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Hey, listen... You gonna buy that?
May 28, 2011 6:43 PM   Subscribe

What's a professional way to let a customer (or even a potential customer) know that they're taking advantage of your kindness with their assumption that "try before you buy" is a given?

I'm a freelance designer that specifically markets wares on websites like Etsy and Artfire. Every now and then I'll get a customer who wants to see a sample proof of what one of my pre-made designs would look like with their shop name and tag-line prior to purchasing said pre-made design. I usually don't mind doing the edits and sending them a watermarked proof, but lately I've had a slew of customers who don't understand that they need to purchase the design in order to customize it beyond the initial proof, and now my desire to be, you know, accommodating, has been backfiring. I'd honestly rather lose the customer sometimes than make the sale because the situation is not under my control anymore.

What should be my policy on this from the get-go, and if I get myself into this situation again, what's a nice but professional and assertive way to gently push these customers back and let them know that a purchase is necessary prior to full customizations? The latest customer I've been working with inadvertently got me to do five different iterations of one design and she still hasn't purchased anything and I just feel stupid about it. This is really a personality flaw on my end and I gotta nip it in the bud because it's costing me money and resources.
posted by iLoveTheRain to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Charge them a nominal fee for a proof. A couple of bucks for a watermarked proof; it's not so expensive that people will refuse it, but they'll think twice about asking for a bunch of proofs if they have to pay for them.
posted by headspace at 6:47 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I were in your position I would evaluate how many of your potential customers/customers operate in this manner. If, let's say, 10% expect this, and you can live without whatever business this brings, just establish a policy that says "you are free to see samples of my previous work, but custom work at any level must be contracted for".

A customer that wants "free" isn't a customer, it is a sucking sound.

As a business person, I would never expect a creative firm to provide me with free samples.
posted by tomswift at 6:50 PM on May 28, 2011


Charge a non-negotiable fee to do the customized proof. At the outset, clearly state what work will be covered by that fee (example: you will deliver a watermarked proof, up to x number of variations or revisions, you retain all rights). As a bit of marketing, you can offer a small discount if the purchaser of a proof goes through with a full order.

There's no shortage of people who will happily let you work for free for them. There's also no shortage of people who think creatives exist on doing things for the love of it rather than, you know, getting paid. Say no to all of them, they will move on to someone else willing to indulge them and leave you room to attend to your paying customers.
posted by jamaro at 6:54 PM on May 28, 2011


If customers ask for free customizations, I would simply show them past work that you have done, and how you that customized that work for that particular customer.

What I mean by this is that you should give potential customers three different versions of a design: the pre-made design; the pre-made design with just a past customers name/tag line; and the final customized design you did for that customer (after they paid).

I feel that this will clearly show potential customers the "evolution" of your design process. Now all you have to do is say something like, "it is my policy not to make any changes to the pre-made design until a contract is negotiated, but *here* you can see past customizations I have made to (insert pre-made design)." Just a suggestion.
posted by lobbyist at 7:07 PM on May 28, 2011


"Customized proofs: $50 (refunded with purchase)"
posted by rhizome at 7:12 PM on May 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Also, make sure to put it on your store policy pages of those two sites. I would be happy to help craft a couple sentences, if you need. Emphasize that it's a personal touch at a price. Charge a nominal fee that will go toward the final cost if purchased. You can even put a listing for the mock-up with more details, charge a couple dollars. The more explicit the policy, the less apt people will be to see how much they can get away with (to some extent).
posted by crankyrogalsky at 7:20 PM on May 28, 2011


Merlin Mann feels your pain. If I were you, I would read this article, read it again, print it out, carry it with me, and start reading all the references over and over:

A Sandwich, A Wallet and Elizabeth Taylor's Cousin


There's good ground truth there for your situation.
posted by seasparrow at 8:22 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


i forgot to add ... people tend to hold things they've paid for in higher regard than crap they get for free. this might explain why the people who ask for numerous "trial" iterations don't follow through. it's completely possible that having them pay for a small taste will make them think it's more special than if you'd done it gratis (which you don't really want to do anyway).

with my little craft business, when i charged $10 for a one-of-a-kind item, i didn't sell that many. when i charged $35, i couldn't make them fast enough to keep up with demand. at $10 they were cheap and unsophisticated ... at $35, cool and unique. don't hate the marketer, hate the market.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 8:50 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


iLoveTheRain: "Every now and then I'll get a customer who wants to see a sample proof of what one of my pre-made designs would look like with their shop name and tag-line prior to purchasing said pre-made design. I usually don't mind doing the edits and sending them a watermarked proof, but lately I've had a slew of customers who don't understand that they need to purchase the design in order to customize it beyond the initial proof,"

I've purchased items, including graphic design services and custom printing, from Etsy on multiple occassions. I am also a working designer so I feel your pain but also understand the Etsy market. When people contact you for a customised proof, I'd tell them you are happy to provide one watermarked proof in the design's default font at no charge. After that, if they wish to make additional changes, they need to purchase the item and any necessary customisation add-ons.

Really clear, really fair, pretty fast and really easy, no?
posted by DarlingBri at 9:03 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


no spec
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:25 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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