I was working on a client project when I came across a wonderful quote. It’s intended to be light-hearted, but it contains a spectacularly important message. And rather surprisingly, it also carries a valuable lesson for every business owner.
“Real wealth is never having to spend time with assholes.” – John Waters.
In the speech that quote came from, Waters talks about being rich and how it’s given him the freedom to avoid assholes.
Similarly, one of the many freedoms of owning a business is that you get to select exactly who you choose to work with. As a business owner, there’s no need whatsoever for you to spend time around bad clients (or customers)… assholes, as Waters describes them.
And that message is really important to remember. It’s important because somewhere along the way, many business owners forget that they have total freedom to only work with great people.
Beggars can’t be choosers
Whenever I speak about this with a group of business owners, someone will usually tell me that they have to take whatever comes along. And in support of that factually incorrect statement, they’ll tell me that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.
I then remind them.
They’re not beggars… they’re business owners.
And that as a business owner, they have to be extremely choosy who they work for. You can’t build a successful business on a foundation of bad clients.
No one wants to work with whatever their definition of a bad client is. The problem is a natural consequence of feeling trapped, because you’re not attracting enough new, high quality clients.
It looks something like this.
- The business owner identifies a client as a pain in the ass. Maybe the client pays late, is rude, over demanding, unprofessional, whatever.
- The business owner clearly does not want to work with them.
- However, the business owner is scared to fire the asshole client, fearing they’ll be unable to replace them with a high quality client.
- The asshole is then left free to take the joy (and usually the profitability) out of the business owner’s work.
The good news here is that bad clients are not an unavoidable part of being in business. In fact, they’re a must-avoid part of being in business. Bad clients are like poison. They’re toxic to the success of your business and to your mental well-being in some cases.
If this is a problem for you, take some time to describe what your ideal client looks like. Include as much detail as possible. And remember that you’re describing your ideal client. So be really choosy.
Then focus 100% of your marketing on these amazing prospective clients. Talk to their needs, wants and expectations.
You deserve great clients. Great clients who inspire you to do your very best work. Great clients, who recommend you to more great clients.
And shun the assholes.