Learn To Be Picky When Choosing Clients for Your Home-Based Business

Berry HeadsEach year, the kids go on a field trip to the strawberry patch. After the tour, each one gets a basket to fill with strawberries to take home.

As they head out into the fields, you can tell the veterans from the newbies.

The new kids grab anything and everything — green ones, rotten ones, half-eaten ones. Their goal is to get as many berries in their basket as possible in the time they have.

The ones that have been there before are more selective. They take their time. They pick only the ripest, biggest, and most perfectly shaped berries. They can spot them from ten feet away. They too get their baskets filled, but the berries they end up with are much taster.

Sorting Out the Bad Ones

When it comes to taking on projects and clients, many new home-based entrepreneurs take whatever they can get. Few will turn down work or say no to a project. Even when they know it’s not a good fit.

They go for quantity over quality.

The choice becomes clearer as they roll on. The project ends up being a nightmare, or the client is unhappy. They may end up firing a client.

When you’re just getting started with your own business, it’s very hard to be choosy about the work you select. If you need the money, it’s even more difficult.

In order to make sure a project is a good fit, you have to set up some criteria in advance. Create a checklist that outlines:

  • The type of work you like best
  • What you’re really good at
  • Where your experience and expertise fits
  • The direction you want your business to take
  • The type of people and companies you prefer to work with
  • Your timeline, schedule, and pricing

Knowing your criteria in advance makes it easier to know if a project is a good fit. It can also help you outline your ideal client. Being able to say no to work that doesn’t mesh well with your business is just as important as being able to find work.

Be picky about the projects you take on. You chose self employment to do work on your own terms.

Doing work you don’t like, or aren’t good at, is not a way to build a business or a reputation.

It’s a sure-fire way to get burned-out quickly, and have lots of unhappy customers.


  1. Tony, this is great advice, and not just for home-based businesses, either – it’s a great guideline for life, too! The way I see it, we’re ALL running a home-based business called “life”, and if we don’t use some method to screen out the unnecessary stuff, we’ll end up bogged down and floundering, too.

  2. I would agree that the quality of work one picks is pretty much important since it counts towards your work portfolio in the end. It depends on the type of situation that you are facing though. If the economy is bad, think twice about being ‘over-picky’ in this case though.. Some strawberries are better than no strawberries, when you are just looking to fill your tummy.

  3. Robert – That’s a great point. Being able to filter is an important skill in all areas of your life.

    Lyndon – I agree, but you still have to make sure you’re choosing the right clients. A better option is to keep your day job until you’ve reached a point to be more selective about your work. I’ve known too many jaded business owners who got that way by taking on anything and everything just to “fill their baskets.”

  4. Tony,
    I love your blog. I’m glad to have found it through Stumble Upon. I look forward to being a frequent reader. I hope you don’t mind, but I have tagged you in a magazine meme on my Resource Economics blog. I have four. If you don’t want to do it, no biggy just let me know. But I think this one is an interesting one. Check it out, its on http://evnucci.wordpress.com.

  5. This is good advice and you are right about new freelancers taking everything and anything just to fill the cupboards.

    Freelancers also need to be careful that they don’t get taken for a ride by less than honest clients. In the writing industry, freelancers have to put up with clients asking them to do work for “Exposure” or “Referrals”. I see this trend cropping up in other areas as well and a hungry freelancer can easily get trapped by this.

  6. Ev – Thanks. I’ll have a look.

    Daria – You’re absolutely right. That’s great advice. Being picky can help you weed out those types of projects.

    Priscilla – Yep. Your clients are going to shop around and be selective about who they work with. You owe it to yourself, and those “right” clients, to do the same.

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