Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

The secret behind the best paid, most valued people in your industry!

Today’s post is about the secret behind the best paid, most valued people in your industry.  It will show you how they attract the highest fees and work with the best clients.

I want to start though, with a plea:

Service providers: If you want to consistently produce great work, which will help you build a top flight reputation, get the information you need from the client and do what you are best at.

Clients: If you want to get the best results, hire the best service provider you can.  Then, get out of their way.

Clients: Get out the way

I once knew a restaurant, where the food was terrible.  Every 4 or 5 months, the food improved, then it dipped below par again after a couple of weeks.

What happened, was the guy who owned the restaurant would hire a chef because he liked the chef’s cooking, then he would slowly show the chef how to cook things the way HE wanted.  Because the restaurant owner was a poor cook, the quality of the food dropped like a stone, customers complained, so he would hire a new chef and the cycle would repeat itself.  He hired people who could create amazing food, then clipped their wings.

  • If you hire a designer, give them the input they need, then let them go and create something amazing.  Don’t tell them what to design, just give them their brief.
  • If you hire a copywriter, give them the input they need, then let them turn words into gold dust.  Don’t put words into their copy, which will ruin the flow.

Service Providers:  Do what you do best

I was once asked for help, by a web designer, who was struggling to attract new clients.  She received almost no word of mouth referrals, no repeat business and she had no portfolio on her website.  I was curious why, when she was clearly a really good designer.  She explained that “she let clients walk all over her,” so what would happen is she would get the requirements from the client for their site, build something amazing, then allow the client to tweak it and tweak it and tweak it, until it looked like crap.

One of the sites she showed me, looked incredible.  She then showed me the version of that site, which the client ended up with and it was shockingly bad.  “What do you do, the client is always right, right?”  It’s little wonder she got no referrals allowing work like that to go out the door, with her name on it!

The secret?

The best service providers work with their clients to create something amazing, which the client loves and values accordingly.  They work with people, who appreciate their expertise and give them the creative freedom they need.  As a result, they create amazing work, which attracts admiration, creates word of mouth and opens doors to other wonderful projects.  How do I know?  Because that is how every service provider at the top of their game works.

I had dinner last week with a friend, who is a web designer.  She currently has a 7 month waiting list and charges 5 times more, than the average in her industry.  Why?  Because everything she creates looks amazing and her clients love her.  She gets masses of repeat business and her clients are her sales force.  Her portfolio looks amazing too and all this is reflected in her fees and the clients who queue up to work with her.  She selects her clients wisely and works with them to create something that she is proud of and they are crazy about.

Her secret was to do work that mattered, rather than work that would pay her in 30 days.  Seth Godin gave almost the same answer, when asked about the secret of his success.  In fact, it’s the cornerstone of my own success and the work I do with my clients.

Photo: Marcin Wichary

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  1. Favourite quote from the owner of the Design Agency I use at work; “We know how to ignore a brief”.
    Best client skills I’ve ever seen.
    No point hiring a good team if you don’t respect their expertise! :)

  2. These words ring so true, Jim! When I get into trouble is when I try to be all things to all clients. Focusing on what I do best has always brought desired results. Sometimes it has meant kindly telling clients to move out of the way:-) On occasion I’ve fired my clients for failure to do so. A good percentage of them came back to do it my way. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi there Barb. I see it like this:

      There’s a line.

      One one side of the line is everything the client needs to control.

      On the other side, is everything the service provide needs to control.

      When either person crosses that line, their expertise is no longer being leverage, because they are no longer operating in their own area of expertise.

      Thanks for the comment, Barb.

  3. Man, this is one of the best posts you’ve written — one that EVERY client should tack on their wall.

    And pretty inspirational to those of us service providers who’ve ever found ourselves walking the tightrope between “what the client wants” and “what we know will work.” A tightrope that can very often be stretched a LONG way at a dizzying height.

    Thanks, as always.

  4. Hi Jim – thanks for the article. It’s a fine line to tread between telling the customer they are wrong and pandering to their every whim, and applies to so many fields of industry. If you have built trust in your initial dealings with a client though, they WILL rely on your judgement and you can normally find a common path that they are happy with and will also deliver the results they actually want. It’s more important to give a customer what they want long term than to please them in the here and now.

    • Hi Tony. You make an excellent point.

      It’s important for any service provider, to learn how to communicate with their clients and prospective clients.

      In my experience, no client wants a job done badly. They want the very best outcome and so does the service provider.

      If you operate from that viewpoint, you are both on the same side of the table.

      The best service providers excel at client communication as well as the delivery of the “actual” core service they were hired for.

      Finally, Thanks Tony, for making this post more valuable with your feedback and for inspiring me to write a follow-up.

  5. Thanks Jim – great post and love the idea of encouraging the client to step aside. It may be a helpful insight for the provider to understand what is preventing the client from doing getting out of the way. This may help the provider to asuage any fears but also may help the provider pre-empt those arising again in future engagements, during the scoping phase.

    • Hi Glenn. Absolutely right about understanding the client’s perspective.

      You need to approach this, I believe, from their side of the table. Doing that makes a huge difference.

      Thanks for the feedback, my friend!

  6. Awesome insight into how you should really stick to what you are good at. You being the expert have the most say and what you are doing. It’s like hiring a painter. Of course, you need to have some input into how the piece should go, but you shouldn’t disregard the painter’s vision and creativity. It comes out much better that way.

  7. I do know of someone who get experts to work with him, but then wants it his way. The experts eventually left because they don’t feel valued, and his way is certainly not working.

  8. This is one of the best posts you have written, in my humble opinion Jim.

    There’s more value in the few hundred words above than I have garnered from paid consultants.

    Thanks for doing work that matters and setting the standard.

    Charlie Louise XxX

  9. Thanks for this great post. I´m working abroad in Europe and this happens sometimes over here. Have any advice on how to nicely tell your client to please let you do your work. I´m a translator and you would be surprised how people with no language skills try to “help” you with your work. Thanks again. Spain/USA

    • Good question, Amanda.

      The thing is, no 2 people are alike and the kind of approach, which works with 1 person, may not work with another.

      I believe that no matter what line of business you are in, a key skill to master is that of client communication.

      It’s not enough to know how to deliver the end product, you also need to know how to get the right dialogue going with the client and gather all the information you need, in order to do a great job.

      Thanks for your comment, Amanda.

  10. I’m curious who this web designer is now…

    • Hi Chris. The learning is not identifying who this individual person is, but what she and her peers do. Within 30 seconds of hitting the publish button on this post, I realised that every professional I work with, fits that description.

  11. Why hire a pro and not use their talents? It’s just a waste of their time and your money if your not going to take their opinion.

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