Business Relationships – My Tips!

Today I want to talk a bit about Business relationships, I’m often asked how to find clients, work with clients or deal with difficult situations, so here is my advice…

Equal Partners…

Like any other relationship, business relationships should be a partnership. This can be tricky when you’re starting out, trying to impress or make connections and you desperately want to prove yourself and get a foot in the door, often you’ll find yourself agreeing to crazy things just to get a ‘yes’ from that client you desperately want to secure “20,000? in a week? at cost price? oh go on then!” yup… been there! In the end, is it worth it? no! Set boundaries, work in a fair time, for a fair price (this isn’t always money – I’ll come to this later!) and make sure you get at least some of what you want out of it  (compromise is fine, backing down is not, don’t lose yourself) – also be realistic, if you don’t get everything done in that time and let that client down, thats the last you’ll see of them! Someone I admire in business told me that despite being offered a pretty big deal at the start of their business, one they really wanted, they turned it down but stayed in touch with that company, when they were properly ready they were on good terms with that client and had an impressive track record to be able to negotiate what they really wanted – win / win!

If you walk away feeling like you’ve been shortchanged, resentment will set in, you won’t do your best work and the relationship will become difficult. It’s also very difficult to negotiate up again once you’ve agreed to work under crazy conditions – why would they pay you more or give you more time when you’ve shown you can do it in less time cheaper?

It goes both ways…

When you’re more established, don’t push relationships from the other side squeezing people for every last penny or second you can – it will only create bad feeling and fraught relationships. I know some management styles are the very bossy / pushy / lead by fear ones and maybe that works for some in the short term (though it never has for me, I’ve always left any job / client / supplier that has made me feel like that) I find from my own experience the best way to develop relationships is on an equal footing, my team are fully part of the company and we work together, no suggestion is too small to listen to, we all learn every day – never make the mistake of thinking you’re too good / important / busy – to talk or listen to someone, I promise you, you aren’t, no one is! Over the last few years I’ve met some very successful business people, the confident, happy, secure ones will always speak to you and treat you as an equal, the insecure ones living in fear try to make you feel small, don’t be one of those ones! As they say – be nice to everyone on the way up because you might meet them on the way back down…

Don’t be afraid to walk away…

You don’t have to burn your bridges, just a simple ‘this doesn’t work for me right now but this experience / discussion / meeting has been invaluable, lets stay in touch and hopefully we can work together in the future’ is a powerful thing, it shows you can stay in control of your own destiny, that you’re confident and you have something to offer

Don’t push it…

In my experience if you have to push too hard, it’s not for you (yet!). Thats not to say you shouldn’t fight for it because you ABSOLUTELY should!! Getting where you want to be is extremely hard work, I won’t pretend it isn’t, but if you’ve tried something from multiple angles and you just aren’t making headway, if someone you need to engage is just not receptive to you or if you have that gut feeling that every time you try again you feel smaller and smaller and smaller, it’s time to walk away. That doesn’t mean it’s over forever though. You’ll often find as you become more experienced those doors open a little bit easier, just hop back a few a steps and try again! You’ll also find that those doors that just keep slamming in your face are not the ones you really want once you start making progress anyway – I always say things happen for a reason and if you’re being pushed away from something it’s usually guiding you towards something else thats better!

It’s not always about the money…

Not every good relationship is about the money. Thats not to say you should always work for free, of course we all have bills to pay and last time I checked, they won’t take publicity / art supplies / a mention on a blog as payment on account! However, in the beginning of your career, working for free is a great way to build up your client list and your supplies. I chose 3 companies I loved when I started out and offered my services for free, in return I got boxes of art supplies I couldn’t have afforded at the time, an impressive client list and lots of valuable experience! All of those also led in to being paid jobs for me at a later stage.

As you move on it can also be good to carve out a specific portion of time each month to do free stuff – maybe something for charity, an organisation, for good PR, in exchange for supplies or just because you enjoy it!

In their shoes…

Networking is a great way to meet people, this can be done at specific events (in the craft industry CHA UK organise some fantastic ones!) or just by getting in touch with people – social media makes this even easier for us now. People often email me to ask for advice on their crafts or business and I’m only too happy to help people wherever I can. However, if you do this then try putting yourself in their shoes, the cheeky and sometimes downright rude emails I get with messages like “how do I get your clients” to “this is urgent, please answer straight away” are most likely ignored!

Hold on tight…

Once you establish a good relationship, keep it! Sounds easy, right? It’s all too easy to let your regular people slip because something new and shiny comes along, so you put off your regular person to chase the new opportunity – bad move! Word spreads fast (faster than you realise!) and new clients will always look at your track record – be loyal to those who were loyal to you – thats not to say you can’t move on, but if and when you do, do so properly and respectfully.

and finally… Communication is key!

Looking for something specific? tell them. If your client thinks you just want to create something for them in exchange for supplies, thats probably all you’ll get. If you want promotion / guidance  / advice then tell them, most will only be too happy to help!

I really hope thats helped and answered lots of the questions I’ve had recently. I love hearing about the businesses you’re venturing in to, it’s a very exciting time! – don’t forget CHA-UK or CHA are great organisations if you’re starting out in the crafting world, sign up for lots of help and advice.

Thank you for dropping by today!

Sarah x

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