“The point of running a business is to make money,” an entrepreneur friend of mine tells me. I disagree with him. True, a business needs money to sustain itself, but what’s the point if it’s not enjoyable?
I opened my company because I love creating things, entertaining people, and, most of all, doing work that makes me happy. Running a business can be a daily struggle: You’re the first to wake up in the morning, the last to sleep at night, and the last to get paid at the end of the month. So if you’re going to run your own business, you should enjoy it.
Being picky about the clients with whom you choose to work can be one way to ensure you enjoy the work you do. This may seem absurd – it’s essentially turning away money. But there are long-term benefits to being selective when forming a client base and deciding on projects to invest your time in.
Form Committed, Long-Term Relationships
One reason to like your clients: long-term relationships. When we take on a client at Slice Media, we see it as at least a month-long endeavor. We give each client our full attention, and if we’re going to spend a month (if not longer) on a project, we need to enjoy our work. If we don’t, it shows.
When working for a long period of time with a client, you must form a positive rapport. This can mean fewer headaches throughout the development and creative processes, an increased likelihood of future projects, and excellent finished projects in which your investment is evident. Being selective attracts ideal projects more naturally. As you produce work you’re truly happy with, you’ll bring more of the same your way.
Try it on for Size (and what to do when it’s not the right fit)
Deciding that a client is not the right fit for your company after meeting with him can be an awkward and rather intimidating encounter. But generally, it’s a mutual feeling. It’s usually obvious to both parties if it’s love at first sight and, conversely, if it’s not.
When you meet with a client for the first time, use it as a chance to understand him beyond his needs in regard to your service. Remember your mom telling you not to talk about money, politics, or religion with guests? We throw that advice out the window when we meet our clients. (Sorry, Mom.)
Because we create a product that lives and grows once it’s released to the marketplace, it’s critical to know our clients’ wants and needs, likes and dislikes. The clients, likewise, need to know us and hear our opinions of the content they want. If they don’t laugh at our jokes or like the way we conceive of their products or messages, things usually end there.
Accepting a number of smaller jobs for a lot of clients is a quick payday, but getting in on the ground floor and growing with a client is the goal, as well as a much stronger business model. We’ve taken on small clients before, and we’ll continue to in order to keep the lights on. You’re not always going to love your job. However, even in these scenarios, you have to be smart. If a small client with a low rate-of-return business comes knocking, we ask ourselves, “Is this small project going to require the same resources as a big project?”
Creating a strong rapport, founded on more than your service catalog or what the client needs, will help you attract more of the clients you want in the future. They’ll understand the work you create and will allow you the freedom to flex your creative muscles in a way that makes you both happy.
What if I Make the Wrong Choice?
As business owners, we want to make money, so turning away business can be tough. Additionally, it’s difficult not to think, “What if I choose not to work with this client and then realize I passed up a great opportunity?” – even when it’s obviously not a good fit from the start.
At Slice Media, we’ve both worked with clients we’ve regretted and lost out on some projects that later turned out to be great. You can’t always know when something will or won’t work out. We always deliver the best product we can, but some relationships are destined to fail for reasons unseen at the beginning.
Sometimes you have to fire a client – some headaches aren’t worth it. We had one such client, a political management firm. We created some great, award-winning content for them, and when they called us for return business, we were excited. Then they became vague and wanted more from us upfront than they were willing to match. Whether it’s waiting to receive a timely payment, or relying on a client to give you the necessary ingredients to succeed, some things make your job impossible. In this case, we weren’t getting either, and we walked away from the project.
Even so, as it usually happens, we learn from the failed relationships, gaining both work experience and experience in better understanding how to be picky in selecting our clients. You can’t know what you’ll like if you haven’t had some bad breakups.
Picking a Path to Success and Happiness
Even though being picky can be viewed as a negative trait, being selective in whom you choose to work with can be the key to enjoying the work you do. Additionally, being known as selective will create a positive outside view from industry partners and competition.
Enjoy what you do if you’re running a business. Be excited to show up to work every day, and learn and grow from each moment; the people you choose to work with play a huge role in this. It’s more than acceptable to hold your standards high – it’s necessary!
David Redish is the co-founder of Slice Media, an award-winning creative studio located in Dallas, Texas that conceptualizes and produces fresh content for TV, the web, and social media through a pioneering approach.