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How to be unattractive

There are two components of any marketing efforts:

  • Attracting the right clients
  • Repelling the wrong clients

This is obviously a tricky game. You want to make sure you are appealing to the clients you want to work with, but while doing it you want to seem unappealing to the worst clients (or at least those who don’t fit your target market). Here are some ways you can accomplish this:

Use a company policy

As Indy Coders, we tend to think that saying we have a company policy is foolish. But having your own business means deciding on your own policies. It isn't foolish at all - it is responsible business.

In my business, I want to work with established companies - no startups. Unfortunately, I still get the occasional call from new companies looking for a freelance programmer. I ask those companies a series of questions designed to quickly determine if they are worth my time, and one of those questions is if the business is a new venture. If the contact responds that yes, they are a startup, I usually say "I'm sorry, but it is my policy to only work with established companies. My business model is such that I provide the best value for organizations that have stabilized and have been turning a profit for several years."

Use language

The language you use in your marketing copy can be a great way to subtly make yourself unattractive to the wrong prospects. Is your target market individuals with a technical background? If so, you can use technical terms to turn off non-technical readers. Avoid using language that makes you sound cheap – this can attract prospective clients who are tire-kickers and not true buyers.

Be difficult

To be unattractive, you must sometimes appear to be difficult to work with. You can do this in ways that don't make you seem personally repellent. For example, most larger organizations prefer working through a reputable middleman - a consulting firm or studio who finds resources for them. Since I don't want to work with large companies anyway, I make a point of avoiding working through middle men. This makes it harder for those companies to find me.

Other things you can try:

  • Require a significant down-payment before any work is done.
  • Require the use of an issue tracking system you specify.
  • Charge a significant fee for rush work.

What techniques to you use to be unattractive to the wrong prospects?

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