Friday, April 26, 2013

Starting Out & Those "Favours"

Before we move onto the blogs covering some leatherwork, I wanted to mention a couple of things. The first one I wanted to cover has the potential to be a really touchy subject, one that can become a nightmare, and cause untold resentment and irritation.
Basically we are talking about our wonderful family and friends; and the even worse culprits of acquaintances, and friends of friends.

Yes I love my family, and ofc my friends. I like and respect my broader circle of contacts too, but that doesn't mean I am happy to work for just above cost because I know you. Even worse is when it's a friend of a friend, who feels that they deserve some sort of discount rate because you have a mutual friend, well they don't.
Mates rates is one thing, and of course we all give them to those we feel we want to; or if we feel there may be some benefit to us in a roundabout way, but no rates at all is another thing entirely. I'm pretty sure when you add up the hours you put in on a piece, no one would think it fair if you end up earning 1 or 2 pounds an hour, or sometimes less, after material costs are deducted. I'm absolutely certain they don't go out to work for that sort of pittance of an income, so why expect you to be happy to work for that?

I firmly believe I could well be the Queen of horrendous decisions in making items for people at almost cost price, simply because I assumed I would get some advertising out of the piece I made. More to the point I have also made things unintentionally for free, simply because it was for a friend of one of my family members. I made something for them on the understanding that it would be worn and they would tell people where they had got it from, spread my name, a little advertising, that sort of thing. I'm pretty sure when I made it I mentioned just covering the cost of materials, (who wants to be out of pocket?).
When no money, or even a mention or offer of any arises what can I do?

There are really only 2 choices. I either ask for it and possibly cause problems for the family member that knows them; which also means that they could then say derogatory  comments about your business simply because you asked for some money toward the item you made for them.
Alternatively I just keep quiet about the whole thing, and seethe internally that I feel I was taken for a ride.

Don't misunderstand me I am sure some of the pieces were commented on, hopefully even admired; but when I made the item thinking I would be paid material cost, or just over, I was sort of expecting a little bit of a push on my behalf as the real part of the return favour.
I didn't expect them to walk round with a flute doing a pied piper and bringing people to my doorstep, or wear a sandwich board advertising my site (wouldn't have stopped them though haha), but perhaps something along the lines of passing my name around, and the business cards I always send with orders. Telling them to check out the site, give me a ring, ask about our work and prices, something......anything!.
I can't even begin to describe how annoying it is, to see someone wearing your work in photo's posted on Facebook, and feeling like you just got a bit screwed over.
They got a cracking deal, and I really don't feel it was unreasonable of me to expect a little effort from them by promoting me when they are out and about wearing the item.

It's not even so much that there were no orders from these said favours, I don't mind that; the exercise was simply to get my name out there. The fact that not one person has even enquired and said "Hey I saw that item you made for such-and-such a person, how much would *X* item be?"
There was no interest generated at all, so I assume the item was duly worn, and I was forgotten as I had served my purpose.

It really is a shame though as it was supposed to be a mutually beneficial exercise, that would have worked well for both parties concerned; they get minimum cost for a new item, I get my name out there. Both of us got what we wanted from the collaboration, they just had to talk to people whilst they were already wearing the items, it's not like they had to go out of their way or make any real effort.

Needless to say I have eventually wised up a bit as I have gone along, and don't leave myself open to this anymore. I would rather have fewer orders that I am fully paid for, than lots of orders from people who expect me to work for £2 an hour.
I'm fairly certain I am not the first, nor will I be the last to come across this situation. I am not having a whinge (OK maybe a little one), but simply telling you things I have learnt from it. I would not dream of telling you how to run your business, or what steps you need to take,  I can only offer my insight into experiences I have had, to try and help you not to go down the same road, and end up feeling as supremely miffed as I was.

  • Keep your favours to a very select few, those who you genuinely don't mind if things don't go according to what you expected; but make sure that EVERYONE understands that this is your business and not a hobby (even as a hobby it's no excuse to be totally unpaid). 
  • People that you meet along the way you may well get on with very well with, share a joke, have common interests; and all of that is great. You may end up being pretty friendly, that too is fantastic but don't forget, when it comes to them asking for something to be made they then become your customer/client, and the exchange is totally separate from your friendship. 
  • You may find that once you put your business head on, they are suddenly shocked because they thought you were "good friends", and so expected a discount. If you don't see it that way, don't allow yourself to feel pressured into giving one, it may have been the only motive they had to become so friendly. 
  • People you befriend across the net are not like your real life friends (not to belittle net friends here at all, I've made some fantastic friends on the internet who I have had a great time with,. This is simply a generalisation of the majority of people you make friends with on the net). You have no idea if the tables were turned and you needed a favour, would they help you out if meant actual real life stuff like your real world friends would? You don't owe them a favour because you chat on the net.
  • Think about it in terms of how they would behave with any other business. They wouldn't ring up any other shop and say they know someone that works there, or they are a friend of a friend so can they have a discount would they? 
  • Above all, please don't forget, you do not have to feel obliged to discount/freebie anyone if you don't want to, it is done solely at your own discretion. It is your business so you get to decide if a discount is warranted or deserved, or if you feel it may be beneficial to you in some way to. If you are going to give a discount, it's not unreasonable for you to expect you to see some sort of benefit from it somewhere along the line. 

That was a much longer post than I originally intended sorry, and I'm certain I have missed lots of stuff out that I will kick myself for later, but I'm sure you get my drift at least. 

After that mammoth reading let me just lighten it up a little, and summarize.

1) You are in business to make money, being helpful, polite and friendly is good for your business. 
2) Try and keep personal and business relations as two separate entities, because if you don't some people do try to take advantage. 
3) You don't have to befriend everyone you make something for, they are paying customers and your main aim in business is to make money, not extra friends. 
4) Being knowledgeable and approachable, and providing top quality goods and service will bring repeat business. Discounts are always appreciated (at your discretion), but they have come to you for work to be done so they clearly want your work, don't be tempted to discount because you had a bit of a chat once, and certainly don't be pushed into giving one.
 5) Family and friends are pretty much always the last on the list. You are not being mean or thoughtless, you are simply prioritising. (Unless it's a Xmas/birthday present for them, in which case yes you were mean lol)

Your real family and friends will get and understand all of this, that's why they always get discounts and freebies!

Until next time, keep busy!

The Hostile Heroine x

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