Working Less Series: Choosing the Right Clients and Dumping the Duds

If you've been reading the blog for any length of time, you should know that working less doesn't mean that you are going to sit back, relax, and earn thousands of dollars an hour.  Rather, it means that you'll be doing a lot less of the things the day-to-day things so that you can focus on the things that push your business forward.

That being said, this new series of blog posts are going to help you to push yourself to get rid of the baggage that most freelancers and business owners continue to carry.  By implementing some of the tools and strategies here, you'll have so much more time on your hands that you probably won't know what to do with it (but we'll work on that too).

Nothing said in these posts are going to be new.  There are plenty of other blogs and books out there that have this same information.  However, this series is meant to curate that information in order to pare it down to the essentials so that you can TAKE ACTION NOW!

Picking the right clients and customers

You don't need a lot of customers – you need the right customers.  New and veteran small business owners have the tendency to feel as though they need to take on every client under the sun.  The problem with this is that not all clients are made to work well with you.

You know the type – your stomach hurts when you see their name on incoming calls, they call you incessantly and wonder why you can't get their project done, they regret ever working with you and make it known.  The worst part of all of this is that they are letting possible prospects know how “TERRIBLE” you are.

A big part of working less and being more productive is to work with people who respect, appreciate, and are excited about working with you.  They make you want to serve them as much as possible and they recommend you to other people (so you don't have to cold call all of the time).  Working with them isn't work, it's pleasure and it's the reason you started your own business in the first place.

But I need clients in order to make money

This is true – and while most gurus out there would tell you otherwise – sometimes in order to even find your ideal client is to work with bad ones.  Every client is a learning lesson, and there is no other way to pick the perfect clients than to work for ones that are okay or downright nasty and avoid them in the future.

I was so excited to work for my first big client.  It was an IT support contract and the retainer was really good for someone just starting out.  However, after not getting paid for 2 months and still getting flak for not being there at their beck and call, life was hell.  They were dragging the service I was providing to other customers into the ground and my business almost crashed and burned.

Eventually payment was received after a threat of legal action and I never heard from them again (which was a great thing).

I would have never known just how bad a client could be until I worked with them, and that is definitely a good thing to know.

All that being said, if you already have a good amount of clients and some of those clients are horrible to work with – cut them loose.  Yes, get rid of them.  Focus more of your attention on serving your best clients and then ask them to refer you.

The benefits of working with the right clients

Yes, it's scary letting bad clients go, it's money and you have a business.  But letting the time-suckers go brings so many benefits that the initial pain of getting rid of them is far exceeded by the benefits of being able to seek out and work with great customers.

Here's a few of the benefits:

  • Great customers give you the necessary time to work on projects (i.e. they don't bug you all of the time and get upset when you don't meet deadlines).
  • An ideal client respects your knowledge and expertise and sees you as a trusted advisor rather than someone just taking their money.
  • A good customer refers you to other people.
  • A good client is excited to work with you and to see how you could work together to benefit their situation.
  • Ideal clients communicate well and understand when changes to deadlines happen that are out of your control.
  • And generally they are fun people who think like you, like the things you do, and want you to succeed in helping them!

Get rid of your bad clients today!

Drop the duds.  You don't need them.  Even during your proposal process let them, or your point-of-contact, know that you have a certain client base that you work with and that you typically don't take on clients that don't fit into that mold.

Tough words? Maybe, but it's tougher working for months for a client that hates working with you.

Here is an example of an email I just sent to a friend of mine that referred me to her boss.  As of this post we are in the proposal process and I had just met with them in person.  Keep in mind that this project would be a 5-figure deal, and possibly even more in the future:

Real quick about the proposal – is your CEO always like he was today?  I know that his first meeting (with another consultant) didn't go too well, but is that his general demeanor?

The reason I ask is that I am particular about my clients, and while I would work amazingly well with you, I don't think that I would work well with XXXXX. I didn't get a good vibe or appreciation of some of the suggestions that I would normally charge for.

Typically I wouldn't take on a client like him in this circumstance, and I would only be doing so to help you.  But I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just because of a bad day.

Thank you so much for the referral and for thinking of me.


The point is that it's not all about money.  You should never do anything you hate just because you are going to make a lot of money from it.  On the other hand, this is not an excuse to be lazy and drop all of your customers because you don't want to work at all.

If you are working with the right customers you will work less, feel better, and maker more money in the long run because you will enjoy what you do.  Plus, your clients will get the best out of you and will benefit from your time and attention (and refer you to more clients).