I have been in one sort of customer based job or another for the last 25 years and whilst currently 98% of my customers are lovely people, the Christmas period tends to bring the worst out in customers. Over the years I have just had about heard everything, had every threat and insult thrown at me and the one thing it has taught me that when a customer is being rude, aggressive and/or intimidating is that they are rarely in the right and they know it! But I’m not easily intimidated. Then there are the ones with the fantastical stories about how the universe has done them a great injustice because a parcel was lost in the post, like I’m too stupid to see when I’m scammed and can’t do anything about it! Or the ones who give an over the top sob story to obtain a discount. Or the persistent customer who wants you to do something at your cost for no reason other than they cannot take no for an answer, something they would never try with a massive corp because they’d be laughed out-of-town or ignored. Or the customers who asks a specific question and you give them an answer and they still ask again expecting a different answer! And yet we’re all supposed to do this whilst remaining calm with a cheery smile on our faces and well no. I constantly have to remind myself that no money is better than losing money because even if you have zero in the bank your still in the black!
But the customer I’ve had to deal a lot with lately is the one who expects something for nothing and as a self-employed creative, we all know that our work is really not valued by some, hence the clickbait title of this post. I ranted recently on Twitter about a customer who tried to get more discount on an already heavily discounted item and to also reduce the postage effectively leaving me out-of-pocket! A few months ago someone sent me a one lined messaged me to say that ‘the postage is too expensive ;)’ I explained that I don’t make profit on postage and that is how much it is. The item was also on discount. She then told me that she wanted the item because it reminded her of her childhood and other sellers were more accommodating, no please, no thank you, just a thinly veiled attempt at emotional bribery. When I refused to back down she bought it anyway, got me to send it to a friend, then got her friend to send it to her and then left me poor feedback saying the item was lovely but the customer service was borderline aggressive!! Would you write to some big chain corp asking for a discount because an item you loved reminded you of your childhood using poor grammar and emojis and expect them to give you a discount? No!
I hear similar stories from other sellers where people try to squeeze as much as possible out of them for as a little as possible. Artists who are expected to work for free because all they did was write a few words or drew a few lines is but somehow can’t managed to do it themselves, and despite being given more than polite service are reduced to responding in abusive ways, like they are owed something. Or the real kicker, I’ll share it with my followers so you’ll get exposure and therefore the possibility of more work. Look, I see people with 40 thousand followers still not making ends meet, exposure doesn’t guarantee work especially if your followers are anything like you. We are not massive corporations making massive profits and therefore cannot afford to accommodate your ridiculous demands, some of us are living on the bread line if we’re lucky. We barely make profits on what we do to keep up with the competition, many artists have their work stolen by chain brands who then get cheap knock off items produced in China and then sell it for cheaper knowing that most artists can’t afford the legal fees, and yet we’re all supposed to do with a smile because the customer is right!
Something I’ve heard at craft markets/fairs a lots (and I think we’re all probably guilty of this one even if we’ve just thought it) is ‘I can make that for less!’ or they closely inspect your goods with screwed up noses like you can’t see them, or the slightly loud mutter of that’s way to expensive! And in all these areas you are entitled to your opinion but invalidating someone’s work with an off-hand comment is basically inconsiderate and just plain rude. But ask yourself this is it really too expensive or are you just cheap? Is it expensive because you financially can’t afford it or because you don’t actually think it’s worth the time and effort that someone put in to it?
Yes Brenda you might be able to make that item that you so casually picked up and flung back on the table like a worthless piece of tat but how well could you make it? And are you willing to sit down and learn the techniques required to make that item to the standard that this item has? Are you willing to fork out the money for the supplies? Let me tell you craft supplies are not cheap especially if you want quality products. Do you also take into cost factors other that materials, such as the labour cost, electricity, heating, transport, etc. There is a reason an item is a pound in the pound shop! You’ve basically told that person that you don’t value their work, which yes again you don’t have to and even if their work is not a great as standard as someone elses, well we all have to start somewhere, no one is born amazing at what they do it takes time, effort and practice.
There isn’t a week that goes by where there isn’t some sort of blogger drama. Some think that blogging is not a real profession, that bloggers are just after freebies. This is mostly bullshit! As always there are some blaggers out there wanting to score a freebie but to be honest it appears that the people who mostly want something for free are the reps of the brands or companies who never seem to have any money in their budget to cover the cost of the work. Oh and my favourite, do it for the exposure! If I want exposure I’ll run down the bloody street naked! Exposure does not pay the rent! Exposure does not feed us. So if you don’t have a budget, then I suggest you do it yourself. I’ve seen fellow bloggers who think new bloggers should work for free and earn their way up the ladder like they did but I disagree.
Blogging has changed a lot through the years, yes anyone can do it but as the means of communication change and the we work has changed, to tout our services a lot of us are reliant on social media. We can create our own exposure but many bloggers are providing what basically is a service and you should be paid according to how well you provide that service, not how long you’ve been in the business. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years who were paid three times what I was and couldn’t tell the difference between their arse and their elbow. People should be paid for their worth but then how do we define that?
What one person deems worthy another will see it as worthless, it partly down to experience, how many times have you muttered to yourself through a job that it’s not worth your time or effort? It’s also partly down to what we as a society are taught what and who is worthy which is why some job sectors are revered more highly than others but a service is a service and if you want someone to do something because you either don’t want to do it or don’t have the skills to do it yourself, then you should either pay for it or sit down and be quiet!
But having spent 25 years in customer service based jobs I have learned one thing and that is my worth. To quote Marvel’s Agent Carter ‘I know my value!’ and I always tell myself this when a customer is being difficult, trying to wear me down, or I think that by standing my ground or telling the truth that I might come across as unprofessional but I will not be taken advantage of. I chose to become self-employed because I believe that I can do it. Being self-employed creative means I have to work twice as hard to convince people I have a ‘proper job’, nearly four years in and some people still think I can drop things at whim and swan off to do their bidding! Um no! I still work in the same professional capacity as everyone else, in fact even longer hours sometimes but just because I enjoy what ~I do doesn’t mean that I should do it for free or that it’s not a proper job! Case in point my husband is a freelance programmer, no one really ever questions whether he has a proper job or not or how much he should be paid because IT is seen as a profession but creative work is pretty much seen as a hobby!
So next time to you go to engage a service and you baulk at the cost, is it because you can’t afford it or are you just cheap? Because let me tell you straight up, we are not expensive but we will certainly never be cheap regardless of how you value our work.