Say ‘No’ To The Wrong Clients

I got a call a few months ago from Dan, a man in Atlanta whose company develops “perimeter security devices.” I know, I had no idea what those were either, but Dan and I hit it off right away, so we kept talking.

We saw eye-to-eye on the topic of relationship marketing, and it wasn’t long before he asked if I’d be interested in writing detailed product descriptions for his two dozen products. It seemed a reasonable fit for my skills, so I told him I’d take a look at his web site and get back to him with a proposal.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t seem to get interested. I really liked Dan, but the subject matter and particulars of the project just didn’t grab me. A few weeks later, after struggling with it for several days, I called him and said, “You know what, this just isn’t for me.”

To Dan’s credit, he was as nice as could be (which gave me pause yet again), and after agreeing to get together if we were ever in the same city, we went our separate ways.

Here’s the point: Turning down business from nice people with plenty of money, simply because the work doesn’t interest you, may seem to be a luxury that only well-established, overbooked professionals can afford.

It’s not. In fact, in my experience, turning down the “wrong” work is the path to becoming a well-established and overbooked professional.

Here’s why:

  1. When you do work you love, it’s easier to do.

    I’ve got some newsletter clients that I’ve been working with for over five years at this point. In each case, I’m as eager to work with them on their newsletters as I was when we first got started.

    The thrill of gaining a new client dissipates quickly, and even if the money is good, when the smoke clears, what you’re left with is the work to be done. If you don’t enjoy that, it will soon become a burden, making everything you do harder.

  1. When you do work you love, you do a better job.

    I’m happy to say that most of the things I write for clients are accepted with a minimum of changes, and I can’t remember the last time I was asked to completely redo something.

    Guess what…it’s not because I’m brilliant (although I am good looking). It’s because there’s such a good match between me, my clients and the work I’ve agreed to do, that the end result is nearly always on target.

  1. When you do work you love, you attract more of it.

    Actually, when you do anything, you attract more of it. Word of mouth means that clients tell others about completed projects, and if they liked it and you (even though you may have secretly hated every minute), their friends and others will start calling. Uh oh, the “wrong work” is multiplying.

    Focus on what you love, on the other hand, and you’re now moving in the right direction, with happy clients spreading the word and bringing more of what you want.

  1. When you do work you love, you’re not doing work you don’t.

    There are only so many hours in the day, and freedom to choose is one of the fortunate byproducts of working as an entrepreneur. You may as well have fun doing whatever it is you do (otherwise, it’s called a job). When you walk away from the things that don’t fit, you leave room for the things that do.

Bottom Line: “Wrong clients” aren’t bad, they (or the work) just aren’t right for you. Part of your challenge, therefore, is figuring out which projects to steer clear of.

Easier said than done, I know. Particularly if you’re just starting out, or if you don’t have all the work you need, it may seem illogical – even irresponsible – to turn anything down. Believe me, I know the feeling.

I also know that the fastest, easiest and most enjoyable way to get where you want to be, is to continually add interesting project on top of interesting project, and to walk away from things that are just pretty good.

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