As a small business owner for two years this Summer, I've learnt the odd thing about what to expect, what comes as a surprise and a whole heap about customer service. Running a business is difficult, it's not all creating lovely things and making loadsa cash, in fact it's quite the opposite a lot of the time. With that in mind, here's a few notes on dealing with a small businesses, from a small business owner.
1. It's just one person.
Small businesses tend to be run by one single person. That's one person answering your emails, processing your orders, posting your products, chasing up your payments, doing your invoices and filing their tax returns. And that's in amongst everything else they have to do. Trust me when I say we're working flat out as quick as we can to deal with your request but we put deadlines on things for a reason; there's only one of us.
2. We have lives outside work.
Unfortunately for a lot of us, our small business isn't our only job. I don't work a traditional 9-5 and yet I'm making money from my blog and my freelance illustration alongside stationery on my Etsy shop. As much as we'd love to send your orders next day, chances are we just ain't going to make it down the post office by closing. Please don't make us feel shit because we have a 3 day processing time on your cards.
3. Help us out as much as you can.
Whether that be sending us as much information as humanly possible in your initial email to sending us photos to help us design to leaving us a nice review at the end of the process - your help means the world. It means we can get the job done quicker and means you're more likely to be satisfied with the service at the end. Shoutout here to one of the easiest jobs I've worked on; Effi for sending me a full on mood board with her project. The more you give us the less emails we have to go back and forth the quicker we can get on and get your job done.
4. Read the small print.
If we send you a terms and conditions page please read it, chances are it's got the answers to the questions you're about to send us on it and will save us and you a lot of bother further down the road. If we send you details of what name to make cheques out to or PayPal emails, please just take that extra 30 seconds to check it's right. If our terms include paying extra for tracked postage and you don't select it, please don't email asking why you can't see tracking on your order. It just cancels out the awkwardness.
5. Pay on time.
Literally the most important rule when working with a small business; pay your owings on time. It's easy to forget when we buy things online all the time without a second thought that we're not a big corporation, we're a single person and your money means we can order more stock, pay our bills and fill up our cars. Please don't forget to pay, please don't take it to the wire, for the love of god don't try and get out of paying altogether - it's insanely awkward for us to come back to you chasing money and it makes our lives difficult.
6. Remember it's a real person behind the business name.
This is the crux of the matter; we are real people. When you're emailing me, when you're waiting for your order, when you're complaining, when you're being rude, when you're giving shit reviews for something that was out of my control - don't forget it's just a twenty something girl behind the screen you're yelling at who is trying to make a go of a small business. Don't be rude, don't be an arse hole if something went wrong because you didn't read the small print, don't be a dick when I chase you up for payment, it's me, I'm a real person and you have got to remember you're not dealing with big business, you're dealing with a small one and it's a whole different customer relationship.