At Brand Launch, we’re in the business of being community advocates and brand builders. This means interacting with tons of small businesses, self starters and entrepreneurs who are doing their very best to provide a top notch product, mostly succeeding and like humans do, sometimes falling short.
I’ve been in the entrepreneurial game for a little while now, succeeding and failing, both as a business owner, and someone who helped run several small businesses. In fact, the majority of my work experience has been helping small business owners move forward. I have watched the struggle, been a part of it, facilitated change, taken the brunt of a bad situation, been screamed at on the phone, done countless repetitive and meaningless tasks.
Throughout my journey without Ivory House Photography, I’ve hired and fired, been unprepared for my tax bill and restructured how I pay myself. I’ve made decisions that altered revenue streams and generally done everything there is to do in the small business realm. And I’ve had lots of experience with clients, people who want to be clients, and people who I wish weren’t clients.
As I’ve shifted into the role of advising businesses, so many of my Ivory House experiences are coming in handy. So as I dive into some of this advice, let me be clear, you get the level of respect you allow, so this conversation goes both ways. Business owners need to clearly advocate for themselves and set up systems for clients to easily navigate through. But when all of that is working well, here are few simple strategies to help everyone enter into a win-win scenario!
Generosity has its limits
I am at a point in my career evolution where I get to start being picky about what I take on. I have lived through the “hunt and gather” stage and am now settling into maintaining steady growth and investing all my energy into my ideal clients and revenue streams. While I love to collaborate, I now understand that every hour has a dollar sign attached to it, whether I’m giving that dollar to you or taking it in. The extent to which you “give it away for free” is ultimately a very personal choice, but it takes a while to build up the habits of saying no. At some point, you start seeing your limits and recognizing that each “yes” has a silent “no” attached to it.
Example: As a small business owner, you will likely be approached regularly to donate to silent auctions for charity events. While I love supporting my community, I now have a monetary cap on the amount I will donate every year. Once the funds are allocated, I say no. These self-imposed rules help me stay true to my mission and ensure that I can feel truly grateful for the opportunity to help a worthy cause, rather than resentful of time and money walking out the door.
Pay your valued professionals for their time
When presented with a professional’s services and prices, don’t ask for a deal or special accommodation. Re-adjust what you are looking for or go find someone that is offering it at the price you want to pay. If your professional has done their job right, you are showing up to them because they are the best option and are EXACTLY what you’re looking for so when they show you their prices, be prepared to pay them or adjust your expectations.
I personally don’t “cut deals” but I do listen to my clients needs and desires and offer a variety of entry points for those truly interested in my services. For example, I have special rates for non-profits because I believe that this is a simple way I can give back to my community and I designed Unapologetically Extra specifically from client feedback and desire to shoot more frequently without doing huge damage to the wallet.
I find myself in the position as a consumer just as frequently as I am a business owner. The two go hand-in-hand. Upon finding out pricing from my preferred professional I have to pause and check my gut. Am I willing to pay that price? Is the dollar amount aligned with the value and importance this product or service while add to my life?
I realize that it’s up to me to decide whether I want to pay the price they are asking. It is not up to the client to assign value to a service. The business owner has set their bar. It’s up to you if the leap is worth the risk.
Don’t undercut the professional
I watch a lot of threads on social where someone will ask for a service. Let’s use embroidery for example. Modern Monogramming does an amazing job and she is dedicated to her craft. I would recommend her 100 times over to any ask for that kind of service, and when I see a thread where it’s relevant, I post her name. As I scroll through, I see a few businesses but I also see the inevitable hobbyist that says, “ I have an embroidery machine and I can do it for super cheap.”
Now, I love a good hobby, but if it’s not a full-time income or even a serious side hustle, what do you think that looks and feels like to the person putting in 70 hours a week on their craft and business? At the end of the day, the market will provide a price point for everyone. (Those who have their friend with a camera shoot their wedding, were never my client anyway) But it irks me when I see people undercutting professionals by using price as bait. I LOVE cooking, but I would never charge someone to make an excellent meal for them. Because The Grateful Chef does it SO much better and she puts all her time and energy into it creating a seamless experience for her consumers. And I respect the hell outta that.
Assume good intent
I’m pretty lucky. For the most part, my clients acknowledge my humanity and are pretty good about allowing me my shortcomings which often manifests in typos and incorrect links.
But I still find myself confronted by these nagging questions, Why didn’t you tag me, consider me, call me, invite me, etc? These questions can be answered one of two ways. A simple, I forgot because I had SO many other things on my mind and it was a complete oversight. Thank you for reminding me, you’re awesome. Or, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHY YOU WEREN’T INVITED?
I’m not sure what kind of answer this question is supposed to insight but if I could suggest a better way to approach a disappointment from a business owner:
“Hey friend, I saw this really awesome thing you were doing and was wondering how I get on the list to be considered for the next opportunity? Is there anything I can do differently to be top of mind or one of your go-to choices? “
This response will insight more respect from the business owner, and likely put you at the top of the list next time that potential invite is available.
Follow the rules
A good business will have a streamlined workflow and a clear pathway to move through their systems. If the pathway is set out and the emails and the links are available then follow the yellow brick road! This saves everyone a lot of time and repetition. BUT if you have done your due diligence and there is something missing, a frustrating gap in the process, then tell the business owner!
“Hey friend, I’m loving the experience with you, but you kind of left me hanging at this point in the process. Was it something I missed or can I suggest you do X to improve that experience.”
I LOVE this sort of feedback. It lets me know that my client is on my side, but paying attention to the nuances. I am not perfect. My businesses are not perfect, and I’m always looking for ways to improve processes to make information easy and accessible to my clients.
Trust the timeline.
Turn around times are tricky. I think anyone in a service based industry can relate. At Ivory House, we have a reputation for a pretty quick turn around time, but there are months (hello October) where I can’t promise my normal delivery times. It’s my job to communicate that this expectation directly and accurately to the clients, but then a little grace is needed. I’m super on the fence about, “where are we in the process” emails because I’ve sent them as a curious client too. What’s the boundary between being a nag and being helpful and assertive? I’m not sure, but I do know any nudge can be sent with a kind ton and the assumption that the business owner is doing their absolute best to meet your needs.
At the end of the day, remember that your favorite business owner is a person too. They have big lives and deserve to go on vacation and turn their phone off. You deserve to be properly notified and cared for, but everyone needs their space to be human. And their biggest human goal is likely to make the world a better place, for you and themselves.