WHY IT'S OKAY TO HAVE THESE LITTLE RULES...
It's OK to say 'No'
It's OK to have T&C's
It's OK to have boundaries
It's OK not to continuously chase business
It's OK to be firm
It's OK to take deposits
It's OK to not do mates rates
Let me explain why.....
I have been offered money for sex | I have been given sob stories | I have been stood up for meetings | I have been ghosted | I have had people not pay | I have been sent naked photos | I have had a strange lady send me dodgy pictures of her feet | I have been stalked | I have been flashed | I have been ignored | I have had people try to barter my prices ...... to name just a few. It's certainly kept my friends entertained!
This post will not be for everyone. It all depends on your personality, approach to business AND your end goal. 'If' like me you are genuinely passionate, care what your customer's think, trained a long time or even gained qualifications in your expertise, you are not a fly by fast buck type of person! If you are here for just the dollar until the next trend pops along then this isn't for you!
We want to attract good and reliable customers that come back to us time and time again. We want to make a good impression and for them to be really happy with the service we provide and we want them to tell their friends. But this doesn't have to come at a cost to our time and energy exceeding office hours or creating a heap of self doubt!
I have been self employed now running my own successful businesses for almost 20 years! I would like to say that I have seen it all and experienced every type of customer and I'm probably not far off, however there is always one that surprises me now and then - sometimes good and sometimes not so much!
Lets look at how we can try our best to attract the right customers for us and steer clear of the ones that do not suit our business requirements.
In life as we all know, we cannot account for the way people choose to treat others, however we can be armed and stop negative treatment from happening to us and our business.
Watch out for the signs. They are always there and the more experience you gain the more you will see it coming.
You are so passionate about your business succeeding and in the beginning it is super hard to say NO to people or set boundaries.
I want you to know it's okay to say NO and it's okay to have boundaries. Two things I have struggled with myself in the past and I'm not embarrassed to say that I have learnt the hard way.
The more small business owners I have met along my journey, the more I have realised that they often experience worry about not doing what their customer's want when their customer wants it in case they go else where. I always say if they want YOU they will adapt and if you start as you mean to go on it won't be a massive issue. When it starts eating into your home life then it's not working for you. Things need to change.
Lets meet Mrs Demanding - she wants your time no matter what! She messages you on a Sunday at 7am or even 9pm. She barely gives you time to reply before she is sending a single '?' because she wants answering NOW! This is the problem with living in a society of technology - we are available 24/7 or at least some people think we are.
It seems obvious doesn't it that this person may not be the ideal customer, but when you are new and feel you really need to get your business going forward, we don't like to say no! We worry they will go somewhere else if we don't reply there and then.
Mrs Demanding may turn out to be a good customer so we could try 'training' her to be a good one. Try responding on the next 'working day' and make a polite point of informing her of your working hours and stick to it. She may then get the idea. Or set an out of office message on your device. If she doesn't respond to your reply the next day then she wasn't for you in the first place. Then let it go.
Lets meet Mr Voice Message - sends a million voice recordings and then......it's just tumbleweed - He is very 'all or nothing'. We don't need those either! They drain our energy. Let him go.
Do not chase your customers. A follow up is absolutely fine but do not chase up business if you get no response. It's a waste of your time and energy. Some people are window shoppers and some just want something for nothing. We do not need customers like that, they are wasting our time. This brings me to Mrs Woe is Me! She cannot afford your prices, she tells you a sad story or promises to pay you when she gets her payments come through at the end of the month. No deposit No service is your rule and stick to it, no matter what their excuses are. You can be sympathetic and empathic but DO NOT DO THE WORK until you have something in return. Protect yourself.
This naturally brings me to a little grievance of mine ha ha ha ..... the posts you see on social media "looking for a good builder that will do it cheap" or "looking for recommendations for a massage therapist that doesn't rip me off"...... you do not want this business. You should be valued for your skill. If it was easy they would have done the job themselves! You are trained, you are qualified, you have had years of experience, you have paid out a fortune for all of your insurances, memberships and courses. You want customers that value you and your expertise.
Meet Miss of Little Words - she messages you (normally at 10pm via facebook) "I want a logo, how much" This brief and quite frankly rude message is one big, or little ha ha, sign to tell you how things will be going forward. There is zero respect there for starters. When you message a business would you start your enquiry like that? No, probably not! I'm not saying don't reply but just be cautious.
The other day someone messaged me about some design work they wanted. It was full of red flags but you always have to give a little benefit of the doubt to start with. We arranged a telephone meeting for the end of the week. When I called them at the agreed time they answered "I'm having my lunch I'll call you back".
The old me would have waited around and then messaged them later to say something like lets 're arrange & when would be convenient. etc....' BUT not the new Claire that is attracting the right customer. Goodbye Mr!!!!
These are not bad people, just bad customers!!!
Remember you are worth more and by trying to avoid these people you will naturally start attracting the right customers. Be positive and believe in yourself.
Set clear guidelines from the beginning. Show them your terms and conditions of business and payment plans before you agree the work. Take non refundable deposits. Do not be embarrassed. If you don't and you give them your service or product, they WILL NOT be embarrassed when they do a runner and you are left empty handed for your time and effort. Good customers will be happy to pay a deposit and follow your T&C's. Always protect your business.
It's all about MUTUAL RESPECT. It's a two way thing. Yes they are paying for a service and we will go above and beyond for the right client but you still need to have clear boundaries and self preservation.
Mates Rates.... just no no no no no! It brings nothing but issues. I have a friend that still owes me money from a year ago. It all becomes very awkward. Everyone should pay for the service you provide or at least give you something in return. For example, a swap of business if you want to go down that route - Jane that is a domestic cleaner will come clean your house in return for you tutoring her son.
The family or friends that expect a freebie or a vastly discounted service aren't really considering your time or outlays. That time slot could have been given to a paying customer. There are exceptions of course there are and I'm not hard faced (most of you know what a big softie I am - that's why I'm writing this because all of these things and more have happened to me - I could write a book!) as you might want to gift a friend your service or product or it's a special occasion or they are having a bad time and you want to give them a little treat. But if you are regularly giving away your service to them by now I should imagine you are getting a little fed up! You are not a charity and you probably can't afford to keep giving away your service free. It's time for a change up!
This brings me to looking after your valued customers. Make them feel valued because they are and we want to keep them and it makes us feel good they appreciate us and perhaps we made a difference in their world too. Going that extra mile (in office hours!) for that client is more than acceptable in this situation. Little discounts here and there if you want or just tell them what their support means which goes a long way.
Ask your valued customers to review you on google / social media and share your business. Their family and friends are likely to be likeminded and may attract more lovely clients. Word of mouth is one of our best tools. Offer friend referral discounts etc...
Use social media as much as possible. Be positive, be kind, support other small businesses where possible. You don't have to spend money, just sharing their posts now and then will go a long way. You want to build up a positive reputation.
Join business networking groups around your area. I've met some amazing small businesses there which has generated some extra business for me. Because they are likeminded and striving to make a success of their own business. You can support each other.
Advertise in the right places. There is no point advertising your fresh meat business at a vegan event. Jokes, but you know what I mean! Attend events and community groups that will benefit your business and hopefully attract customers that have an interest in your service.
Don't underestimate the power of the old fashioned leaflet drops either if you have the time and money to do one.
Law of Attraction. Put out what you want. Accept what you want and it will keep coming but you must believe in yourself and your business and know it is going to work!
Identify your ideal client. ...
Know your value. ...
Create a strong brand. ...
Send out a clear message. ...
Be in the right place. ...
Engage on a personal level and offer an outstanding customer service
Offer consistently high quality. ...
Have a referral system
A good website with SEO
Use Social Media and follow relevant hashtags
Send out newsletters and email marketing to your customers
Occasional offers to your valued customers
Run the occasional competition
Consider writing a blog
Check out my Blog Post on Brand Identity too!
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Good luck ;)