Do you build connections with people who genuinely value what you do?
There are two truths when it comes to your work: You have talents and skills that help others, and what you have to offer won’t appeal to everyone.
When you’re dealing with busy schedules, challenging moments or just everyday life, it’s important to spend your time and energy on people who understand your value. For example, if you’re known for designing whimsical logos, a person seeking a simple, black and white design may like your work, but he won’t value your services like the person who loves colorful/playful design.
Here’s how to be intentional about connecting with people who have a demand for what you do.
Teach: Inquiring clients need to know
During a recent visit to my hair stylist, a woman wandered into the salon from the parking lot next door to inquire about the services. We all noticed her hair right away – her beautiful shoulder-length mane looked like a wig, even though she was all natural. My hair guru was pretty much done for the day, but she gave her a quick consultation anyway.
I watched how my stylist interacted with the inquiring client in a genuine yet honest way. After examining this woman’s hair, she broke down her mission statement and the services she offered to her clients (she specializes in natural hair care and is known in her industry for growing out textured hair). She asked the lady: “What are your expectations and goals?”
The woman expressed that:
- a) she was already natural and had zero interest in growing her hair any longer;
- b) her current stylist is in the city and she was tired of making the commute.
It really all boiled down to convenience. After listening to her requests, my stylist (who has a lucrative business and large clientele) kindly pointed out the obvious: This woman didn’t really need what she had to offer.
“You are doing a beautiful job with your hair already,” she told her. “You don’t really need me. I have a waiting list of women who need my services. I have to keep myself available first to those who really need my services.”
The lady agreed – she didn’t need her services, and they decided on terms that worked best for them. She wasn’t about to jump to the top of the waiting list for the sake of convenience.
It’s important to remember your value and to make sure others really understand what you do and how it benefits the people you serve. By asking this woman about her expectations and goals upfront, my stylist could see that they were on two different pages, and what she had to offer was not what the lady truly wanted or needed.
Ask yourself: Does this person or opportunity align with my mission?
Choose: Those who “Meh” or those who motivate
An entrepreneur hired me last year to copyedit his book, and I decided to rewrite his back cover during the process. His reaction made me smile and laugh. Instead of a generic “looks great” email, I received a voicemail full of excitement, appreciation and happiness. It made my day! I was excited because he was so hype about the outcome. When someone really appreciates your gift and is hype about your work, their excitement is contagious. (Note: I would have still given my 100 percent even if his reaction was generic or if he didn’t like the copy. But there is something exciting about working with people who appreciate your skill set).
Just because someone chooses you for a service, it doesn’t mean they necessarily value what you do. Sometimes people make their choice based on price, convenience or location, and the person's skill set isn't as important to them. When a person truly values what you do, your skill set is the primary reason they choose you because you provide a solution to his/her specific need. This makes them appreciate what you have to offer and bring to the table.
If a person comes to you only because of your price, they might disappear if you raised your prices. There is no sense of loyalty developed for them to stay. Or if they only come to you because you're located down the street, you probably wouldn’t hear from them anymore if their go-to person relocated to their area, especially since you were just their backup and "I-can-save-on-gas-money” option.
Will it be easier to work with people who get really excited about your services and mission or those who are like “Meh. You’re right down the street from my house so I’m here...” You can make the choice by being intentional about the people you serve.
Ask yourself: Am I serving people who believe in my mission and are excited about what I do?
Illustrate: Show them what you’re working with
Sometimes people just need to see what you have to offer to understand your value. They need to see results. Whenever I do a freelance project, I make sure I put in work to produce results to show them why they hired the right person for the project. People don’t always understand the value behind what you do so you have to show them.
Let’s say a couple needs a wedding photographer ASAP because their current one just quit. They love your work, and you were always their second choice. Although you may feel like the rebound photographer (and nobody likes to be the rebound anything), it could be an opportunity to show them why you should become their go-to person.
You could be exactly what someone needs, but they just don’t know it yet. If someone really understands what you do and it doesn’t fit with their desires/needs, then you’re not a match, and that’s okay. But if someone is interested but unclear about how you can help them, that is a potential opportunity to make a connection and help them understand how your skills/services/products could benefit them – whether through a consultation, testimonial, photos, etc.
Think about all of the businesses and service providers you’re loyal to and the ones you really value. Why do you go to them and no one else? When I think about my go-to people/places, it’s never about convenience. My stylist, for example, is 45 minutes away! BUT, I believe in her work, I’ve seen results and I believe she’s the best at what she does. (Initially, I wasn’t sure she offered what I needed, but she showed me the value and I was sold!)
Ask yourself: Am I clear about what I offer to others?
Decline: Don’t be afraid to say no
Specializing in something that people will pay for is how you make money but specializing in something that people value and will pay for is how you grow your business with your dream clientele.
Deciding to only work with people who value what you offer also keeps your services aligned with your mission statement. If your mission as a writer is to create content for non-profit organizations and you start writing for fashion magazines, your work no longer aligns with your mission. Do you want people to know you as a fashion writer or a non-profit content creator? Both are great options, but it’s all about choosing work that is related to your overall vision.
If my stylist starting servicing clients who only wanted to rock short hair, this service would contradict with her existing brand and confuse potential clients. She’s clear on what she wants to be known for and isn’t hesitant about saying “no” to anything that detracts from her message. Knowing people’s expectations as well as your own can help you decide if an opportunity is worth your time and energy.
Don’t be afraid to say no if you already know the person is not a good fit for you or your business/brand. You don’t have to view "no" as a missed opportunity. You’re just making more room for the right people/opportunities to come along. You don’t want to keep those people waiting!
Creatives, freelancers and entrepreneurs don’t dream about working with people who view their talent as mediocre. Take note of the people who value and respect who you are — your beliefs, your talents, your core values and what you stand for. Those are the people you'll want to connect with and the relationships you’ll want to invest in and grow on purpose.