Have you ever taken on a new project or client that matched your definition of an ideal client or project, but for other unknown reasons you sensed they really were not the best client for you? What signals gave you this indication before you started working with them?

The first article in this series focused on the importance of having clarity and boundaries about what you do and for whom (your ideal client), as well as questions you can ask yourself to determine whether to say yes to an opportunity or not. Now that you have identified those things, deciding on a set of guiding principles for choosing what prospective clients you will serve will support the success of each project and client relationship (and help you stay sane!).

One powerful influence for choosing projects in any fledgling business may be the need to increase your income. While there are occasions when this may be the right decision based on your personal and practical circumstances, and perhaps short-term goals, let that not be a guiding principle. Accepting a client out of fear of not getting other business will not help you make the best client-fit decision, and you may end up spending more time and energy dealing with a difficult client or project that proves to not be worth the money. Ever experience that? What lessons do you know in retrospect?

It can be difficult turning away a potential business opportunity when you NEED the money; however, if it is not the right opportunity for you, then you may not be happy with the trade-offs of taking it on anyway. And yes, when you take a business opportunity solely for the money there are trade-offs. The important thing is being aware of those trade-offs, and making an intentional decision and taking full responsibility for your experience and outcomes from that decision.

What are your guiding principles? The principles you choose may include nonnegotiable policies, ways of working, personal fit, etc. Marketers often call this “qualifying” prospects or business opportunities. Some of the questions in the first article of the series can also be considered part of qualifying a potential client. Examples of non-negotiable polices are requiring payment or partial payment prior to providing services or delivering products, only accepting credit cards, having a signed contract prior to any work commencing, etc. What are your non-negotiable policies?

Do you have specific ways in which you work that provide the best experience possible for you and your client? Examples of such a guiding principle could be that you meet with your client at their home, only do appointments by phone, do initial product delivery in person, only communicate and work with clients during certain hours. What are you ways of working?

Other guiding principles may be more subjective like the connection you feel with the prospect or if they seem like they would be easy or fun to work with. Whatever your guiding principles, use them to make good decisions for your business (and your sanity!).

Knowing your guiding principles for choosing your clients and projects simplifies your business by determining good-fit clients, highlighting potential red flags, and supporting you to give yourself permission to choose your work and create the life and business you want. Guiding principles support you to feel empowered and increase your chances of enjoying the experience of working with your clients.

Please share with me your guiding principles for choosing projects below. You may stir up some fresh ideas for the rest of us!