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I don’t want to come across as a Debbie Downer – but we need to talk about something.

Across the industry I’m seeing too many service professionals that are working with clients that are making them unhappy because they feel like it’s a necessary evil. I mean, how can you say no to money, right?

Wrong.

Today I want to talk about why you NEED to stop working with clients that aren’t meant for you, and how you can get started working with only amazing clients from this day forward.

You’ve been there, we all have at one point or another in our businesses. You’re on a consultation call with a potential client, you’re excited because they want to work with you and then, the red flags start popping up (we’ll talk about what those are in a moment).

Even though you notice something is wrong, you ignore it either because you feel you really need a client right now, or you’re looking at your goals dutifully taped to your wall and know getting a client will help you get one step closer to achieving that magical number. Yet deep down you feel like you’re about to step into a nightmare of an engagement.

What does that nightmare look like? That depends on what you like in a client, but some of the things you might notice are:

  • When you look at your calendar and see their name on your appointment list, you don’t get excited for the day ahead.
  • You get frustrated because projects are taking much longer than you agreed to due to scope creep and/or indecision on their part.
  • You find yourself bending over backwards, doing much more than you typically do for clients because you are trying to keep them happy.

None of these things are healthy for you or your business, and none of them are necessary if you’re only working with ideal clients.

The amount of energy and stress that goes into working with non-ideal clients can take a serious toll on your health and cause you to feel burned out – which makes it even harder to attract amazing clients into your business.

The opportunity cost of having energy-sucking clients on your calendar is HUGE as well. Think about it, if you have a 3 month engagement that gets extended beyond that, without you getting paid for it, they are taking a spot of a paying client. No bueno.

Here are three things you can do instead, to ensure that you’re only working with ideal clients.

1. Keep and eye out for Red Flags.

Everyone looks for different qualities in an ideal client, so the red flags will also be different for every coach. So to figure out which ones YOU should be looking for, think back to the initial conversations you had with your not-so-perfect clients. Are there any commonalities? If you can find which actions, questions, or personality traits that give you the heebie jeebies, you can make a list and run any new prospects that are coming in through that filter.

I recently had a conversation with Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics about why his membership site has a 21 day waiting list – not because it’s “full” but because he literally makes his potential members wait three weeks before they can officially join.

Sounds crazy right? Not to Sean.

After taking a look at his most engaged members in relation to the non-ideal members that signed up and disappeared or worse, asked for a refund, he realized that a big red flag that came up over and over again was “instant gratification”. If someone wanted to get access to his membership forum just to get an answer to an immediate need, once that need was filled they’d usually leave. So he created a filter, which is the waiting list and it’s worked beautifully to weed out those non-ideal members so he can focus his attention on those that truly want to be there.

2. Also make a Green Flag list.

This is essentially just the opposite of the above, think about who some of your PERFECT clients were and also note what the intake process looked like. Sometimes we can describe our ideal client pretty easily, but the description is more of a fantasy than real-world examples of how that person actually shows up when they come to us. So write down what kinds of questions they asked, what actions they took, and anything else that you realize are qualities of the people you are meant to work with.

While it may seem that finances may be a “green flag” this isn’t usually the case – which is why I tell my clients not to focus so much on the demographics of their target market, and instead on the qualities of their ideal client. Who you attract, and whether you will enjoy the work you do has nothing to do with their financial situation.

For me, a green flag is when a prospect is clearly already marketing themselves and getting traction. To me this means that they will be able to take the work we do on their brand messaging and see results very quickly. Not to sound like a vampire or anything, but I feed on the energy of my clients and when they are having amazing wins, that gets ME excited and inspired. Someone could pay me 10x what I normally charge, and I would still be down in the dumps if we do all of this amazing work on their brand and I never get to see it come to fruition for them.

3. Realize, it’s not always the clients.

When I first started doing this exercise for myself I realized that the red flags for un-ideal engagements actually weren’t about my clients at all. They had to do with my situation and mindset at the time that they signed up. For example if I was having a bad couple of months, I realized that I had a really bad habit of overpromising because I was afraid of a prospect saying no. This meant I was committing to doing A LOT more work than I normally would, for the same price. Totally not the client’s fault, see what I mean?

Another Red Flag that may need to be addressed on your part is boundaries. Sometimes when you’re feeling drained by a client, it could just be that you haven’t set correct expectations or boundaries that allow you to do your best work. Assignments for example, if someone is never getting their work done on time and that is pushing your engagement out further than it should be, it’s up to you to make sure to set boundaries and expectations with that client so that they stay on track.

4. Make sure your messaging is attracting the right client.

Last, but certainly not least would be to make sure that your message is clear in who you want to work with. Sometimes we want to work with a particular client, yet our copy and content that we are sharing is attractive to someone totally different! This happens much more often than you think and fixing it requires some planning ahead of time. Such as getting clear on who you want to attract and what content would speak to them directly, then having an outside eye to audit your marketing and make sure it’s putting out the right message. (Hint: This is what I specialize in if you’re looking for help)

The moral of the story is, you are in control of your experience and the type of clients you attract.

If you find you’re attracting the wrong folks, then it’s time to take a good hard look at your marketing message and make sure it’s speaking to the right people. On the other hand, you also need to take a look at your own mindset and intake process to make sure that you’re setting both you and your clients up for success.

And if this at all sounds like you and you want help creating a message that only attracts ideal clients, shoot me an email and let’s talk.