In keeping with sharing my mis-steps, and what I’ve learned from them, with you, let’s talk about vetting your clients before taking on a job or client.

Most new business owners and entrepreneurs simply want customers to get the cash flowing, and you may be tempted to take everyone and anyone that comes your way, but trust me, there are absolutely customers that are more trouble than they’re worth.

For example, back when I had my Taekwon-Do school, I learned to qualify prospective students at the desk. I learned what questions to ask, and which answers to watch out for. Only once after registering, did a parent become such an issue, that I had to ask the family to leave the school and find another place to train.

During the trial lesson, for which I charged, I would occasionally discourage students from signing up at my school because of logistics. If the school wasn’t near their work or home, it was unlikely that they would attend class regularly, which is one of the requirements for martial arts training.

I would also have an opportunity to assess wether or not they were a good fit for our school. Were they polite and respectful, or did they show attitude and aggression? As the Head Instructor, it was my job to promote a safe learning environment for all my students.

Starting out as an event planner, I was eager to take on any projects that I would be able to add to my resume, and perhaps I agreed too quickly. 

Hindsight being what it is, here are some questions I recommend asking before committing:

What is the project? Do they have clarity around what they want to create, or is that something you will help them develop?

Why are they doing this project? It helps to know the reasons why someone wants to do something. Knowing the why will help keep people focused and motivated. You’ve probably already heard Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk “Start With Why”, if not check it out here.

What does winning look like? Being able to visualize the event outcome helps define goals and pulls the action forward.

Who are the decision makers? Are you compatible? You don’t have to be best friends, or even friends, but you do need to be able to work together. How does this person’s communication style work with yours? Pay attention to how they handle your initial interactions and listen to your gut.

What’s the timeline? Does it fit with your schedule? Are the goals for the event attainable within the allotted time? 

What’s the budget? This one is especially important, not just for helping them create the vision for the event, but also making sure you get paid! 

Like asking potential students to pay for a trial lesson, I recommend asking potential clients to pay for an event proposal, or a consultation. Always applicable to a client’s final bill. 

So that’s about it. It’s very exciting when you’re just starting out and have people who want to work with you, but remember to take a breath, and ask some questions before you commit. 

Do you have any questions you wish you asked before you took on a job? Share them here and help someone else avoid making the same mistake.