by Dana Rayburn, SCAC, Guest Contributor

Somewhere around my third year as an ADHD coach I realized I wasn’t having much fun. The initial excitement of having clients had worn off. I found myself dreading many of my coaching calls. I was bored; hoping my less interesting clients couldn’t tell that they weren’t getting the best of me on the phone.

When I talked it over with my coach, we realized my problem wasn’t that I didn’t like ADHD coaching. We figured out I’d reached a new level in my business. I needed to be pickier about whom I took on as a client.

When you first launch a coaching practice it’s important you work with anybody and everybody. I even remember being taught at both Coach U and OFI, that “as long as someone can breath, take them on as a client!”

That’s great advice for someone just starting out as a coach. You need to build your skills. As Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, Outliers, experience is the pathway to exceptional performance. Coach training teaches important theory but only by dealing with clients and their challenges will you develop your own tools and hone your intuition and coaching style.

Yet after a time, you’re ready to work with only those clients who light you up: Your Ideal Clients. It’s a huge, scary step. You’ve worked hard to finally get clients and now you’re supposed to turn people away?

Realizing I needed to focus on my ideal clients was only the first step. My next challenge was determining who my ideal clients were. I needed a structure to help me decide who to work with and who to refer to other coaches.

I had a vague idea. I knew I enjoyed helping experienced small business owners and professionals grow their businesses. I also knew I had a gift for helping people get better organized and manage their time. Just screening for experienced business people who needed to be more organized and productive wasn’t enough. I needed more clarity.

That’s when I invented the idea of the Ideal Client List

I decided to put on my thinking cap and make a list of all the things that turned me off about some of my clients. My list was something like this.

I don’t like clients who:

  • Complain about my fees
  • Pay late
  • Complain about their spouse
  • Won’t take action
  • Don’t know what they want
  • Are negative
  • Have such a chaotic life they don’t have time to do the work
  • Challenge what I say

Flip it around and you have a picture of my Ideal Client.
I love coaching people who:

  • Respect me, my skills and my time
  • Can afford coaching and believe it’s a good investment
  • Have big goals in life beyond managing ADHD
  • Are positive and excited about life
  • Are in loving, respectful relationships
  • With a highly functional case of ADHD
  • Are experienced small business owners and professionals
  • Who are looking for practical ways to get organized and manage time

When I compared my Ideal Client list to my actual clients it was eye opening. After giving each client an A, B, or C ranking I realized many of them fell into the B or C category.

Yikes! No wonder I inwardly groaned each time my phone rang!

Focusing my practice on coaching only my ideal clients has been fabulous. 16 years in and I adore my work as much I did when I first started. My business stays in line with my values and interests. Since I’m working in my area of strength I can do my best work which keeps my clients happy.

Occasionally I’ll take on a not so ideal client as a favor for a friend or client. I can tell you it just doesn’t work. There I am again gritting my teeth wondering why I didn’t know better.

Being clear on my Ideal Client also improves my conversations with potential clients. Instead of focusing the calls on selling my services, I’m focused on finding out about the person and if he or she fits my Ideal Client profile. I’m able also to quickly and easily know who isn’t the best match for me and can quickly refer them to another coach.

Once you’ve got some coaching experience under your belt, I suggest you make your own Ideal Client List. It will positively impact both you and your ADHD coaching practice and set you up for success.

Dana Rayburn, SCAC, is an experienced, highly-trained and certified ADHD coach. She specializes in ADHD Business Coaching as well as the essential time management and organizing skills most ADD/ADHD adults lack. She offers private and group coaching programs, books, and the ADD Success newsletter to help people get their ADHD out of the way so they can live more successful and effortless lives. Contact her at danarayburn.com