Let me set the scene.
I’m at work (because I still have a day job *sigh*), and I hear the cha-ching of an Etsy sale coming from my phone. I am still quite new to the Etsy game so each cha-ching still fills me with schoolgirl excitement. I do a little happy dance in my chair and my colleague leans over and asks, “What are you so happy about?” A conversation ensues where I tell her about my online business and all the things I make, I show her a few pictures and she ooohs and ahhhs in all the right places.
But then she says the words I always dread after a conversation like this, “Oh, well you can make me a father’s day card then.”
Now, I know you’re probably thinking, Hey cool, you made yourself sale – you go girl! But here’s where the water gets a little muddy: What she actually meant was, “Oh, well you can make me a father’s day card for free then… obviously I won’t be paying you; I know you!” And I know that this was the true meaning of her statement because, sensing my discomfort, she went on to suggest that if I made her the card, she would do me a favour in return.
Hobbycraft accept cash, all major credit and debit cards, and gift cards.
The whole conversation left me feeling a little grimy and disappointed, because people are only so bold when it comes to home businesses. If I ran a shop (dream big people!) she wouldn’t walk in and say to my employee, “Hey, I know the owner so I’m just going to take these.” or “Don’t worry I know the owner, so I’m going to take this and then next week I’ll babysit her kids for an hour.”
And this is someone I work with, not even someone I deem to be a friend. As for my actual friends, they are easily divided into two categories; the ones who are just like my colleague and expect something for nothing (good old mates rates!) and the ones who are not.
Take my best friend for example: She asked me to make her two cards. I was going to do them for nothing, because she is my oldest, truest friend and is more like family than a lot of my actual relatives. But do you know what she said to me? “Charge me properly, please. No mates rates. I want to pay you what you deserve.”
At first I felt a little odd sending her an invoice but not only did she pay, she actually gave me extra as a tip. When I thanked her, she said, “This is how it should be; you’re running a business and don’t expect any special treatment. Period.”
I have another good friend, who offered to pay me for a couple of cards I made for her, but I refused. She has since ordered two more, but has insisted on being charged the full amount for both this time.
She admitted that she didn’t feel at all comfortable with me making the first two for free, as she knows a lot of time and money went into them.
These are true friends in my eyes. These are the people who understand me, what I do, why I do it and what I’m trying to achieve.
Now this is very paradoxical because a huge part of me wants to give those friends a discount (at the very least!) precisely because they are willing to pay the full amount. I want to reward them for their friendship, but they won’t let me! And you know what? Rightly so.
As unnatural as that feels to someone like me (I can be magnanimous to a fault at times!) I am starting to believe that is exactly how it should be. Otherwise, you will be using up valuable time and resources making freebies for your friends, when perhaps, from a business perspective, those resources and that time would be better spent on paying customers.
Potentially, when you’re starting up, a lot of your sales will be to people you know, as they’re the easiest people to reach and they will want to help you on your way. But if they truly want to help, then these transactions should indeed be SALES, and not freebies. And they should pay what your products/services are worth. Their investment in you is not only a great advert but also a great confidence booster; it shows you that they believe in you, and it will persuade others to believe in you too.
When I make it big and I have a chain of stores (a girl’s gotta have a dream!), I will absolutely have a friends and family discount, but while I’m in my start-up phase, perhaps mates rates is something that is best left on the shelf.
And I think true friends will not only understand that, but encourage it.
What do you think?