The single biggest mistake I’ve ever made in business was to accept clients.
Well, I guess I should elaborate.
The biggest mistake I ever made in business – the mistake that left me borrowing money from my mom to pay rent and getting a J-O-B to survive – was accepting any and every client that would pay me. Ironically enough, my fear of turning money away ended in the very thing I feared most: losing money, and a lot of it.
Let’s start at the beginning.
When I first started copywriting on my own, I knew I could make it. I had spent years with Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle as their Director of Marketing and had learned from the best. I was completely confident in my ability to write great copy, especially great direct-response copy, and all I needed to do was build a roster of clients who knew it too.
So I built. Except in building my roster, I had no discretion. If a real estate agent wanted a postcard written, I was there. If I was asked to write a sales letter for an auto shop, I wrote a sales letter for an auto shop.
I didn’t discriminate based on industry or style of copy – if it needed to be written, I was the girl for the job.
Have you ever heard the saying, “jack of all trades, master of none”? That was me.
Or at least, that’s how my clients saw me because that’s what I was showing… that I was willing to write any copy for anyone.
There are two problems with this line of thinking.
When you’re everything to everyone, you’re nothing to no one.
Let me ask you this: when your parent or spouse or significant other has a heart attack, would you rather take them to their general practitioner or to a cardiologist? For a life-threatening emergency like that, you bet I’m headed to the closest and best hospital that has a great team of cardiologists because I want the best care for my family. And I’m willing to pay a whole lot for that care.
The same is true for our clients. These businesses are their babies, and they are willing to pay top dollar for someone who both understands that fact and will treat their baby with the care and dedication that they feel it deserves.
We can give our clients this special attention by being exactly who they need with exactly the experience needed to help their business be successful.
Think about it from a personal point of view: would you rather hire someone who writes great email campaigns for anyone and everyone they speak to, or someone who writes great email campaigns and has industry knowledge and years of expertise writing to and for your customers? Who understands your customers better than they understand themselves sometimes?
If the two writers are of similar skill and ability, but one has deep industry knowledge pertinent to my business, that’s exactly who I’m going with. Because they understand the finer nuances of the industry better than someone else who just researches for a night. They get it.
When you’re everything to everyone, the right people won’t find you.
If your business is marketing to everyone who could possibly maybe use your services, with no regard for industry or any other demographic information, chances are your marketing sucks.
That’s because at the very root of any good marketing effort is the ability to see a very specific audience, to really see their passions and their pains and their ambitions and their futures, and then to write to them in such a way that they absolutely know that you see them.
We all want connection. And marketing is about making that connection between a very specific audience’s problems and a very specific solution. To match the two so closely that there will be no other logical choice than for that customer to choose your solution. (Psst…check out my article the Anatomy of a Great Offer for more advice on attracting the right clients and selling your services effectively.)
Do that, and your business will be booming.
When I hit that “broke” phase of my life – remember how I had to borrow money to pay rent? – this is the biggest lesson I learned:
No one wants someone who can “probably” help, based on the fact that they’ve helped other clients in wildly different industries.
Clients want a professional they know can help because that professional has helped others just like them many times before.
The data absolutely backs this. According to this Forbes article published in September 2016, specialized sectors of freelancing are showing huge growths – over 100%. This means that not only are clients searching for more specialized professionals, but many professionals are already jumping on the niche bandwagon. They’re niching down and becoming experts in their field.
You have GOT to do the same.
What does this mean for you?
You’ll have to turn some people away. And it will suck, and it will be scary. You’ll wonder if I lost my mind when I was writing this article and if everything you just read was bull.
But when you start to turn away the clients that just don’t work for you, that don’t excite you and make you happy to be in the business you’re in, then you make room for the amazing clients.
The clients who gladly accept your advice, and demand to pay you double your going rate for it.
The clients who are a joy to work with, and who make even Monday mornings fun.
The clients who pay on time, because they respect your contributions and appreciate your skills.
You can’t accept these clients when your slate is full of clients who aren’t a good match for you, who aren’t paying you what you’re worth, and who aren’t making you excited to be able to work.
That’s why you need to free yourself from the fear of losing money in order to accept greater money into your life.
Which brings me to the third lesson I learned making the biggest business mistake of my life.
Mindset is everything.
- You can’t attract big money into your life when your plate is full with clients who pay you peanuts.
- You can’t attract shorter working hours (because you’re finally charging what you’re worth) by actively accepting clients that demand more time for less money.
- You can’t attract amazingly fun clients by showing through your actions that you’re perfectly fine with clients who don’t mesh with where you want your business to be.
You have the power to tell the world what you’re great at, and who you’re great working with.
So do it. Niche down. Pick something that lights your soul on fire and makes late nights and long days well worth the effort. Channel your energy into a field that is exciting and rejuvenating. You’ll be amazed at the results.