You Can’t Be All Things to All People and Win

Article by Joan FriedlanderSuccessful entrepreneurs know who they are, what they’re good at, and who they want to serve. Even if you really, really want to serve anyone who asks for your assistance, you simply don’t have time to, especially if you’re good at what you do and your service is in demand.

Call it branding, call it passion, call it snobbery, call it anything you want. When you are clear about your ideal client description, and are comfortable telling someone when you’re not the right service provider, you have access to an ability to significantly influence your future. Selectiveness, discernment, and clarity of purpose are strong foundations for success and satisfaction.

Selective: Of or characterized by selection; discriminating. Empowered or tending to select. (, American Heritage Dictionary)

Avoiding discernment in your efforts to grow your business may eventually lead to a lot to do, and not much satisfaction. It’s always much more difficult to extract yourself from a (difficult) situation than it is to avoid it in the first place. I know this first hand.

Being selective forces you to be proactive. A woman in my GET CLIENTS NOW! marketing program says she’s never had to actively and deliberately market her coaching services; it’s all been referral-based.* Most would feel quite envious of her situation. However, now that she wants to influence the outcome of the people who decide to hire her, she has no idea what to say. She’s not been paying attention to what she tells people, and what they’re responding to when they decide to hire her. She feels like she’s starting from scratch.

* (Truthfully, the woman in my GET CLIENTS NOW! program has been marketing her services. She could not have gotten clients otherwise. Building a business through referrals is a viable strategy. What she’d not done before was to set out with a specific goal and plan of action.)

When you’re willing to be selective, you can charge more. It’s easier to establish yourself as an expert when you choose a narrow niche and/or are selective about the people you’ll work with. Being selective gives you an opportunity to take the time to research the most critical issues for your clients and to develop products and/or services tailor-made just for them. You can’t become an expert if you’re a Jack or Jane of all trades.

It’s important to be selective when you’re changing directions in your business. Some of the entrepreneurs I work with have several vehicles for generating revenue, or they have been offering one type of service and want to transition to another. This kind of transition always creates tension. It’s a lot like the transition from working for a company to self-employment. You have to keep one going until the point when you’re generating enough revenue to let the other go. To be successful with this process you must have the wherewithal to be extra diligent about limiting the amount of time you spend in the “old business.” If you’re not, you’ll stay hooked into the “old” much longer than you want.


If you’ve not already, write out a description of your ideal client or customer. Include everything you can imagine in your description.

Review the list of people you’re working with now, and have in the past. Assess how many fit your description and how many don’t. What’s different?

Make note of your concerns when you think about being more selective about whom you will and won’t work with.

The problem is not that you’ve made mistakes in the past. The problem is not changing your approach the next time around.

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