I run a professional bridesmaid business – here are 6 questions I ask before taking on new clients as a solo entrepreneur

Jen glantz
Jen Glantz says she has a strong vetting process for potential new clients. Gaby Deimeke

One of the first mistakes a lot of service-based companies make is that they’re so eager for new clients, they say yes to everyone. I made this mistake more times than I’d like to admit when I first started my company, Bridesmaid for Hire, over six years ago.

I created a new service that didn’t exist before – being a hired bridesmaid at a stranger’s wedding – and because of that, I got many requests from all kinds of people. I was so hungry for business that I changed my offerings to what they wanted, ignored red flags, and undercharged.

This caused me to experience extreme burnout and led my company away from being profitable or scalable. To help ensure I wasn’t chasing after a quantity of clients and instead working with just the right people, I created this check-list of six key questions to ask myself before I agree to working with potential new clients.

1. Do I clearly understand the problem they need me to solve?

Businesses solve problems and these problems are brought to the business by the customer. Even though my service is streamlined, the customer doesn’t always have the same problem.

One of the initial conversations I have with potential clients gives them the opportunity to share what problems they have in their wedding experience. Knowing these enables me to make an initial decision as to if we’re a good fit to work together or if my services don’t properly solve their problem.

Before pitching a client on why they should work with you, flip it around and let them share what’s going on with them and why they think they need your service.

2. Are we on the same page about all of the details of the service?

Yes, I’m technically working as a hired friend for the bride, which does make the expectations and details of the job a bit murky. Does that mean the bride can text me at all hours of the night? Does it mean I have to stay at the wedding until the final song plays? The answer is no.

When I started this business, because the role was so new, I had to define my exact role and set expectations and boundaries for the client. That way, I could do my job smoothly while also making sure the client got what they paid for.

Lay it all out there so your customer knows what you’re providing and what they’re getting. Offer a detailed contract or agreement that spells this all out so you can refer to it along the way.

3. Do they want to work with me for the right reasons?

With a unique business like mine, people often don’t truly understand what I offer. I’ll often get requests for things we don’t offer ( like when someone has specific requirements for how their hired bridesmaid should look) and I immediately turn those down.

When I started this company, I also wanted it to have more value and meaning than just being a service where people looking for that “extra” bridesmaid to even out their bridal party would hire us. We’re there to be more than just a body in their bridal lineup and if that’s all they are requesting, I often turn down that request.

When you make sure a client has the right reasons for working with you, you can ensure the service you provide is valuable to them.

4. Have we agreed on the price and the payment structure for extras?

When I started Bridesmaid for Hire, it was my first time ever starting a business and I didn’t have any idea how much to charge clients. My pricing was very open-ended, and I often agreed to custom packages that met my client’s budgets rather than my own business needs.

This became a disaster as I found I was losing money on each client and working way too many hours. I decided to create a fee structure that was non-negotiable and clearly communicated to my clients. They are given the set price for the package they pick and a list of add-ons along the way, so that every extra they might request is accounted for with an “add-on” price.

Oftentimes when this is presented, clients will try to negotiate a lower price or ask for a discount. Because the prices I have created reflect my service, value, and years of experience, I don’t offer any kind of price adjustment.

This is the stage of the game where I do lose out on potential clients over 50% of the time, but I’m OK with that because I’m not looking for a volume of clients. I’m OK with a handful of clients every month who will pay my set price.

Before I start working with clients, they must sign a contract which includes this detailed structure so I’m assured they understand the additional payments they might choose to incur along the way.

Set a price for your services and communicate it to your clients with clarity to avoid any headaches later down the line.

5. Are there any red flags I’m ignoring?

Early on in my business, I had many moments with clients where something happened that I could have predicted before we officially started working together, like a client who didn’t pay on time or a client who changed their mind about what they wanted.

Often, they’d said or done something during our initial conversations that was a red flag, but I ignored it because I was so eager to get more clients. As a result, the mishaps and problems occurred after we began working together.

Now, I record the initial calls I have when new clients reach out (with their knowledge and permission, of course) so I can play them back and listen to note anything that stood out. I then ask the right follow-up questions to make sure I’m addressing anything that could be a problem later on.

If you sense red flags when a potential client reaches out, don’t put those conversations on pause. Bring up anything that you might have hesitations about before the client signs with you.

6. What’s my gut saying?

Even though it can be quite cliché to say, as a business owner I do listen to my gut. If I have a feeling in my stomach or negative thoughts in my head about the idea of working with a potential client, I usually press the pause button.

At that point, I’ll either ask to have an additional conversation with them to make sure all my questions and hesitations are addressed, or I’ll just let them know that I don’t think we’re a good fit.

While it can be hard to turn down new clients, especially when your income is tied to the success of your business, it’s important to do so to maintain the integrity of your company. Take it from me – when I have worked with a person who I knew wasn’t a good fit, it ended up costing me more time, money, and energy than it was worth.

Before saying taking on new clients, have boundaries in place and a check-list of questions to ask yourself. That way, you can ensure you’re doing what you can to continue to grow and scale your business the right way.