As a business mentor, "how to get more clients" is – perhaps unsurprisingly – a common topic with my own clients.
However, what many of my clients don't realise is that it’s not necessarily about getting “more” clients, but about attracting better ones …
Those that already have high-paying clients … clients they enjoy working with … clients that fill all of their time. They don’t necessarily think their clients are the issue.
However, think of it like this: If your business isn't generating exactly what you wanted when you set out – that's to say, if you're not earning exactly what you want to be earning in exactly the way, and time, that you would like – then something needs to change.
And a lot of the time, that change doesn't need to be the number of clients you have … nor does it need to be a change to you, or your service. That change simply needs to be who you're doing it for.
Because working with the RIGHT clients … the ideal clients for YOU … is often exactly the way you'll be able to achieve what you set out for … and finding better clients by changing the "who" can be a lot simpler than finding more clients, by changing your "what".
How do you know when you need to be attracting better clients rather than getting more clients?
Think of it like this … if you've had to persuade, or negotiate … if you've had to diversify your offering in order to appeal to more customers, you're probably not working with your ideal clients.
It's working, sure. You have clients, and they keep coming back. But it's not as easy as it might be, and you're probably not earning what you're worth….
Or maybe you have a full client list … it's good, enjoyable work, you're charging decent rates, and you're earning well … but you're working long hours and struggling to give yourself the time off you'd envisaged.
Then your clients, as nice and high paying as they are, aren't working for YOU.
Remember back to when you started out as self-employed, and your main reasons for doing so. Beyond wanting to do the work itself … because you (hopefully) enjoy and are good at it … you probably wanted to earn a good living, and have the freedom and flexibility that being self-employed would allow. Am I right?
If so, this is the thing you always need to be focusing on … and working to ensure that your clients fit around THAT.
Simply put … if you've not yet achieved what you originally set out to with your business, you need to attract better clients, not find more.
So how do you attract, or find, better clients?
"Better", of course, is subjective. But for most people, it's going to come down to getting clients that will pay more, that will take up less of your time, and that will bring you more consistent work. Clients that will VALUE you more, and overall, that will just be a little bit "easier".
When trying to get more clients, many people try to adapt what they offer. They try to adapt their SERVICE so that they will appeal to a wider range of clientele, and so that those clients will value them more … so that they will pay more for it … so that they will be able to meet more of their clients' needs, and so those clients will come to them more regularly.
And sometimes this can work …
However, by adapting your service to fit your clients, you'll probably have to learn new skills, or offer different services. You'll probably have to deviate from your strengths, and your expertise. Which means you'll quite possibly end up working even more.
So by adapting your service, you may start earning more, and getting more clients and more business … but maybe at the sacrifice of time … or stress-levels … or enjoyment.
And actually, maybe you don't need to change your service at all? Maybe you can achieve everything you want to, just by changing your who?
Many small-business owners never consciously decide who their clients will be.
They often find themselves starting out with one particular client group, and following that same path – working with that same customer, or market … and using that same model – as they grow.
But in reality, that client wasn't ever their ideal client … and that is the reason they're not achieving exactly what they want.
So when they try to get new, better clients by adapting their "what", they're not realising that they probably already have the perfect service … they're just trying to sell it to the wrong people.
Maybe they were always trying to sell it to the wrong people.
The woolly hat example…
Imagine selling woolly hats at a summer market. It's not an impossible feat, you'll be bound to sell your hats if you work hard enough … but you will have to work hard. And you'll probably have to negotiate, persuade, and eventually reduce your prices in order to get the sales.
And trying to get more customers at that summer market isn't going to be easy. You may even have to diversify your offering – start selling other "summery" products as well, in order to attract more people to your stall.
So you'll succeed, eventually. But it's unlikely to be easy. And your customers probably won't value and appreciate their woolly hat as much as you'd hope. At least not straight away …
But take that stall to a winter market, in a cold city, and you're going to have a different experience. These customers are going to be coming TO YOU, because of what you're selling. They're going to be more likely to pay what you're asking and they're going to value it immediately, as you're offering a valid solution to a current problem of theirs.
And all you have had to do is take your market stall to the winter market, instead of the summer one. You haven't had to diversify, you haven't had to negotiate, you haven't had to persuade. You haven’t had to get more clients … you've simply got better ones for YOU.
Same product, same service … very different experience.
Happier you, happier clients.
So before you try to adapt you to suit your client … think about whether you should perhaps adapt your client to suit your service. Because chances are, you already offer EXACTLY what someone needs … you're just offering it to the wrong people.