Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series. Stay tuned for part two featuring the 10 kinds of clients you want to run from.
When I launched my PR business in 2013, I was willing to take on any client I believed I could help. I was idealistic. I was capable. I was naive.
Now, after nearly four years and twenty-some clients later, I am much more selective. I have learned from experience who my best clients are likely to be, and who I should run, not walk from.
Here are 10 characteristics of my favorite clients. (Stay tuned in a future post for the 10 traits that raise the red flag.)
If you’re new to the consulting world, or considering starting your own business, these lists might save you from some serious headaches.
1. My favorite clients prioritize PR as an important component of their business (or nonprofit) plan. These clients know that public relations contributes to organizational success and save a seat at the table for their PR advisor.
2. They respect the team and expertise. From the first meeting, they ask intelligent questions and listen to the answers. They show all members of the PR team, not just the principal, respect and consideration.
3. They have clear goals. These clients can articulate not only what they want, but what success would look like--for them, their team and their company.
4. My favorite clients are accessible. A return call or email within two business days is typical, but great clients often respond the same day. They understand that their responsiveness is necessary to move the project forward.
5. They are transparent. As a PR consultant, surprises from the client are not a good thing. Great clients do not force you to ask all the right questions to get the right answers. They give you all the information--the good, the not so good and, sometimes, the bad so that you can provide them with the right strategy to move forward.
6. My favorite clients get out of the way. Once the project and terms have been agreed upon, my favorite clients let us get to work. They don’t call to ask if we’re sure about the strategy, they don’t second guess the tactics. They understand that they hired us because we’re the experts.
7. They pay on time. To a consultant or small business owner, cash flow is critical. You need to pay your bills. Your employees need to pay their bills and one late payment can really wreck havoc. Setting up payment schedules is important; having clients who honor the schedule is golden.
8. They have passion for their organization. Passion is contagious. When a client is excited about his or her company, so am I. When they’re not, it is much more challenging to identify ways to get others excited.
9. My favorite clients focus on relationships rather than transactions. Great clients treat you like an extension of their team. They think beyond the project at hand. These clients ask if you can implement the strategy you’re recommending, what other offerings you have, if you can train members of his or her staff in your areas of expertise. My answer is always ‘yes.’ These are the clients I like best of all.
10. They share our values. Much has been written about a culture fit when hiring, but an aligned culture between client and consultant is also important. Culture is based on values. As a purpose-driven organization, my company leads with our values. They’re even listed on our website. Understanding our clients’ values can take some time, but integrity and professionalism are usually pretty easy to spot.
Lorraine Schuchart, APR, is the founder and CEO of Prosper for Purpose, a communications and development firm that helps businesses, nonprofits and individuals maximize their impact by optimizing their brands. Lorraine is a strategist, speaker and writer with 30 years of experience. Prosper is a Certified B (for benefit) corporation.
Photo: Man with heart via Shutterstock