A Graphic Designer’s Business Insurance

706_2900In my line of work, I have shop policies that act as my insurance.  But what happens if something goes wrong with my computer?  What if it crashes?  If it crashed I can lose all my templates and my business goes down the drain.  That’s when I decided I didn’t want to take the risk and purchased a external back-up hard drive.

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At first I did some research.  Some bloggers use online programs to back up their computers for a monthly fee.  I strongly dislike having monthly bills, so I started researching the Time Machine that was built into my Mac.  I was sold.  Since the Time Machine is already installed on my Mac, all I needed to do was buy the external hard drive.  I hightailed it into town to Best Buy and spoke to the Apple Guru who pointed our two options for my Mac’s Time Machine.  One of them had a storage space of 500Gb (gegabytes) and the other had a storage space of 1 TB (terabytes).  Since I do a lot of work in illustrator, most of my files are large.  I usually do regular maintenance and clean out unused files to save space, but I could really see myself creating more and more files in the future.  So I played it safe and purchased the 1TB hard drive for around $80.00.

And just like that, I have a back-up if something were to happen.

Time Machine will automatically backup my files once a day.  And once the hard drive gets full, it will remove the oldest file first to make room for the new file.  I think it’s going to be several years before it starts deleting anything.

Now it sits next to my package weight machine on my desk.

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That weight machine is something I purchased way back in 2003, when I was 21 years old and wanted to have my own online stationery shop.  I hung onto it all these years thinking “One of these days, I’ll get to use it.”  I’m glad I kept it or else I would have had to buy another just to ship my orders out.

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There you have it.  This is how a Graphic Designer protects our templates if our computer crashed.

 

 

How to Deal With Upset Etsy Customers

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With any business, you’ll have a client once in a while that doesn’t like how you operate your business.  And sometimes… they’ll chew you out, cuss at you and blame you even though they agreed to how your business operates (or more so they say they do but in the end, they don’t).

You can’t prevent these situations from happening, but you can try.  I know those of you who are reading have different business’s than mine.  The following is how I operate a stationery business, but you can take away any of these tips and tricks and apply it to your own business as well.

With Etsy it’s important to have shop policies to avoid happy customers from being a happy client to a furious client within a heartbeat.  These policies are your protection if something goes wrong.  The policies I’m going to talk about with you today are the Design Policy, your Process (work flow), Shipping Information, FAQ’s, Refunds & Exchanges, Revisions & Proofs, Turn-Around-Time & Schedule, and any Scheduled Vacations.

Revisions & Proofs

Your Revisions & Proofs will cover any revision limitations, customizations and Do’s/Don’ts (and a few design policy FAQ’s).  It’s important that you limit yourself with revisions, or else you’ll have customers asking you to move an object a hair, and then to the right, then to the left, and then a centimeter, and then half a space.. and about 20 emails later they’re finally happy with the position of the object and your you’re hourly rate just got dropped to $0.10 an hour with all the revisions you had to make.  Did you like my run on sentence?  I thought so.

Point is, give your clients revision limits.  This way you can be paid what you think your hourly rate is worth for the work you do.  You need to outline your revision limits in your shop policy.  Think of how many times you want to work on one customers order, and how many times that will increase your hours of work.  Then divide it by what your profit will be.  You’ll find your hourly pay.. and you may be disappointed with how little your allowing yourself to be paid.  Unfortunately a lot of sellers on Etsy charges to little for their designs and it really hurts the Etsy stationery community.  Prices need to remain competitive and reasonable… the rest of us don’t want to work for free!

For the proofing process I ask that my clients review for any mistakes I made.  I work a good chunk of my day designing for clients, and a lot of the numbers and letters start looking the same.  Because of this, I hold my clients accountable to work together with me and proof read for any errors.  Just like a professional printer.  They’ll print it, but only if you review it for any errors first.  That’s what a proof is.  I create the first proof, and give clients two free revisions to make any changes and corrections.  After those two chances to fix/change anything have been exhausted, then they will need to pay extra for an additional revision.  I ask customers to invite their friends or loved ones to be included in the proofing process so they can catch any errors also.  Did you know that 8 out of 10, it’s usually a family member or a friend who catches the error, and not the purchaser?  True fact.  Happens all the time, and most of the time it’s the result of someone changing their mind about the wording or they wanted to add more words.

This is why getting a third party involved is such a huge critical step in the proofing process.  I’ve had clients after clients come back to me on their 2nd revision and said “Okay, I got so and so involved.. and we need to make some more corrections and add/change some more things!”  I’ve also had my share of clients who thought they didn’t need to involve anyone else, only to find that they come back and say “Dang it, I know you sent the PDF and I finalized it, but I just caught this error!”  My all time favorite ones are when there are printing errors because of certain reasons they couldn’t read the proof and approved it to print, or my number 1 reason why they approved it to print with an error is because they decided not to involve a third party in the proofing process.  Unfortunately for all these situations there is solutions available in the Refund & Exchanges section per my shop policies.

Process

Your Process lets customers know how you work.  It gives your customers a peace of mind that you’re working behind the scenes on their order as quickly as possible.  It also helps guide the customer through your business and your work-flow.  It helps protect you from answering unnecessary questions about when products will be ready, what are the next steps, and etc.  This saves yourself time and productivity hours from having to e-mail clients with answers all day.

Shipping Information

The Shipping Information covers how the package will be delivered, tracking number and shipping fee’s.  It also covers where you do not ship, and where you may ship (such as USA only).

Turn-Around-Time & Schedule

The Turn-Around-Time & Schedule gives your clients an idea as to when they can expect their proof.  I give a visual schedule so it’s easier for clients to figure out when they can expect to hear from me.  See example:

Our current turn around is three (3) business days.  Please allow three (3) days to work on any proofs and revisions.

Please see the schedule as to when you can expect your proof back by.

Order On…
Monday       —    receive by Thursday
Tuesday      —    receive by Friday
Wednesday —    receive by Monday
Thursday     —    receive by Tuesday
Friday          —    receive by Wednesday
Saturday      —   receive by Wednesday
Sunday        —   receive by Wednesday

The Schedule also repeats shipping times and scheduled ship days.

FAQ’s

FAQ’s are a list of often asked questions.  By including these in your shop policies, you’re cutting down on your e-mails and increasing your productivity time.

Refund’s and Exchanges

Refund’s and Exchanges covers exactly those two topics.  With any printed stationery business, there is no refunds aloud for printed orders.  Unless you want to pay for print jobs out of your pocket (since printers don’t do refunds), than you can go ahead and risk sinking your business and your house (if you help support your family with your income).  In this specific section I reiterate any of my Design Policy and Revisions & Proofs.  For stationery work, I act just like a professional printer will.  Both a professional printer and I will hold our customers accountable for any mistakes.  We both show a proof, and it if looks like the way we want it too, then we sign off on the print job and the print/sale is final.  With my line of work, there aren’t any refunds available.  If I haven’t started working on a project, then a refund is available.

I also don’t give refunds for PDF files.  Once I start working on an order, no refunds are given.  I need to be compensated for the time I invest in a project if a client backs down.  The same applies to DJ’s who are reserved for wedding events, event planners, entertainment equipment, chairs, and etc.  All of them request a non-refundable deposit to hold your date on their schedule.  Once the clients are happy with my proof and approve it to be printed, then I collect the balance and head to the printer.

Scheduled Vacations

I post my Scheduled Vacations at the top of my shop policies, in my receipts and shop announcements.  It’s all over the place to ensure that people are aware that I’ll be away.  When I go on vacation, I turn on my auto-responder and I also close my shop for the vacation with a friendly reminder.  Sometimes I can work orders while I’m away, other times I do not have access to a computer to work on orders.  But if I do work during my scheduled vacations, it’ll be rare.  Almost all my customers have been grateful that I was able to work on their order while they were away.  So far I’ve only had one client that was upset that I went on a vacation (even though I had it posted for a whole month).  She was well aware that I had a scheduled vacation, but if she refused to read my policies, announcement, or the receipt, than I can’t help her.

This is a reminder that I am a one-person show with Etsy (or sometimes two or more).  But in my Etsy Shop it shows that there is only one employee, which is me.  And my family and I reserve the right to take a little vacay, even if it’s only because we’re potty training.

Using your Shop Policies as Guidelines and Reminders

In my shop listings, I have this important sentence listed at the bottom,

——————————————-TERMS OF USE——————————————-
Please note every monitor and printer is color calibrated differently. Color may vary slightly from that seen on the screen. Paper type may also affect color.

By purchasing your custom design invitations, you agree and adhere to the shop policies listed in our shop policies section.

I also have a custom variable set up that automatically says “Shop Policies Read: Yes.”  Meaning that when a customer purchases my listing, the purchase is marked with a “Yes” that they read my shop policies.  I consider this as a legal binding agreement.

As with any business, it is a learning curve.  I do change my shop policies as I grow and learn what works best for both me and my clients.  However, I don’t change the shop policies just because I don’t want to work with a client.  I stick to my policies to a T.  If I made a mistake that my shop policies do not cover, I’ll work my best to fix the error.  After the issue has been resolved, I’ll change my shop policies to protect myself and other clients from going through the same situation again.

However, about 4 out of 10 of my clients do not read the shop policies.  Most of the time it’s just a small reminder that I give them before we proceed, and they’re okay with it.  I’ve only had one unhappy customer who refused to abide by the shop policies after her print order was received.  She had the opportunity to read the policies before she ordered, and she had the opportunity to have a third party proof read her proofs.  But as a shop owner I can’t make my clients read the agreement, and this is why I have these policies set in place.  These policies are to avoid any unnecessary headaches and to protect clients from frustration or having an unhappy experience.  If a client disagrees with my shop policies and how I operate my business, then these shop policies become my insurance policy.  They are what I reference when rules can’t be bent.

And if all the above Fails

If all the above methods fail and your client is still not satisfied, then try to keep your cool under pressure.  Especially if they start taking personal jabs at you and sending a mouth full of cuss words your way.  I admit, I fold when someone attacks me personally (especially attack me for spending time with my family) and I stick up for myself and I stand by my shop policies.  Just a word from the wise, being an as* to anyone (specifically a business) will not progress your situation to have a happy resolution.  It will only get you closer to getting the boot out the door.

As a seller, when you get to the point that you realize you’re repeating yourself for the third time, that’s when you need to pull the plug.  You’ll have to make the executive decision that sometimes you can’t win all clients over with your favor, no matter how hard you try.  You have to stay true to yourself and to your shop policies.  You’ll have to decide that the work relationship isn’t working, and that the two of you won’t be able to resolve the issue and you both must go on your separate ways.

But here’s what to do the first time this situation arises when a client is unsatisfied with your shop policies and solutions.

First, you gently remind them about the section in the shop policies that talks about the situation and how this can be resolved.

Second, if they reply back and if they take a personal jab at you and your business, you either fold over like I do at times and stick up for yourself and your business policies, or you apologize for the experience that they’re having and say:

“At this point, there’s nothing more I can do for you other than what is suggested in the Refund & Exchange section per the shop policies”

Third, If they reply and still send a bunch of more mouthful of cuss words/personal jabs/stuff your way with their personal opinions on how you operate your business… then you say this (or if you’re like me, you fold over and stick up for yourself and your business and then say this..):

Since you aren’t satisfied with the only options I have available to resolve the issue, I please ask you to no longer message me about this issue.

Finally, And if they still reply back to you in the most hateful manner, even if they agree they won’t contact you again, than that’s when the Etsy harassment team will step in.  Etsy has a policy in place for harassment.  As a seller you can ask people to stop contacting you, and if they reply back, than you can report them.  Etsy will step in and prevent the user from contacting you again.  I view this like virtual police.  If someone has a brick and motor store and has a client that is unsatisfied with any of the resolutions you have to fix the problem per your store policies, then you can ask them to leave.  And if they won’t leave and cause more of a headache… you have someone kick them out of your store.  Such as the store security guard or the police.  As for Etsy, they have a team that can block people from contacting you again.

What I learned from this situation

What I learned is to hold my tongue and don’t let my clients push my hot buttons.  Each situation is unique, but in this situation I probably could have ended it once and for all with the second reply using my third tip (from above) – based off of the response I was receiving from the client.  When conversing with an angry client, you’ll have to walk through gentle waters and make the decision if you want to pursue the conversation further, or put a halt to it immediately.

Heads Up: When you’re working with a custom designed stationery or a template, you need to always proof read the whole entire file for any errors and always read the fine print, aka “the agreement/shop policies”.