“Wait for your ideal client,” they say. “Don’t settle for anything less,” they say.
You’ve finally found a client lead. All the searching and promoting has paid off…maybe. Could this really be your “ideal client” that everyone keeps talking about? Or is it your worst nightmare about to come to life?
How are you supposed to know the difference between your dream client and the nightmare before it’s too late? When a potential client is in front of you, it’s hard to say no even when you know something’s not quite right. You feel like you’re leaving money on the table if you do anything to rock the boat. That’s why asking yourself a few ideal client questions is so important.
If you outline your ideal client expectations ahead of time, it’s easier to sort out the not-so-good cases and leave room for the great ones.
Several years ago when I was still fairly new to working on my own, I was excited to find living, breathing clients from anywhere and everywhere. One day a prospective client called me. The more we talked, the less I felt like it was a good fit. Before I could bow out gracefully, the client said, “God told me that we should hire you. So that’s what I’m going to do!”
Say what?? How was I supposed to argue with God?! I signed on with them and soon realized I should have stuck with my gut feeling. It turned out to be a strange situation and an uphill battle trying to get anything accomplished. No harm done, but lesson learned – I need to listen for God’s direction myself, not through someone else claiming to know what I should do!
I’ve found that the more I clarify up front with a new client, the less room there is for confusion later. I put together a list of questions to help you sort out your ideal client situation. This creates a more objective process to help you decide. If I’d had this list a few years ago, I might have avoided several odd clients here and there. But I also would have missed all those valuable life lessons, ha!
Your niche will influence the types of questions you need to ask. A bookkeeper will have some different questions than a graphic designer. Even so, there are several things we all need to consider regardless.
I made the list into an Ideal Client Printable for you. Some of these questions won’t apply to your situation, and you’ll think of others you need to ask instead. (The printable is in the Resource Library. If you’re already subscribed, go here to log right in. Your password is in the May newsletter.)
15 Questions to help you decide if you’ve found your ideal client:
- Is the work a good fit for my interests and personality?
- Does this sound like something I would enjoy?
- Is this within my skill set or a reasonable challenge that I can realistically learn?
- Do I have the necessary tools to do this work properly, or can I easily gather the tools?
- How well does this fit with my schedule and family situation?
- Will this allow me to maintain a good work-family balance?
- Are the deadlines/turnaround times reasonable?
- Is the client willing to sign my contract?
- Do the client’s personality and work style seem to fit well with mine? *Remember, you and the client don’t need to be clones. Your personalities may be complete opposites. The main question is, do you click and can you work well together?
- Does the client’s preferred communication method work for me? If not, is there a way to compromise? *Example: The client prefers to pick up the phone any time he has a question. You have a busy toddler which makes quiet phone calls difficult. Can you set “office call hours,” such as 1-3 pm, so the client knows he can call you any time between those hours? The rest of the day you’re only available by email. You don’t necessarily need to explain why. You can simply say, “I am available for phone calls weekday afternoons between 1:00-3:00. If you need me any other time, email is the fastest way to reach me. Otherwise feel free to leave a voicemail and I’ll return your call during those hours.”
- Is the client willing to accept my rate and payment terms (due within __ days, retainer fee, etc.)?
- Does the pay structure financially make sense for me (hourly, package rate, commission, etc.)?
- Are there any extra benefits (such as paid training, membership to a professional organization, paid subscription, etc.)?
- Have I fully checked out the client (read their website, LinkedIn profile, credentials, referral from someone who has worked with them before, etc.)?
- Does anything about it seem off, even if everything else makes sense?
There will be pros and cons to every situation, so you have to weigh out each one and decide when you want to take a chance. I’ve taken on new clients on a one-time project basis. That worked well because it allowed us to have a trial period before making a longer commitment.
Another important reminder that new VAs often forget: If this is a self-employed gig, YOU are the one employing yourself. You set the boundaries, not the client. If they want to call the shots, they should hire an employee.
Don’t ever be afraid to say no. If you’re afraid of losing the client, you’ll come across as desperate and they’ll sense it. You leave yourself wide open to be taken advantage of.
Clients will respond to the level of confidence that you project about yourself. You know your competence. Own it and rock it!
Here’s where you can sign up to access the Ideal Client Printable again in case you missed it. Pass it along to a friend!
What are some questions you would add to the list when considering a new client? Share with us in the comments below.