My favorite and most successful projects have always stemmed from the best relationships. This might seem SUPER obvious, but it took me a long time to really internalize it, so I’m hoping these pointers might help you if you’re currently riding the bad client struggle bus.
With every new prospect, I’ve started making it a point to ensure the client is a good fit for me—just as much as I know they’re making sure I’m the best fit for them.
Here’s a quick mental checklist I run through before deciding if I should work with new clients. This can be used as a starting point for your own new client evaluation:
#1 – Is this going to be the best possible relationship/partnership for both of you?
Before agreeing to take on a client, you want to make sure that the relationship will equally benefit the both of you. Is the work going to be something that you’re proud to add to your portfolio, or is the client looking for something SO different from what you typically offer, that it wouldn’t really make sense to add it in? Is the client going to truly benefit from your services and what you bring to the table, or would they be better off working with a different company or provider with a different area of expertise? A successful project means that both parties get more out of the relationship than just the usual transaction of money paid for services performed.
#2 – Is this a client worth taking on financially?
If you’re anything like me, you can get easily pumped about new projects and you LOVE saying yes to things—even when they might not make the most financial sense. The best thing to do here is to take your feelings out of the equation when it comes to the money stuff by asking a few questions before doling out your overly enthusiastic “YES!” If you take on this prospective client, will you stand to gain a significant profit from working with them? Or is their project just a little too small, making it tough to see much of a return on your time spent (especially considering all of the un-billable things that go into a project like emails and meetings)?
#3 – Is there good chemistry?
A relationship with a client is so very similar to any of the other relationships in your life. You can probably tell from a couple of emails, and especially during an initial phone call or in-person meeting, if there’s good chemistry between a new prospect or not. I’m certainly not suggesting that you need to be best friends with your clients—that’s definitely not the case—but if you’re finding the conversation terribly difficult, if you’re already disagreeing or having a hard time understanding one another, or if you’re simply feeling some weird vibes—it’s usually best to part ways before either of you invest too much time.
#4 – Do you actually have the time to take on this new client/project?
This is for the other over-committers out there! This one’s a biggie that I personally learned a little late in the game: always, always, always evaluate your current schedule and determine whether or not you actually have the time to take on this new client or project…and be dead-serious-honest about it. If you don’t, it’s always fair to propose a project schedule that works with your workload—if that doesn’t end up working for the client, it’s better to have been honest and not overloaded, than to take on a project with a deadline that you just can’t swing.
#5 – Do they truly want to work with you—or are they just looking for the best deal?
If the first question a prospective client asks you is “how much do you charge for X,” or if they haggle with you on your fee, proceed with caution. I would certainly never totally count out a price shopper (hey, we’re all looking for a good deal!), but I always know to do a little extra digging if the first thing we chat about is pricing. The best projects are the ones where a client truly WANTS to work with you because they think you’re the best fit—and not just the best deal.
What about you? Do you have any questions you ask before bringing on a new client? Leave me a comment below and let me know!