As happens every now and again, a client and I had a parting of the ways. Needs change, attitudes change, and sometimes the professional/client relationship just fizzles. It is difficult to please all of the people all of the time, especially when that particular person doesn’t really fit into your target client definition.
Such a thing happened to me recently. I had been working with a particular client for almost a year, even though I was somewhat surprised that he chose me and liked my work. We come from very different worlds. He is an internet marketing professional whose clients are high end medical and legal professionals. I’m a cowgirl who happens to have a knack for designing stuff and computers! He hung around “Boca Babes”, I hung around cowboys who needed showers and shave. He needed someone to design for his clients and I was brought in by another Social Media expert that he had been working with to help out (need I mention that he is no longer working with her, either?).
Initially things were great. We clicked for the most part and he was sending quite a bit of work my way. He appreciated my thoroughness and my follow through.
Slowly, over time, things began to change. His expectations grew and because our design styles were so different, I couldn’t meet his growing expectations any longer. We talked about this on a few different occasions, and I brought up the fact that our styles were just too different, but he insisted that we keep the relationship going. My instincts told me that this would probably lead to trouble.
My instincts were right.
He began to question everything I did, in regards to both my designing and how I handled my business. For example, he decided that he would dictate to me how I did my invoicing, including the invoice dates and that I couldn’t charge him both hourly and flat rate for design work. I explained to him that how I invoiced depended on the project, but he didn’t want to hear it.
He demanded that every image or graphic have a drop shadow on it. He couldn’t understand the concept of “less is more” in some cases. He didn’t care about code standards for web pages, or SEO best practices. He wanted it how he wanted it, and since I “worked for him”, I was not allowed to question it. In his view, we had an employer/employee relationship (his words), and therefore I was at his beck and call. If I happened to respond to one of his emails at 6 in the morning, he would assume I was up and ready for work and 9 times out of 10, my phone would ring shortly thereafter. He had very little respect for my boundaries, which I clearly had not set well enough.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to grow pretty tired of being bossed around. I am self employed for a reason and I am not anyone’s employee.
I began to think about my other clients… people that I’ve worked with for years and this has never happened. I realized that the majority of the people I really click with are very like-minded and are involved in some kind of agricultural business, which, of course, is the niche I have chosen for myself. I relate to people who are horse trainers and farmers. People who understand the rural, agricultural way of life, and most of them live the exact same lifestyle that I do. We are often most comfortable when we’re horseback, checking on cattle.
Because these clients who fit my niche understand me and how I think, as is also true in the reverse, they trust me to do my job and they know that I have their best interests at heart. If I explain why a design is a certain way, or why their web page is laid out in a certain format, they trust me that this is the best solution for the application because I am the professional they hired to do what they do not know how to do themselves.
Deciding who your ideal customer is is so critical to any successful business. Without it you cannot effectively target your marketing efforts so that you are reaching the people that you are best suited to work with, and the people who need you the most!
Once you have made this decision and are attracting those ideal clients to you, stick with it! This doesn’t mean you can’t work clients who don’t fit your target (one of my all time favorite clients to work with is a relationship coach), just understand that if these relationships end, there is a reason. And sometimes you need to evaluate how successful that relationship will be before it even starts. The stress created by trying to please this client who I didn’t “get” and who clearly didn’t “get” me, was not worth the money I made.
As with everything in life and business, we keep learning and hopefully we keep growing. To ignore the lessons that are thrown in front of us would be such a waste, so with that in mind I’m off to go find some like-minded, horseback-riding, cattle-breeding, farming type of individuals to do more business with!
Have you taken the time yet to define your target market? Has this helped you grow your business? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear how this has helped you in your business. Or, if it hasn’t worked for you, I’d like to hear that as well.