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How to Earn the Respect of Your Prospects and Clients: Stand Up for Your Small Business

Aug 17, 2007
On a mailing list hosted by a professional association I'm a member of, one poster stirred up a controversy in a hurry by writing about a client who wasn't being cooperative.

Some listmates suggested that it's the role of the solo pro to bend over backwards in any way possible in order to please her client.

Others said no way to any overtures that had to do with giving the client what he wanted.

I say find a happy medium.

On the one hand:

You *must* develop terms of service for your business, whether you write them down in an official form or simply keep a running tally of them in your head, and let clients know when they've crossed the line. And you *should* set up office hours and appointment times that meet YOUR needs and not just your clients' -- you're allowed to have a life. (As a business owner, you have just as much a right as any other to set appointments to suit your schedule; when's the last time you got in immediately at the doctor's office unless it was an emergency?)

If you haven't branded your business, you're probably thinking it's impossible to be allowed to be so choosy. It's not, as long as you're reasonable about what you expect. That means that if you're a night owl and want to be reachable only in the evenings, make sure you cater to a clientele that can accommodate that. If not, you're out of luck.

But let's say that your clients all book 1-hour appointments. Rather than working 1 hour here and another there, set up 3 bookings in a row on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays, for example, and create blocks of time in which you can do the other work that you need to get done, like bookkeeping (yuck!), marketing or any ongoing projects you might have. I personally can't get rolling on big projects in an hour here and an hour there, so I schedule project time into my work weeks. If you're well-branded, you definitely can get by with this, as long as you're reasonable about when your appointments are set during the week. In fact, you'll find that clients are thrilled you're able to accommodate them at all!

On the other hand:

If you don't have certain equipment, software, knowledge, reference materials or anything else that is critical to getting work done and to your clients effectively, it's time to think about ways to keep your clients happy. There's typically no need to go to great expense to do so, and you'll find that your clients are happier working with you.

This latter advice is common-sense, so I will reinforce my first point more dramatically: As a small business owner, *you* determine how you are treated. If you let clients walk all over you, they will take advantage again and again and make it hard for you to get ahead. And if you demand respect (not adoration, just common decency and the benefit of the doubt about your skills and talents), your clients will treat you right. And the ones that don't? Dump them the second you can!

Life's too short (and you waste too much energy) to deal with jerks. Here's to your success, happiness and respect -- and not necessarily in that order!
About the Author
Are you a coach, consultant or other solo service professional who's struggling to grow your business? Find out how you can attract more clients more easily with Jennifer McCay's FREE audio course and FREE weekly marketing lessons at http://AvenueEast.com
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