Does your client roster read like the advertising section of a newspaper? Do plumbers, veterinarians, landscapers, dentists – any and every type of small business who needs design services come to you? This could be because you’re the only game in town – not everyone lives in a major metropolis – or because you haven’t learned the art of alienating clients that don’t suit you.
Attempting to please everyone is said to be the fastest route to mediocrity. In fact, it’s the fastest route to outright failure. We’re going to look at why this is so, and how to go about streamlining your business to provide maximum value to the clients who are most worth it.
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You should happily alienate certain types of clients. You can’t please everybody, after all. Some clients can be more trouble than they’re worth. We’ve all had clients like these.
They’re demanding, yet tight-fisted about payment; they want plenty of options, but they don’t value you enough as a freelancer to compensate you fairly. They ask for services you don’t feel comfortable providing or which would require an excessive amount of time and resources to get.
To top it all off, they see almost no value in your work as a designer – maybe their spouse or colleague told them they needed a website or rebranding and they just went along with it. What are you doing serving clients like this? It’s a hassle that’s not worth it in any way, shape, or form.
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Some design projects are just not worth the trouble of taking on. Whether they’re simply boring to you, or they won’t contribute meaningfully to a strong portfolio, there are many reasons to turn down certain projects, even if the client is pleasant.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred a perfectly good client to another designer friend of mine, simply because I didn’t think I was capable of providing the best value to them.
If you don’t appear greedy for business – any business – these clients will usually take notice of that, and when a colleague of theirs comes along whom you are a better fit for, they’ll call you first.
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So, what types of clients should you alienate? Choosing who to focus on is a highly personal exercise. You can start by creating a list of the most common traits of your 5 best clients. What did you most love about working with these people? What about the projects was most interesting to you?
When you’re done, you will have a reference sheet of the single type of niche client to zero in on. Anyone who doesn’t embody, at least 80% of, what’s on that list should be referred to a designer friend of yours who is more suitable.
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Focusing on a particular type of niche client can be scary for some freelancers who aren’t as secure financially as they’d like to be. We’ve all done things “for the money” that weren’t necessarily fulfilling or career-building, and that’s okay in the short term.
However, if you consistently find yourself taking on work you don’t enjoy, just to pay the bills, that’s usually a sign that something is wrong.
Either you’re not exposing yourself to the right type of clients who will pay more for your work, or you’re off the mark with your pricing and service offerings. Either way, you’re not providing the correct amount of value to the clients you’re serving.
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No designer can be everywhere at all times, nor can they be everything to all people. There’s no single, solitary designer who can provide the perfect solution to a generic pool of clients, nor should there be.
If you want to be memorable in your clients’ minds, you have to first find the type of clients who are most likely to remember you – the ones who most value your contribution – and ignore the rest who don’t fit.
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