How we decide which clients hop onboard

The great American poets, the Spice Girls once said, "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends." Pushing all romantic undertones aside, one thing I have really come to believe as a creative professional is that the best clients are kindred spirits. Vision, passion, and mutual respect need to align.

Clients are a relationship, not a paycheck

This is one of the biggest revelations I have had throughout my creative career. I have worked for agencies where money was literally the only barrier to entry for onboarding a client. If they had the cash, the work would be taken on. I get it. They need to keep the lights on and people employed. But, that is a huge reason why Sharpe Creative has no motivation to be a full-service agency. Sharpe Creative is mainly motivated by fulfillment.

I am much more excited to take on a client with a scrappy budget who is hungry to succeed, is brave, ready to take healthy risks, and wants to make some noise in their market than a client who is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with deep pockets.

To niche or not to niche, that is the question

If Sharpe Creative's sole motivator was cash flow, industry-niching would probably be the way to go. We have had stints of work in an industry where we complete work for a client and then their peers contact us to help them too. If I leaned into that and used the traction and maybe rebranded to be a "Branding and Web Design Company for Industry X," I could probably greatly increase revenue. But, I know I would also become extremely bored as a result.

The feeling that every client is new and fresh is what drives Sharpe Creative and keeps us on our toes to always be delivering the best solutions we can. I think the temptation to coast and succumb to the easy, unfulfilling money is too great (at least for me) for niching to an industry.

Industry Shmindustry

Some creatives are industry snobs. They only want to work on the "cool and sexy" stuff. Beer labels, fashion, entertainment, etc. I have done that stuff and it can be exciting. You always want to work on things that align to your interests. But, I have also seen that there can be nightmare clients within "cool subject matter" and amazing clients in "less exciting" subject matter. The biggest thing for me is how brave is the client? Whether they are a trendy new brewery or a financial institution, I crave clients who are brave enough to actually stand up and stand out in their industry.

What makes for an ideal client?

There are lots of motivations and reasons to accept or turn down clients. Those reasons are personal and something that every service provider (especially creatives) develops over time. Here is a list of what Sharpe Creative feels makes for the best clients.

  • Passionate - There is nothing worse than being far more excited and invested in furthering a client's brand/business than they are.
  • Mutual Trust & Respect - We look for clients who trust our experience and lean on it while we respect and honor their goals and needs.
  • Realistic - Rome wasn't built in a day for a dollar and neither are brands and websites.
  • Engaged - If clients work with us, we need insight into their business. They supply us with great details, background information, effort, insight, etc. and we can turn it into something powerful.
  • Brave - The best clients do not want to blend in. They want to do, say and look like what their competitors are afraid to.
  • Open-Minded - As a business owner, you are likely not your target customer. We create with the market and your customer in mind versus an owner's "favorite color." That might mean breaking or bending your comfort zone in service of your audience.
  • Invested & Reliable - We will hold up our end of the deadlines and communicate if things get complicated. But, if we allow two weeks in our timeline for a client to make a decision or provide info, and it takes two months, the timeline goes out the window. We love clients who are ready to dig in and focus together.
  • Collaborators not Controllers - You don't tell your urologist how to best pulverize your kidney stones (The Office reference) or tell a mechanic how to fix your brakes. We will rely on you for a lot of insight and high level, visionary insight, but we need to be allowed to do the craft we have spent years practicing.

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