In life and in business I am, and always have been, a person who usually says yes! I love helping others, and solving problems. It makes me happy when the content I create for businesses gets them results. Making things easier for people, and adding value – that’s what it is all about. But sometimes I say no. I don’t accept every project, and I don’t work for everyone.

Prospecting for Sweet Orange gets a little neglected at times. Of course I realise that Sales is the foundation of any business, and although I am lucky that most of the people I work for come to me by referral, I still need to sell. What I’ve learned since running Sweet Orange it that not every proposal gets a yes. That’s fine. I also know that not every prospect is a good fit.

Initially, I never said “no” to work. I even made a big point of it at the time. How things have changed since 2013. Now, I have a different and much clearer approach to what I do and who I do it for, and it has made Sweet Orange more productive and more profitable. It also made my working days a lot happier.

When I meet a prospect for the first time, and before even starting on a proposal, I consider these things: 

  • Is this my ideal client in terms of industry, size, or revenue?
  • Can Sweet Orange actually help solve their problem?
  • Am I genuinely excited about this project?
  • Do our personalities fit?

Although I charge what I am worth (more about that further on), the above is more important to me than asking if this client has a budget I can work with. Needless to say, that is also an important consideration.

#lovewhatyoudo and #dowhatyoulove are my go-to hashtags for a reason.

Let me explain…

Why I want to work with my ideal client

I’ve received a handful of enquiries from businesses and organisations over the years that I’ve said ‘no’ to. The reason usually is that what they do or the way they do it doesn’t align with my own values and beliefs. The golden rule is that I don’t work for clients I find unethical, and if my gut tells me to watch out, it usually turns out to be correct. There can be other reasons, too.

My ideal client is more than ‘a decision maker in business’ or ‘a small business owner’. Fact is, the better you can define who your ideal client is, the more effective your marketing will be, the more leads you’ll get, and the more great projects you’ll take on. I’ve learned that you will not find out who your ideal client is if you don’t have a firm grip on what your business is, and what you do best.

Before you should even begin to define who your ideal clients are, decide what your ideal project is. What type of work do you enjoy doing the most? Where can you add most value, and which delivers the greatest return for you? A good place to start is to look at the work you’ve done in the past, and who for. Pick the projects you’ve enjoyed most, and look at them a little closer.

What type of businesses are they? Where are they based? What is their culture? How well do they communicate? What challenges do they share? Knowing this is important, and will come in handy when you address it in future marketing efforts and client meetings.

Also vital is that they understand the value of what you do, that they are happy to pay your rates, and pay the bills on time.

When you have put all the pieces together, you’ll know exactly who to market to, what to say, and how to effectively reach your ideal customer. In the end, the best decision is an informed and well-researched one. For your prospect as well as for your own business. I take this seriously.

Why I need to know if we can actually help

I love a good challenge, and with Sweet Orange I have written about things that I previously had no idea about. Just a few examples of topics and industries that were new to me are deer hunting, audiology, water treatment technologies, kombucha shampoo, and effluent pumps. These all became topics for projects I thoroughly enjoyed working on. I’ve learned so much, and I love that. No day is the same!

Not everyone gets what you do straight away, even if you explain it to them as clearly as you possibly can. When I say we write content for websites and make them work in the digital space, it’s obvious that we are creative and also – to a point – understand the technicalities. This does not mean we can fix your PC when you get the blue screen of death, or that we can get you on the first page of Google without paying the platform for the privilege.

If a client needs something that falls outside of my scope, I will do my best to find another creative, or techie, who can help them. Sometimes that is under the Sweet Orange umbrella (I have an amazing network), and other times it is a straight referral, or a mere suggestion.

There is truth in Richard Branson’s quote “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” I believe that, but to a point. It is also important to me, and only fair to my clients, that I stay in my lane.

Why I need to be excited about a project

Data entry, spread sheets, crunching numbers… Those are not tasks that get me excited. It needs to be done sometimes, of course, while running a business. Still, I could never make these things my core business.

What does excite me is beefy writing projects, creating content for and then building (basic) websites, working with other creatives, brainstorming with clients, analysing data, and measuring results. Telling stories is what I do best.

The biggest thrill is when I see my clients’ businesses succeed and grow. That’s the good stuff! If I am not excited by the work at hand, bored stiff even, I know I simply won’t be able to deliver that value. If that’s the case, the job is not right for me.

Why I need to know if the budget fits

We all need to make a living. New Zealand is an expensive country to live in, it can’t be denied, and I have two teenage boys at home that eat a lot. I never shy away from hard work, and at times I am up until midnight or at my computer at 6.00am or earlier to make deadline. That’s okay. But on the other hand, quality time – with family, friends or just for me – is also hugely valuable to me.

My rates are my rates, and although I am happy to offer a discount to charities or social enterprises, and even volunteer my services at times, if a commercial business challenges what I charge or asks if I can do it for less, the answer will be no. If I do decide to drop the price for a particular project, I’ll have my reasons.

Today, it was helping out a friend who was seriously stuck. She is employed as an editor for a big media organisation known for paying peanuts.

Pic for attention – this is Aotearoa, New Zealand!

That’s fine every once in a while, I love helping out, but if I make a habit out of working on the cheap, I would not do Sweet Orange any favours.

I’ve set a clear value on my time, my expertise, my effectiveness, and the value my work adds. It is based on a simple calculation, and my ideal client understands this. If I choose to discount, that’s up to me. Otherwise, I will not bulge or negotiate. It’s not worth it. I’ve learned this the hard way and it nearly killed my business when I just started out. I won’t get stung twice.

Why we need to click as people

With every prospect I meet, I first suss out if this is a person I would enjoy working with, or be positively challenged by. No, we don’t have to become BFFs but if you consider the Sweet Orange approach, it’d be good to know that I work best with a client who:

A: Knows what they want
B: Understands what we do
C: Likes to collaborate
D: Communicates
E: Does not expect Louis Vuitton-style work on a K-Mart budget

Thanks so much for taking the time to read all of this, and make the absolute best of your day!

~ Martine Pierhagen, content creator and founder of Sweet Orange Ltd

If your business needs quality content for your website, marketing materials, or publications, or if it is time to tell your story, contact Sweet Orange anytime. We’re always happy to have a chat and see if it’s a match. What you’ve just read has lifted the lid a little on our personality. It could be a great conversation starter. If you’d like to know more, call 021 492 040, email, or message us today!