My own business journey has been a long one, and I have had to grow, and grow up, in so many different ways. I have had to take criticism on board (sometimes rather grudgingly, I am afraid), consistently review and refine my delivery, whilst continuing to reassess exactly what it is all about; in my role as an intuitive consultant, I offer a service rather than a product, and I need to be absolutely rock solid in my mind about the nature and purpose of that service… which isn’t always as easy as it sounds!
I am also a self-published writer (though not one who is getting rich anytime soon!), and that journey has been a massive learning curve. Currently, I haven’t attracted a single critical 1-star review on Amazon, but that is because I haven’t yet risen above the level of the writing-world-bottom-dweller… but hopefully, it will come, when I have more books out there and have worked on making myself more visible! All of the greats have their outspoken critics, and I believe that it is an unavoidable part of the journey toward success. So, even though I am incredibly grateful for my 5-star reviews, there ain’t any laurels being rested upon around here!
Anyway, back to the title of this blog: Self-employed? Are difficult customers holding you back? Don’t be afraid to trim!
This week, I finally learned a lesson I should have learned years ago; difficult customers rarely, if ever, become decent, much valued customers. The warning signs are usually there, right from the start. If you are lucky, they will eventually clear off to bug someone else, leaving you to breathe a sigh of relief. However, if you have done your absolute best to be patient and helpful, despite the fact that your heart sinks every time they show up or make contact with you, the difficult customer will gleefully view that as permission to demand a mile for every single inch you give. This kind of person is not good for your business, or your sense of self-worth, or your emotional state, or your finances. No matter how broke you are, not all business is good business… and I should know, having sold myself so cheaply in the past, because I ‘needed’ the money! And I am sorry, but the customer is not always right!
So, what was the straw that finally broke the poor old camel’s back? Well, it was the actions of one particular individual, who had continued to come to me with her excessively messy life, persisting in making decisions that were absolutely not helping her, whilst repeatedly asking the same questions, over and again. She wasn’t obviously stupid, had what would be considered to be quite a good job… but I was increasingly repelled by her ‘energy’, even though she sent me flattering, pleading emails, telling me how much she valued the service, and how I was the only one who had helped her. Every now and then I would firmly state that I would no longer take her money or go over the same old ground again, and ask her not to purchase further services from my website. She would plead, and I would relent. Now, for the ‘just take the money’ brigade, that wouldn’t have been a problem; however, for me, the intense negativity, and the fact that it was making a mockery of the business I had worked so hard to develop, I dreaded seeing her emails dropping into my inbox.
To cut a long story short, after a gap of a few blessed weeks, she very recently purchased from me again… instructing me to hear her out… before asking something I had covered more times than I can count. I was exhausted, not feeling at my best to say the least – and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I refunded her payment, explaining that I just didn’t have the energy or the will to continue in this way… and without another word, she immediately opened 4 cases against me, through Paypal. The cases all related to past transactions, even though she had continued to purchase from me after the stated dates, which of course made it obvious that she was merely seeking revenge. Luckily, the people at Paypal are pretty good at sussing these things out, and I knew I could rely upon them. However, they did tell me that they were refunding those payments to her, and sucking up the cost themselves, because it was cheaper and less time consuming than allowing it to drag on – but that they were also reviewing the situation, in case she made a habit of this behaviour.
As I write this, I feel relieved that I no longer have to deal with the situation (though I am a little miffed that she is undeservedly getting her money back, courtesy of Paypal, just to make her go away… and, yes, I do know that I need to let that one go!), but the funny thing is, over the previous weeks, I had already started a bit of a ‘cull’, in that I had been starting to disconnect myself from the handful of customers who create more pressure, angst, discomfort and negativity, than the rest put together. It is the old 80/20 rule, isn’t it? Eighty percent of my business problems coming from twenty percent of the customers (maybe not exact figures, but thereabouts, anyway)! And even though I am self-employed, and cannot afford to turn away from money, I would rather give it all up and do something else, than to have to continue to feel compromised by individuals who are more trouble than they are worth. And this morning I increased my prices! Yes, I will probably lose a few customers, but I might also gain a few, as well. Generally speaking, the difficult ones tend not to want to pay a decent price (is what my 25 years’ of experience has shown, at least).
I don’t expect business life to be all moonlight and roses; I don’t believe that I shouldn’t be exposed to stress, strain or struggle – but I do believe that I have earned the right to say no, when I deem it necessary. What is the point of becoming self-employed, taking all of the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the quiet and the busy times, whilst working hard to deliver the best service I am able to, if I have no choice other than to be at the mercy of every awkward and demanding nuisance who believes that they have a God given right to call every last shot? The answer is, there IS no point!
So, remember – as long as you can say, with hand on heart, that you are definitely giving the best that you have to give, and that you are satisfied with the way in which you are delivering your products or services, and that you have defined the heart and soul of the business that you have taken the time and energy to create and develop, you do not have to sell your soul to the devil! I have been, in the past, that person who gave her skills and talents away for peanuts – and guess what I attracted? Yep, you got it… monkeys! Why? Because I didn’t believe in myself enough, or in the value of the service I was offering. The world of business is one in which we never stop learning, and one in which we can continue to grow – not just financially, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually, too. Amen.