Congratulations! You’ve figured out what you want to help people do and you know that you are a great resource for your clients. You’ve worked hard to become good at something whether it be managing social media, writing copy, overseeing events, developing sales funnels, or whatever else you’ve chosen to do! You’ve outlined your service offering, you’ve marketed yourself and engaged with your network to let them know you are available for work and you’ve even had a few inbound calls. Well done, boss lady! We are proud of you!
Now….. it’s time to actually choose which clients to work with. Sparklisters know well that this is a critical process – one that can make or break your business (both financially, and by way of will-to-work) – so you best be methodical, organized, and analytical in the selection process – and then review your decision with a big dose of heart. So how the heck do you do that? If you are new to The Spark List, check out our How To Spark here.
At the beginning of most everyone’s consulting business – they take on too much work, complicated projects with unclear outcomes, clients who want to talk at all hours of the day and night, and projects that are more than just a little bit out of our area of expertise. We will likely battle scope-creep, time creep, creep creeps, underfunded creep, and learn an egregious amount in the stress inducing and exhausting experience of being overstretched.
Part of this is a learning curve issue – and you cannot avoid it entirely. In fact, you should not avoid it entirely. Instead, you have to stretch yourself beyond capacity to truly understand your capacity. You have to take on tasks that are bigger and scarier than tasks you’ve taken on before in order to grow. This is all part of becoming a better business owner.
However, we can help you shorten the distance between that first moment of total client overwhelm and when you wake up and realize, “Yeah baby – I got this!” Here is our checklist / self reflection client review list. Take the time you need to answer these questions fully whenever beginning a new engagement.
- Have We Talked Enough? We recommend that you have at minimum two – three meetings of one hour or more discussing the client’s needs and goals. The biggest challenge is always making assumptions. We encourage you to make sure that nothing is left to chance. (Well almost nothing, because there’s always a little uncertainty.)
- Do They Understand My Business Offering? At the crux of all consulting success is truly understanding your own business offering and making sure your client does as well. Review the blog post “defining your business offering” if you haven’t already to get a sense of the first steps. Now, we’ll ask a few critical questions for the engagement with your next wonderful client.
- What is the Scope? What is the project scope and clearly defined outcome of this engagement? What is this client looking for to measure success?
- Expertise: Is my expertise aligned with the expectations of this client?
- Skills Needed: Do I believe that I can quickly advance my skill-set to match the needs of the project we have discussed?
- What additional training or education will I need to really master this opportunity? Be specific – identify Podcasts, Online Courses, etc. Sparklisters are masters of learning, and this will be critical to your success. You can certainly take on projects that require more learning, but you must must must be clear about what you need to learn.
- Communication Styles: What is my client’s communication style? How will we stay in touch?
- Capacity: What is my current availability?
- How much time can I commit to this client? Can I meet the time requirements to deliver on the project at the compensation they will offer?
- When can I be most productive for this client and when should meetings happen
- Understanding Your Client: How do I believe this client will receive feedback and deal with adversity? Is this someone I believe I can get into the trenches with?
- What are my expectations from this client? What do I need from them in order to do the job well?
- Do I believe I will enjoy this project and can I expect it to be a project I am proud of when it is complete?
- Are there any Red Flags in my answers to the previous questions?