I have learnt that feelings of being offended and upset has no place in business. It took me a long time to come to that realisation and an even longer time to actually practice that attitude.
I think it was so hard to accept this in the beginning because I was so excited to even have customers, that all I could focus on was doing everything in my power to make them happy. I was just grateful that someone wanted to give me the opportunity to make their cake/teach/present that I would just accept about anything.
As the demand for my work started to increase, I was working myself to the core and giving as much as the client requested. Design change at the last minute? Ok. Adding extra students into the class? Sure. Creating brand new designs just for one class? Ok. Client wants an extra cake tasting? Sure. Teaching 8 days in a row with no day off in between? No problem.
The problem with this is, when you start to give without asking for anything in return, people start to ask and expect more. And so clients started asking for more and it got to the point where what I was allowing myself do for them crossed the line of generosity over to the other side – I started to feel like a door mat. Feelings of being unappreciated, taken advantage of, and offence started to creep in and I started to resent all the extras I agreed to do.
I’ll admit, I got cranky. Conversations in my head sounded a lot like those whingers in one of those Facebook group pages (I know you have all seen those posts in those groups).
“I don’t know why I am even bothering to do this. They never appreciate how hard this is.”
“Clients never understand how much work goes into all of this.”
“I am not getting paid enough to deal with this.”
“It’s not fair that I now have to work almost twice as hard and I am not seeing any return.”
Let me tell you now that the problem was not all those clients and other people asking for more and more. The problem was ME. Yes, me. Because I agreed in the first place and ALLOWED those expectations. I had set that acceptable standard. They did nothing wrong. They just asked. There is no harm in asking and in fact I live by that rule everyday. It was my responsibility to set boundaries and reasonable expectations (just like you do with children and pets) and I had failed myself. It’s not the client’s fault. It was my responsibility to educate them and say no if needed.
I’ll never forget a particularly eye opening situation when a host for one of my classes asked me for a new design, advertised the class and then casually mentioned that they would like exclusivity for the class so that I could not teach it anywhere else until the class happens and then for half a year after the class.
By this time, I had already agreed to add extra students into the class at no extra cost so when that request came via email I got so frustrated and offended. Did they not see how much I have already agreed to give them? With my fixed rates, it meant that those extra students went straight to their bottom line. And now they wanted me to not make any money on that particular design for 4 months before the class started and 6 months after. That was 10 months that particular design was going to sit around.
I remember being offended at their audacity and I texted a cake friend of mine to get it off my chest. Really, I just wanted someone to have a pity party with me. But what I wasn’t expecting was this reply to “can you believe they are asking me that?”
“Sure, tell them it’s not a problem.”
“And that you will just need to charge extra for the exclusive rights. And then really CHARGE them for it. They are asking you not to make money on this design for almost a year.”
Wait what? What a perfectly acceptable situation that I somehow didn’t work out for myself. I remember this simple reply from my friend was almost like a revelation. Why was this not even an option for me before? Maybe because I was so focused on other people’s happiness that I forgot my own.
Charging for it meant that I could satisfy the request without resenting it. So simple, yet I never thought of it.
Suddenly it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest.
So I replied back with a price and my ‘terms’ for exclusivity. Surprisingly but not surprisingly, the host said they’d rather not have exclusivity after all.
Since then I have adopted that approach with everything. I no longer get offended or upset when someone asks for something. No matter how ridiculous. I have quickly learnt that there is a price for most things :).
If I walked into a car shop and told them I wanted to buy a car in pink and if it was not part of their standard colour range, you can bet they would agree and let me know the additional cost of getting it in pink. Vera Wang will personally design your wedding dress if she got paid enough. If I told the florist at my wedding I changed my mind and instead of bouquets I now wanted a whole wall of flowers, you can be sure she will give me an updated quote. When you book a seat on a plane but show up with your whole family, the airline will definitely ask you to buy a seat for all of them.
It’s common business practice yet it never occurred to me because I lacked the confidence and was so busy just being grateful for customers and exposure that I didn’t even stop to think how it was affecting my business and personal life.
So now, unless it’s something I really don’t want to do (which is rare) or can’t actually do, I think of how much it would take for me to be happy to do the request. Then I quote that. If they are happy to go ahead, great! If not, then no harm done to them or to me.
I highly encourage you to adopt the same practise 🙂