As an entrepreneur, your business depends on a steady stream of clients, both old and new, so it’s always exciting to see a new face show up in your inbox.
Most of the time, they simply sign up and you begin happily working together sans issues.
But on rare occasion…you may find yourself with a niggling feeling that something isn’t right before you’ve even signed a contract. It might be a simple personality glitch. Maybe something they say or do rubs you the wrong way. Or, you might get a serious “red flag” that says “back away, disco lady.”
Maybe you trusted your gut and declined the work. But most of the time, that instinct gets ignored, especially when you are a new entrepreneur and needing the business.
And you know what happens next: it turns out to be a terrible fit and now you’re stuck in client hell.
Ever have that happen?
If you haven’t, lucky you. But, sadly, most entrepreneurs have.
When you need the work, it’s hard to say no to good, paying work. But when that work suddenly turns out to be a not-so-great experience, you may find yourself wishing that you would have listened to that small voice within.
How do you know when you are getting a true intuitive hit? And, if you do see a red flag, what’s the best way to exit the situation in a way that allows the client to save face?
I recommend a pre-emptive strategy that allows for time to flesh out a new client before you commit to working together. A little breathing room will give you time to sit with your feelings and see if they are valid or not.
Some tactics to consider:
An intake form
A questionnaire is a perfect way to feel out a potential client. It doesn’t need to be lengthy. A few short, well thought out questions can give you a lot of information.
A mini phone interview
Many coaches offer a free “15 minute strategy session” as a way to market their business. Instead of that mindset, use these sessions as an opportunity to ask questions and evaluate the energy between you and them.
One strategy that I use
All appointments are booked via email without an online scheduler. This often leads to a little “email tag” between me and the client, which gives me a chance to interact and scrutinize how they respond. While that may seem like an inconvenient way to work, I can see if they are friendly and if they practice good follow through. In some cases, I will require a valid referral, which gives me another buffer to explore if something feels funky.
Once you have had time to interact, notice how you feel. If something seems to bug you, sit with it so that you can assess if this is just a quirk or something more.
For example, I have a client who is extremely loud with a voice that sounds like a jackhammer on a chalkboard. Our first interaction was not great because her voice made the hair stand up on every pore in my body. That was not a sign of a “bad fit,” it was just an indicator that we needed to work on her inside voice. We’ve been happily working together for over a decade.
An intuitive hit feels much different. It feels negative and low-energy. For example, it might be the person who shows up with a list of demands and steamrolls right over you. It may be that you sense they are not being upfront about their situation. Or a perhaps they have a million and one excuses that smell like total b.s. When it starts going in that direction, you must trust your gut.
If you’re not sure, give yourself a little more “courting time” to explore this further. A few more probing questions may help you discern if this is indeed a potential problem client.
Once you’ve established that this is not someone with whom you want to work, the best path forward is to turn them down gently via email. Thank them for their time and interest and then use the “it’s not you, it’s me strategy” so that they can walk away with
Thank you for your inquiry and for taking the the time to fill out my intake form.
After careful consideration, I don’t think that I am the right coach for you. It sounds like you may be looking for someone who is more “hands-on” than me.
It may be better for you to continue your search to find the right person who will serve you the way you want – and deserve to be served. Although I’m not that person, I know that there are many wonderful coaches for you to choose from – and I know your intuition will lead you to the right one.
Thank you again for your time,
While turning down work is never easy, it’s much harder working with someone who isn’t your “right client.” That feels like a concert with mismatched players – the rhythm is off and it’s hard to hit the right notes, whereas a good fit brings perfect harmony.
Listen carefully to your instincts when you are making decisions about new clients and you’ll be making beautiful music with all the right ones.
Theresa Reed (aka The Tarot Lady) is an intuitive Tarot reader, teacher, mentor and yogi on a mission to take Tarot from hippie to hip. When she’s not reading tarot, she’s busy helping broke-ass mystics learn how to create sustainable + profitable businesses. If you are ready for straight talkin’ tarot and a side of biz whizz, get to her online hood: The Tarot Lady or follow her on Twitter @thetarotlady.