Fire the deadbeats and find the dream clients (part 1)

I know you still have a few clients you’d love to fire. We all do! When you work with a well-rounded group of killer clients, the high maintenance, low/no/slow pay ones will disappear.

So how do you add professional, well paying clients that you actually enjoy working with to your roster? Working toward an exceptional client list will take you some time and possibly a monetary investment, so here is the breakdown:

Top 5 ways to garner great clients (just takes a little of your time):

  1. Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others so you can spot the red flags early. You’ll then make better decisions about who should be on your client roster. It will also be the basis for your own personal “Do not do work for” list. Your list may contain friends or family if any of them were high maintenance or a bad payer in the past.
  2. Make a list of your dream clients and then search the Web, Google, the Yellow Pages, media outlets (trade magazines, newspapers, etc.) to narrow the best fit for your size and type of business. I landed a high paying job with an ad agency after finding them in the yellow pages of all places.
  3. Connect through social networks, especially LinkedIn. Ask for referrals and introductions to better clients. It also helps you stay current on what is going on with your dream list of clients, so if a hopeful opportunity opens up, you’ll be one of the first notified.
  4. Market yourself and ask others to do the same. If you have a stellar client, there’s a good chance they know other perfect clients for you, so ask them to refer you, or to write a LinkedIn recommendation for you, etc. Have a tough time asking? Right after you complete a successful project, ask then. It will be easier.
  5. Decline all future projects from those deadbeats that have roped you in this long! As Dyana Valentine would say “I give you permission to say No!” If you cringe or get a stomach ache when you work with a certain client, graciously reply to their request for future work with a “so sorry, I cannot fit you into the schedule” or any other appropriate, professional dismissal that works.

Anything to add?

And tune in for Part 2 where I’ll outline 5 ways to garner your ideal clients once you’ve done all this….

6 thoughts on “Fire the deadbeats and find the dream clients (part 1)

  1. Daren

    Good list to go by and spot on. The only other thing I have done, but only early on in my career, was to offer to do a project pro-bono in order to fill a gap/niche within my portfolio. The job was a particular client and category I wanted to get into, and since I didn’t have a project of that type in my portfolio, it was a good fit and ultimately helped me to land other, paying projects in the same niche.

    This of course, has to be balanced with what you feel is acceptable in terms of size and scope of project. You would hope that it would lead to other paying projects with this client and others. And, I don’t recommend doing this often – only to fill a need and as long as you feel comfortable working it into your schedule.

  2. lidia varesco design

    Great tips, Damien. I’ve found that referrals I get from my best clients are usually on target (they are familiar with me and my working style).

    I also agree with making a list of your dream clients. I recently posted mine on Listgeeks (!/view/design-dream-jobs/by/lsvdesign) because I love making lists… but you never know who may be reading!

    Lastly, I suggest being open to referrals/new business in unexpected places. I found a great long-term client through a posting in an Etsy group, of all places.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Damien Golden Post author

    Good stuff Lidia – thanks for chiming in. I also need to make an edit to #5 above. When declining a project, it’s a good idea to NOT start with ” I’m sorry…” – It just has a waffling connotation and when declining you want to come across as professional, but firm. I cover that a little more in the 4 Ways to Say No with Tact post (

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