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When I first started in consulting my approach was "say yes and then figure it out".
No matter what the client asked for, I would take the job and then learn how to do it myself or hire someone else do to it for me.
Website programmed in .asp? No problem!
Reputation management? Sure!
Copy for a fertility clinic? You bet!
This was pretty effective at bringing in cash flow. At least at first. The problem was there's no leverage or scalability. Each job represents a new problem to solve, new skills to learn, or new outsourcers to find, train, and manage.
You end up spending half your working hours on skills that are one-offs and don't transfer to the next client.
It's intellectually stimulating but ultimately bogs you down and keeps you from the one thing that really matters:
Bringing in new business.
That's why specialising is so important. Everything you learn from one client is leveraged into the next. You develop processes and resources that can be re-used on the next job. You get quicker at the work. Your team becomes more efficient and less reliant on you.
Define your ideal client and become the best at solving their unique problems.
Then start saying no...
No to people you don't want to work with.
No to demands you can't (or won't) meet.
No to work that doesn't get you to your goal.
No to clients that aren't your ideal.
Because it's one thing to spend time defining your ideal client and knowing who you want to attract. But it's something else entirely to actively turn away those who don't fit that profile. And until you start saying no to people who aren't your ideal you won't create the space to allow those who are in.
This works in both a metaphysical and very concrete way.
Concrete in that you free up your time. (This alone is huge!) You begin to see yourself as a specialist, your self image shifts, your clarity, certainty, and confidence increase. You start getting the type of referrals you actually want.
Metaphysical because when you start saying no to the opportunities that aren't right for you, more of the right one's soon start to appear. More than you would normally expect. In stranger ways than you can imagine. Call it God, the universe, or whatever you like, but I've seen it happen time and time again.
Saying no can be hard.
Sometimes it means turning away money and not knowing where more will come from.
Turning off your mr nice guy image and being firm with someone you see as a friend.
Removing products and services from your lineup that have made you lots of money in the past but are slowing drowning you.
Or firing existing clients who no longer serve your long-term goals.
None of this is easy.
If it was, everyone would get what they want.
But it's hard. It goes against much of how we've been programmed to behave. And most people will do anything they can to avoid hard work. So very few people ever get what they really want.
Decide what you want your business to look like.
Define your ideal client.
Determine your goals.
That's the easy part.
Now say no to everything that falls outside.
This is where you will be tested.