The picture above is probably one of the most accurate representations of me that I have ever seen. I am a people-pleaser; always have been, probably always will be. I remember from an early age always being concerned if someone was upset with me, or wanting to do the best that I could to not disappoint people, especially those I cared about.
Over the years, those tendencies have caused me problems: I’ve agreed to things that I probably didn’t want to do just to make someone else happy. I spent a lot of years not showing my geeky/nerdy side because I didn’t want to be a disappointment to my parents. I’ve learned some from these quirks – but, even though I have made progress in some areas, this is a fundamental part of my being.
I struggle with the line to walk between trying to get my fledgling business off the ground and my inherent nature as a people pleaser. In some aspects being a people pleaser works for customer service, it helps me relate to my customers and make sure they are getting the perfect Lil’ Luvvie. In some respects, being a people pleaser is the worst thing for a business owner. To help others in the same situation as me, I have come up with some lessons one needs to know in the dual role of business owner and people pleaser: Lord knows I have not mastered these lessons, but I am trying to take notes and share my experiences with you.
Lesson #1 – Don’t hand over the product until you have payment in hand
You probably read this and laugh. Haha! “That’s just basic business,” you might say. Or, “but that it common sense.” I would say in most cases you would be right, but not for a people pleaser…and not for all types of people.
If you have a dear friend or a family member ask for a product, chances are you know that person well enough that you want to make them happy and hope that they will provide referrals to you, same as with any customer; but, you have the added complexities of family and friendship. You don’t want the person to think you don’t trust them. You know they are good for the money. You know that they will come through for you, you aren’t really worried.
But, sometimes, those who know us people pleasers well enough know that we are exactly the ones that won’t be pushy and won’t demand payment. Sometimes this isn’t intentional from the friend or family member, but can happen nonetheless.
To avoid this pitfall, the best thing is to try to treat everything as a business transaction: At the end of the day, that is what you are running….a business. It’s a matter of presenting this to the family member in a way that they understand you aren’t singling them out, this is just how you do business.
Lesson #2 – Find your voice
This is the lesson I am really struggling with right now.
I am a self-professed nerd/geek and I love comic books and superheroes and all those awesome things, but when it comes to my art, I don’t really enjoy making them. For me, there is too much expectation when it comes to characters that are based on iconic images. Let’s be honest, today you are going to be able to find a hundred different Iron men plushies: Many of those are going to be commercially made and mass produced. While my version is adorable and good in its own right, it cannot compare with what a professional production line can produce – in finish nor in price. Plus, everyone has their own expectations of what those characters should look like (and that can be a lot of pressure).
I keep making these items because I know that as a self-loving nerd, I should want to share these with the world: As an artist and stuffed animal creator, my passion is for animals and fantasy. I love making simple bears and dragons and unicorns and voodoo dolls. To me, those items are more unique and from the heart than the superhero genre: But, I keep making the others because those who I trust tell me those will sell, or those will get me business. I am working on breaking that mold. You may see the nerdy offerings fall off and the fantasy increase.
Lesson #3 – It’s okay to say “no”
Yep, I haven’t learned this one, yet. I do try to follow this, but just not so good at it.
I often have people who will ask me “oooh, can you make this?” I hate to tell them no.
Sometimes I legitimately have to say no because it is a pattern or a stitch that I don’t have or cannot master – I actually had to cancel a custom order not that long ago because the pattern was much more difficult than I projected and I couldn’t get the Luvvie done. I was so embarrassed at having to make that admission: However, if I would have thought about it more in the beginning, I probably would have turned down the request in the beginning. The customer was awesome about it, but it was a blow to my self-esteem and was something that I dwelled on for weeks after.
And, it is also important to say “no” if you start spreading yourself too thin. If you get sick or injure yourself from too many hours of work, you aren’t going to be able to say yes anyhow, and in the end taking care of you is the most important goal.
Lesson #4 – You have to charge what you are worth; don’t undervalue yourself.
Another work in progress lesson. I’m sure you can tell from the time we have spent together that I don’t have the world’s greatest self-esteem: I second-guess myself, I never like what I have created…I am a constant perfectionist. These personality traits make it difficult to have a successful business, but coupling that with being a people-pleaser? Oh bother!
One of the things I struggle with is setting prices. I hate it.
On one hand, I don’t want to set the price too low and make it seem like my product is inferior or that I am not proud of what I create. On the other hand, I don’t want to set the prices so high that no one can afford them. For several of my early items, my family would get on me because I barely covered the cost of the materials for the Luvvies, let alone make any small profit.
It has gotten to the point that when I am going to offer a product for sale, I start asking opinions from trusted friends and family and then use the average cost suggested as my price point. There actually have been times that someone has asked me the cost of something and I’ve winced when I had to tell them how much: Not that it was really that high of a price, I just felt badly about it. But, at the end of the day, it is a business: I’m not doing this to create the next FAO Schwartz or anything, just to keep me in yarn and patterns, but I have to make sure that I am at least covering those costs if nothing else.
Lesson #5 – If it becomes more stressful than fun, it probably is time to move on
No….just to be clear, I am not at this stage by any means; however, it is a conversation I have had several times with my best friend.
I started crocheting to relieve stress and anxiety, not to cause it.
I started the business because I couldn’t keep all the stuffed animals I was making.
Do I have anxiety over the business end of thing? Sometimes. Do I ever feel anxiety to get something completed because of a deadline? Sometimes. But those two “sometimes” are vastly outweighed by the fun that I have. Even just going to some of the comic cons to vend and to meet people has been a great gift that having the business has afforded me above what I normally might have imagined.
So, there are some changes I need to make to the business side: I need to evaluate what I am going to sell, what I am going to make, if I continue with custom orders, but at the end of the day I have an absolute blast doing this. If ever there is a continued stretch of time that I have more anxiety or frustration over things that the enjoyment – when the “sometimes” become “frequents” or “all the times,” I already know I have the ability to walk away, I don’t want to get to that point, so learning the first three lessons is critical to long-term success.
Lesson #6 – Please yourself
It is such a cliche, but it is so very true that I had to include this lesson. Full disclosure, I am terrible at this, absolute rubbish. But, by the same token, I know that I need to work on this. The business will not succeed if I am not happy – the whole point of Luvvies is to sell friends and happiness to people. Have you ever seen Like Water for Chocolate? While the heroine’s cooking varied and had much more magical properties than what my crochet has the basic concept is the same. I stitch love into everyone of my Luvvies – if I am in a bad mood, my stitches and hence the animal reflect that, which can rub off on the person who receives the Luvvie – and no one wants a sad or mad Luvvie.
So, I keep working to bring the business to where I want it to be while attracting customers. I am a work in progress, and I am learning these lessons as I go – but, maybe if we learn together and work to build each other up we can all be the better for it.
Hugs and cuddles,