The value in choosing the right clients for your business


Nice ClientsIn your business, do you work with anybody? Do you take the attitude that business is business? Or do you only work with those clients who qualify to work with you? In this blog post, I look at the value in choosing the right clients for your business.

Working with anybody

When many of us start out in business, we work with anybody. The fear of not bringing in enough business means we can ignore our gut feelings about clients and work with anybody who is willing to pay us. But over time, the experience of working with the wrong type of clients can change your philosophy.

  • The client who ignores your advice, but then complains about the results – they are exhausting to deal with.
  • The client who demands your instant attention, but then takes forever to pay your invoice – you begin to resent doing work for.
  • The client who nickels and dimes you on every invoice – you dread answering the telephone.

I’m willing to bet you started your own business because, at some level, you wanted to choose what you do. Part of that is choosing who you work with.

Choosing Your Clients

I’ve had three conversations with different Managed Service Provider (MSP) clients this week about focusing on the type of clients they want to work with. In all cases, they’d come to realise that they’d be better off firing certain clients to free up their time and energy to attract more of the type of clients they really want to work with. They weren’t worried about the lost revenue, because they had the confidence in themselves to realise there were plenty more quality clients out there.

In my own work providing expert advice to help IT companies grow, I pick and choose who I work with. In my case, I only work with 8 IT companies at a time. I openly share with interested clients that we’ll discuss whether we are a good fit to work together. They’ve got to be comfortable at the possibility of working with me, but likewise, I’ve got to be comfortable at working with them. I pick who I choose to work with based on criteria.

  • Is this client ready to listen to what I have to say?
  • Will this client actually act upon my advice?
  • Does this client fill me with excitement at the possibilities of working together?
  • Do I  *like* this client? (We’ll come back to this very important criteria shortly)

If they don’t meet that criterion, then I refer the client onto someone else who can help them. Just because they aren’t a good fit to work with me, doesn’t mean they won’t be the perfect fit to work with someone else.

Do you have clients who are a drain on you, but might be perfect for someone else? Wouldn’t both you and the client be better off if they were working with somebody who was a better fit for them?

Do you have clients who are a drain on you but might be perfect for someone else? Wouldn’t both you and the client be better off if they were working with somebody who was a better fit for them? Click to Tweet

Work with people you like

Blogger and artist Marc Johns recently wrote an insightful blog post entitled “Be Kind”. It’s worth taking 60 seconds to read (go ahead, I’ll wait here for you). He shares that when he and his wife ran their own business, they had a motto of “Only do business with nice people”.

Now I’m not naive enough to think the world is divided into nice people and not-nice people. We can love some folk one minute, and they can drive us crazy the next. When I ran an MSP, I had clients who were a pleasure to work with most of the time, but occasionally infuriated me. But when they infuriated me, I knew they were nice enough as people to be able to approach and talk about it (and I think, visa verse they felt the same way about us).

Working with people you like makes work easier, and more fun. You’ll achieve more. You’ll be more profitable.

Can you make a choice to only do business with nice people?

Scared you will lose business?

You might think that by disqualifying some potential clients with your selection criteria, that you won’t have anybody left to work with. You’ve got to pay the bills, right?

I’ve found that by picking and choosing who you work with, and by making that fact clear – more people will actually want to work with you. You’ll stand out from the pack by being upfront and honest in stating that you only work with the best.

By making your service exclusive, more of the right people who respect you and your time will want to work with you.


If you choose to work with anybody, you’ll invariably attract the time wasters, the arrogant, the dishonest, and the irritating. You’ll waste your time trying to please people you don’t really care about. When the phone rings you’ll get that awful sinking feeling where you think “Oh, I hope it’s not so-and-so”.

If you choose to pick who you work with, set criteria you look for in potential clients, and let clients know that you only work with those you choose to, you’ll attract like-minded clients who value your expertise, who appreciate your time, and who pay their bills on time. You and your staff will enjoy helping your clients more. You’ll have more self-respect.

Ultimately, by narrowing your field of potential clients, you’ll win more business and be more profitable.


photo credit: kk+ via photopin cc


  • Richard Tubb2013-01-27 11:30:30

    Thanks James - and in your story, I absolutely think that's the right spirit to take. It's not "lost work", it's thankfully avoiding working with a client who wasn't right for you in this instance.

  • James Kimbley2013-01-25 11:53:49

    Great article Richard. I had one client that seemed to be a good match and was very keen to work together and we had numerous positive meetings. Whenever I tried to close the deal they would try and arrange another meeting to go over what we had already discussed in previous meetings just like a stuck record. I agreed to three of these meetings after the last one they agreed to definitely give a final decision. I never heard from them again. I tried to make contact with them but all calls where ignored. I guess this is a good result as if it had gone ahead and they behaved like this for every change it would have been more annoying.

  • Richard Tubb2013-01-24 20:29:44

    Jo - thanks for the kind words! Really interesting to hear that some of your nicest clients can cause you the biggest headaches. In my experience, if they are nice enough you can at least be up front and honest about any challenges you're having - i.e. work taking longer or requiring more resources than you originally quoted for.

  • Jo Harrison2013-01-24 19:30:11

    Great article Richard and something I feel very strongly about myself. Most or all of my clients are nice, sometimes it's the very nicest clients that cause the most problems. I myself am struggling with such a client at the moment and it's tiring, I just wish there was a way of knowing how things are going to turn out before you accept their money. :)

  • Richard Tubb2013-01-24 12:58:40

    Thanks for the feedback Paul! You're absolutely right - there are some clients you like, but are not a good fit to work with. As long as you are gracious in helping them find other providers in a supportive manner, it typically works out best for all concerned.

  • Paul Tomlinson2013-01-24 11:00:19

    Really good piece Richard, we've begun to be more selective about the clients we want to work with and walk away from some prospects, not because we don't like them as people but we know the fit won't work so we're better off letting them work with other people - it saves everyone so much wasted time and should results in a better service for the clients we're right for an then hopefully better profits!

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