I’m guessing that from the first day you had business development responsibilities you were on the look out for any potential client. I really do mean any client. After all building your own client portfolio normally was vital to your career progression or at a more simple level, meant the difference between being able to pay yourself or dip further into savings.

As a result, how do I put it, you have probably developed more of a mixed client portfolio over time. Of course now you are older and wiser, you realise the benefit of working in a niche market and having a very clear set of skills. The days of you being able to help anyone, any time or any place have long gone? Or have they?

The problem is from our earliest days at the BD coal face, we’ve been hard-wired to accept any client who has a pulse and can pay. Therefore, it’s very difficult to turn down a potential client who wants to work with you – just because they are outside what you do or who you do it for.

However, if you are to truly embrace your niche and the productivity benefits which come from having a specialism, you need to change this mindset. Recently I had an experience where I was approached to run a workshop, based on a research paper I had written, for a group of marketing managers from my target market. It all sounded great on paper… And then as time went on, it sounded like a poorer and poorer fit for what I do and how I do it. So, in the end I said no to the guaranteed work. I realised that to service the work I would have had to spent nearly a week researching and designing the workshop to deliver it to the client’s brief. This extra time would have been at my own expense. If I’d carried on with the ‘it’s guaranteed work mindset’ I would have come a cropper.

In the early days it can seem a very pragmatic decision to take on any work that comes along. However  these long term legacy clients can actually store up problems for you in the long term. It is very often the case that the average fee level for these legacy clients is too low. Or you have to maintain a broad skill set (& resultant CPD) to be able to service their requirements. Often the time and heartache to fix the problems caused by these legacy clients, means it was probably not worth taking on these clients in the first place.

Next time a client outside of your niche presents itself, think long and hard before deciding to work with them.