Making Hard Choices Part 1: Choosing Clients
This article is the first in a two-part series.
Recently, a successful Bay Area teacher shared a startling challenge. Despite her success, she has been struggling with clients who express prejudices against her because of the color of her skin. They request the “other” teacher or “feel more comfortable” with someone else or even, she says, shy away from her physical touch. Not only is she suffering personally, her other clients notice the affect it has on her and the studio in general. Although angry, she still feels unsure as to what she should do.
No matter how much we think we need the business or believe we are taking the higher road by allowing someone to treat us badly – and this means disregarding our policies, disrespecting the space (cell phones, perfume etc.), showing up late consistently, or any number of other disrespectful behaviors – we are only undermining our own success by allowing these things to happen.
Rarely do we think we can or have to choose our clients. Most of us are just trying to build our reputation or client base. Anyone would suffice. But nothing takes us farther away from creating lasting, meaningful work than allowing our businesses to be built on anything less than a finely crafted intention of what kind of clients we want.
There are several things you can do to begin to define your ideal client. In demographic terms, there are age, work and marital status, and income. But what other qualities are even more important to you in your clients? Make a list and start getting clear. Look around: What kind of clients do you have currently? Are these the clients you want?
Qualities to look for:
- Intrinsically motivated
- Willing to make themselves a priority
- Active lifestyle
- Sense of humor
- Willing to explore uncomfortable topics or situations
I had a client ask me once “Have you ever fired a student?” It caught me off guard, because I didn’t think I had. With some thought, however, I could recall times when I had gently encouraged students to work with other teachers or suggested that perhaps another studio might better suit their needs. The result? 100 percent of my clients are amazing. They are the right fit for me. They are motivated. They are thoughtful. They are lifers! Sometimes turning away business can feel counter-intuitive, but once we let go of what’s not working, a tremendous amount of room opens for what does work.