Your Clients Are Not Your Business

Young woman talking with a customer on the phone

“If I don’t have clients, I don’t have a business.”

Really … is that true?

Recently I’ve heard several new copywriters express this idea as if it were the truth.

But as someone who’s been in business for over 35 years and who has been through periods without clients (sometimes known as feast or famine), I can tell you this makes no sense at all.

So today, I want to debunk what seems to be a widespread myth.

Let me start by stating what I see as a fact: When you have your own business, you get to decide what matters and what counts.

I’ve decided that my business is a laboratory for my personal and professional growth, as well as the way I support myself. Over the last three decades, I have used it to grow and become the person I am today.

You can do that too.

That’s why you must be at the center of your business. Without you, there is no business.

Clients are another matter entirely. Yes, your clients are an element of your business, and an important element at that. But they are not “it.”

You are there to help and serve your clients, but not at your own expense. You wouldn’t — and shouldn’t — sacrifice yourself (and your health) to your clients just because there’s money involved — although I have seen many people do that.

When you put your clients ahead of yourself, when you think your clients’ needs are more important than yours, it’s easy to sacrifice yourself to them.

That’s why I believe that you come first. Your relationship with you — the way you treat yourself and your well-being — is more critical than any client relationship.

Your own marketing and the growth of your business must come first, because without those, you have no business tomorrow.

Clients come and go — you can always find more (and usually better). But without you, there is no business.

Doesn’t that make sense?

Therefore, whether you have clients or not, you definitely have a business.

Further, for the purposes of developing the right mindset to succeed in business, it’s important to take it seriously from the beginning.

You must treat it like a real business, regardless of whether you have clients at any one moment in time. In fact, it’s possible that in your first year or so, your client flow will be gradual and inconsistent. But that will not (and should not) change whether your business exists. That wouldn’t make sense and could cause a certain mental and emotional whiplash, which isn’t helpful.

So what does it mean to take your business seriously from day one?

It means you will …

1. See yourself at the center of it. You are the engine of your business. You must realize that you are responsible for everything that happens, no matter what happens. That also means you have the freedom to do whatever it takes to make it work and to drive it in the direction you want. You don’t blame your problems on (or attribute your success to) the economy or the market — you are ultimately responsible.

2. Invest in yourself and your business. Just like with the copywriting itself, you have to learn. You must study and learn and practice the business skills you need — marketing, money, operations, client management, time management, and more. When you do, you will be able to create repeatable processes to help you take control of your business so it can take you where you want to go. As with everything, you have to invest in and nurture it as it starts to grow, and well beyond.

3. Take the actions necessary to make it succeed. You will do whatever’s necessary to find and pursue the clients you want to work with, the ones you are most competent to serve. You aren’t letting fear get in the way. You aren’t worrying that they won’t like you or that they will be annoyed by your patient yet persistent follow-up. You do what needs to be done, no matter what.

What does it look like when you’re not taking your business seriously?

You are waiting to be discovered! Your fingers are crossed and you are expecting one client to tell others about you (otherwise known as word of mouth). You are hoping that someone will stumble upon your LinkedIn profile or website. And when they don’t, you get upset or frustrated and start doubting yourself.

It’s a downward spiral. Don’t go there!

Instead, focus on what you can do, what you are willing to experiment with, and what you know how to do. Make your mistakes, learn from them, pick yourself up, and try again. That is the essence of the laboratory that is at your disposal.

Your future is entirely in your hands, not the hands of your clients. That’s why whether you have clients does not determine whether you have a business.

Do you have any questions about starting or expanding your business? Please share with us in the comments so we can help.

Virtual Business Building Intensive On Demand

Virtual Business Building Intensive On Demand

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Average: 4.8
Published: February 19, 2021

26 Responses to “Your Clients Are Not Your Business”

  1. Ilise, thank you for writing and posting this article. You have given us some great advice here. Thank you.


  2. Such good advice, Ilise.

    The mind-monkeys we all go through at the beginning (all!) of our independent business life!

    But, for me, it is simple. I am in control of everything to do with my business - the choice to grow and learn from my mistakes; who I choose to work with and ultimately, how I run my day-to-day life.

    It’s empowering!

    Helen B

  3. llise I want to read this again. Please to meet you.

    Nigel Elcock

  4. Wow, power-packed with wisdom and seeds of encouragement. When we look at things differently it is astonishing how any angst totally disappears. The vision of a new "copywriting lifestyle" is clearly present with purpose, grace, and ease. This is my "go-to" article when I need clarity.

    Guest (June Kellogg)

  5. Thank you, Ilise, for setting the record straight. Your business exist even without clients.

    If you're an entrepreneur and/or writer, continue to learn, build, and grow. The work you put in will pay off.

    Guest (Veron Lee Percy-Jarrett )

  6. Such great and sound advice! Totally freeing from the obsessive mindset of clients running the show. No, I run the show! Thanks Ilise!


  7. I love this article Ilise, especially when you say, "Your future is entirely in your hands, not the hands of your clients. That’s why whether you have clients does not determine whether you have a business."

    I have bookmarked it and will refer to it often.

    Thank you.

    Joseph Barbour

  8. This article is my new daily mantra! Thanx Ilise!

    Susan McL

  9. This is excellent advice that will serve me well throughout my writing career. Thanks so much, Ilise. Please know I intended to rate your article as a 5, but hit 4 on this small tablet. Evidently we aren’t allowed to change that once the rating is given.

    Sylvia Holmes

  10. Wow! Your words have sparked lightbulbs of wisdom going off in my brain. What a great way to look at life.

    Interacting with some clients can be extremely challenging. Yet, looking at it from a point of view where you recognize you're in control -- well, it's extremely empowering.

    Moreover, it is the kind of advice that is easy to grasp and implement.

    Thank you for this magnificent suggestion.

    Monica Coleman JD

  11. So excited to start my new business and eager to flex those marketing muscles!

    Guest (Barbara Burton)

  12. Ilise, This was very well written and it is something most folks will undoubtedly learn from. Thanks for the opportunity to read this!

    Guest (Terry Day)

  13. Permission to make mistakes gives me wings 😊 thank you!

    Denise Tilley

  14. Ilise, you are like a rock of Gibraltar. Thank you for all you do to support we the beginners (and everyone for that matter). Your ideas are so simply and powerfully shared.

    Guest (Laz Lazowska)

  15. This article gave me a new perspective on how to grow my copywriting business, which turns out to be me! in my "personal lab". I understand that phrase better now. My talent, skills and creativity are the first products that I have to sell. Then, I can sell my clients' products and services. I agree that is an empowering point of view. One of my favorite quotes (taken from the comic strip "Pickles".) is:
    "If it is to be, it's up to me." That's all there is to it!
    It has served me well.

    Guest (Maria)

  16. I'm more in need of the best way to give out the impression of looking professional without any experience in any particular field of writting.

    Guest (Anna Harris)

  17. Yes! I am the center of my business! What a great way to see myself moving forward! Thank you Ilise! :)


  18. Thank you for this sage advice! It is so true and so important!

    Guest (Patricia A Compean)

  19. WOW...this article was truly a light bulb moment for me. "My clients are not my business, I am."

    Thank you Ilise for helping me put things into perspective.

    Karen Brooks

  20. There is so much truth and wisdom in your article, Ilise. My takeaway is: If I remove a client from my business, another client will eventually fill that void. But if I remove myself from the business, there is no more business.

    Bill Honnold

  21. Thank you for helping me kick start my day today! I am a Christian writer and looking for ways to be honest with myself.

    Guest (Alvin Butch Smith)

  22. Great Article!! Thank you, llise.

    Guest (Clemson)

  23. Thank you Ilise for a pressure release this morning. The fact that I don't need a client to have a business is a game changer in building confidence in... me and yes, my business. A new way of thinking and... talking about. No more buts... but I don't have any clients right now. Nope, leave that alone. Yeah, another hurdle crossed.

    Guest (Cynthia Jackson)

  24. You know something is true deep inside you but get affected by outside pressures weighing you down. Sometimes, all it takes is just one read like this to tell them all, "I knew I was doing it right!"

    Thanks much for this, Ilise!


  25. It is imperative to take care of yourself first. You are after all the creator of your destiny. Great advice. Sometimes easy to hear and difficult to practice.

    Fantastic article. Thank you.


    Kristan Kanyuch

  26. Why is it so difficult to have a mind switch about "your clients aren't your business"? This article and marketing mentor Ilise give us principles that will transform our lives. Thanks, Ilise.

    Guest (Cynthia Jackson)

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