As independent business owners, we’ve all been there – responded to an email knowing that something about this enquiry just isn’t quite right.
From our experience, the red flags often look a lot like the following but there are ways to make sure you take hold of the situation before that flag is no longer ‘waving’ and is literally wrapped around your head!
If you meet someone for the first time it’s likely you’re going to introduce yourself and share a bit of background? Yes? So when an email enquiry opens with ‘what do you cost,’ the alarm bells are instantly ringing. Not taking the time to share important details often suggests these enquiries are simply blanket emails and you’re not necessarily their preferred choice. Rubbish we know.
In this case direct them to a place where they HAVE to answer the questions you need, such as your contact form or through some form of questionnaire. If they’re serious about working with you, they’ll take the time to respond. If they don’t or won’t?
If an enquiry lands and they’re asking you to replicate a design, image or service that isn’t your own, then you should be on high alert.
It suggests that they either:
A) Haven’t researched what you offer
B) Don’t fully understand what you offer
C) Just need someone to replicate a ‘pin’ on their Pinterest board
Stand firm on this. You’ve no doubt worked really hard on creating a signature style so kindly respond by directing them to a gallery of your work and explaining that you’d love to work with them by creating something truly unique.
Now, this is a tricky one. If we’re upset about a previous experience then we’ve every right to share this information. However, if a potential client spends more time speaking negatively about a competitor than they do about how you can help, it might raise a red flag.
Always get super clear on what you can and can’t do and don’t make any false promises. Empathise with their situation but try not to comment on the ins and outs of their previous situation – we can never really know what went on behind the scenes.
This is one which we definitely struggled with in the early stages of our business. Choosing random times to communicate and not sticking to agreed deadlines will ALWAYS be a major obstacle.
If you’ve taken the time to respond to an enquiry and you are having to wait longer than you’d like for a response OR emails are sporadic at best, it’s going to be difficult to fulfil expectations.
Make it clear when you expect to hear from them and set your own deadlines. Projects can completely break down if you don’t receive info at specified times so if you’re already noticing this, then nip it in the bud now!
“We love your work but can you knock off this bit?”
It would be so easy to say yes and to ignore the little red flag waving in the corner but this is almost always a sign that your services are out of budget. Changing up your service depending on what people can and can’t afford to pay becomes confusing and it will dilute your offering.
In these cases it’s best to outline what you can do and don’t feel that you have to explain the value in your service – you don’t need to do the ‘hard sell.’ There will always be someone out there who can suit a particular budget so stick to your guns.
As hard as it may be, if the alarm bells are ringing and there are signs that a particular project is going to be a nightmare, then it really is time to be open and honest. You’ll find that projects like these will exert so much time and energy with very little reward, so trust your instinct and be transparent!
We often like to post tips and guidance for small creative business owners over on our Instagram page so if you’re not following us we’d love to see you over there!
See you soon
Hannah and Toby xx