and was trying to figure out how to present these workshops, groups, etc. in a way that was not over the top for my clients.
    Then it came to me to make a “package” that included all the appropriate sessions. I have it already and just did not recognize that I did. I thought this is too big a package and it cost to much to do, blah, blah, blah. Thank you for the clarity and I will now get on with creating the system and tweaking the package to begin in January of 2017. I am interested in all that you are presenting. Thanks again.

  • Tessa

    I love your writing, I always find nuggets of “ahas” while laughing. Love your sense of humor. The clearer I get on my ideal client, the more insights I discover on areas I missed. I had a couple big “ahas” as a result of this article. Thanks!

  • Renae

    Christine, this article is SO me. And it’s revealed some good news, and some bad news, about myself. The good news is that I’m finally able to say NO when something doesn’t work for me. I just “quit” on a potentially lucrative client because they wanted to force me to do work in a way that was painful for me. I did try to do it for a while … after all … paycheck! But within two weeks, I decided I didn’t want to work like that, even if it meant giving up the client. That’s a big deal for me, as it once took me TWO YEARS to end a bad client relationship! And when I finally wrestled up the courage to throw that weight off my shoulders, an old client called the very next day. What d’ya know? The bad news? I still have no system. And now that I’ve fired that new client, I’m in that same space where I’m going to “have to” take on something just to pay the bills. System! I need it! 🙂 Thanks for the article — lets me know I’m not alone 🙂