Over the years, I’ve found a clear correlation between how successful my clients are and the degree to which they’re willing to be discerning and hold boundaries.
By now, we all know that a truly successful business isn’t defined solely by how much money it brings in. And yet, I see so many coaches say “yes” to opportunities that aren’t aligned with their mission, vision, and values because they might help the bottom line. And, frankly, because it’s hard to say “no” to someone who wants to work with you.
Hey, I’ve been there, too. When I first started my coaching practice, and I was still in Certification, I took on a client who made my stomach drop every time I talked to him. And he did that from day one. But I was naively confident that I could help him. Plus, he looked like a great fit on paper.
Over time, as he made little progress, my initial confidence began to fade. I started to wonder whether I had what it took to be a masterful coach. I had to meditate for ten minutes before every call to show up fully for this man. And he was paying me next to nothing.
I eventually fired him – not very gracefully – because I realized that working with someone who caused me to doubt my gifts was a lose-lose for everyone. But it took some time to learn the lesson that I’m not the best coach for everyone, nor are all potential clients great clients for me.
Just Because You Can Take On That Client Doesn’t Mean You Should
Those of us who become coaches do so because we have a powerful desire to serve. We’re primed to lean in and say yes. We want to help, and we believe that if we can, we should. Of course, whenever the word “should” comes out of your mouth, you know there’s a saboteur present.
The next time an opportunity lands in your lap, and you’re not sure if it’s right at that moment, ask yourself: can I replace the phrase “I should” with the words “I want to,” and still feel good about moving forward? If it’s not a powerful yes, it’s likely a no.
More Clients Don’t Always Equal More Income
Of course, saying no to potential income can feel counter to everything we’ve been taught when it comes to financial success. When you’ve been conditioned to push through discomfort and see financial gain as the sole sign of career success, it’s scary to turn prospective clients away. Especially if you’re just starting and there’s $200 in your business account.
More experienced business owners tend to have the evidence – and financial stability – to support a “wait and have faith” approach. But even some of my established clients get punchy when prospect flow goes quiet for a while.
In slower moments, it is easy to panic. Rather than running around with your hair on fire, be grateful for the space and use your extra time to target the people who are your best prospects.
Narrow Your Focus and Services to The Degree That It Serves You and Your Clients
When you take the time to define your ideal client, it’s much easier to know when you’re talking to the right person. And yet, I still meet so many coaches – at speaking events, roundtables, and in my free consultations – who are convinced that a narrow focus will lead to limited revenue.
I ask them to think about their “bullseye,” but all they want to talk about is the dartboard. And that’s OK. Especially if the practice is young or business is slow. If someone from the dartboard comes to you for help, and you’re excited to work together, go forth. The key is knowing enough to avoid saying yes to someone who is off the board entirely.
Holding To Your Business Focus Takes Practice
When you practice saying no to clients who don’t hit the bullseye, you skip the ups and downs of working with people for whom you can’t make a significant difference. Instead, you feel privileged to get on every call and happy to be making a considerable impact – while making good money in the process.
Take this as a mantra if you wish: the degree to which you’re willing to be discerning directly correlates with the degree to which you feel truly successful in your business.
Spend time narrowing your focus and clarifying your ideal client. Then everything else is easeful.
Tara Butler Floch