you're firedThroughout my many years in business, I notice a common recurrence that I like to call the Client Cleanse. Every so often, all my regular clients drop off the face of the earth and are replaced with fresh new ones.

In my earlier days, I took it personally. Who wouldn’t? I thought that it was something I was doing – or not doing – that caused my clients to leave me after a year. But as time went on, and this “client cleanse” continued to happen, I began to do some research. I talked to other business owners, I sought out advice from mentors and fellow colleagues. I even asked the really big players in my market if they’d experienced anything like this.

Guess what – every single person I spoke to told me about their own version of the client cleanse. It wasn’t just me. It isn’t just me (or you). It happens to us all.

But why?

Because they aren’t the right clients for you. And it usually takes about six months to a year for everyone to figure that out. Does it mean you’re doing something wrong? No. Does it mean your services suck? No. Does it mean you’re bringing any less value to the table? No. It just means that those particular clients aren’t in alignment with what you have to offer.

We all go through bouts of working with the “wrong” clients. They come in many forms. Maybe you recognize some of them:

  • The tire kickers – they just want to feel out market, but don’t want to spend any money
  • The cheapskates – they want everything for free
  • The entitled – they feel you owe them your expertise
  • The wishy washy – they can’t make a decision about anything (and therefore constantly change their mind about what they want/think they want)
  • The hippies – they feel cosmic energy all around them and let it guide their important business decisions
  • The scaredy-cats – they’re so focused on losing money that they can’t bring themselves to accept the fact that you have to pay where you play (it takes money to make money)
  • The noobs – they’re just too green to understand your value, and they likely haven’t made any money yet so they just can’t afford you
  • The old-schoolers – they fear change and insist on continuing to do things the way they’ve always done it.
  • The know-it-alls – they refuse to actually take your advice (because they know better) and never get around to implementing your recommendations. Then they blame you for not producing results.

These are just a few examples of the “wrong” client. So how do you find the “right” clients? Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but it is possible. Here are some practical tips to help:

Prequalify your leads

This comes from experience. When I first started out, I desperately tried to sign every single lead I could get my hands on. It’s human nature to want as much business as you can get – until you learn the hard lessons … eventually you come to realize that you’re wasting a ton of time and energy on leads that will never, ever pan out. After some time in business, you learn to spot these ones as soon as they come in. You also learn to prequalify your leads. Here are some ways I weed out the wrong clients:

  • I talk about price right away – if they fall off their chair when they hear my rates, they’re not the client for me
  • I ask them to tell me their budget right away – if they don’t know the answer, or simply don’t have a budget, they’re not the client for me
  • I gauge their commitment by insisting on a minimum six month contract (typically 12 months) – if they refuse, they’re not the client for me

Fire the “wrong” clients

Sometimes the wrong client does slip into your roster. You’re not Kreskin after all. Don’t waste your time trying to turn the wrong clients into the right clients. It’s tempting, especially if you’ve given a lot of time and attention to them. It’s not easy to fire clients – you’ll probably focus on that money you’re going to lose. But that’s the wrong view. You should be focusing on all the time you’ll free up to focus on working with the right clients. Firing the wrong clients means you can stop banging your head against the wall, stop feeling all those bad feelings that come from working with the wrong client, and focus positive energy on those who actually understand and appreciate your value.

Have you had a client cleanse lately? Tell me about it in the comments below.