Someone contacted me recently about starting a business online. We spoke for a little while and put together some great actionable ideas for her… but when it came time to deploy the ideas she felt some resistance. I asked why and she admitted “I don’t want other people to think I’m stupid.” That was it. I tried to convince her to move forward but it didn’t happen.
Starting a business (online or offline) is all about people: You put yourself out there and connect with people — prospects, clients, vendors, etc., and you take the good and the bad… and you try to remember that the good outweighs the bad.
The good? Well that’s easy: Freedom from the 9-5 grind; doing something you love; helping people; perhaps even enjoying some financial success.
The bad? Well here’s a list of 9 infuriating people to be ready for. This isn’t a comprehensive list, and you might find some overlap. Your offline business will encounter some of these as well (but sometimes to a lesser degree).
1. PEOPLE WHO SEEM BETTER THAN YOU
A friend of mine mentioned this on Facebook and even though I’d already written most of this blog post, I immediately put this as number one because it is so true and so widespread. It’s called “imposter syndrome”. Imposter syndrome is when you feel like an imposter — you start your business but then struggle with the idea that everyone else on the web is smarter, more social, more skilled, has more capital to invest, and has a better website than you. It’s so tempting to think this and I confess that there are many times when I’ve made drastic changes to my biz because I’ve fallen into this trap.
To overcome the imposter syndrome: Find something that works and stick to it. Give your very best, always. Be generous and proactive. Periodically test new ideas and strategies (but don’t make sweeping changes until you have tested).
2. DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS
You can please some of the people some of the time but you will NEVER please all of the people all of the time. Believe, me, you can try but you will fail. There will always be people who simply cannot be pleased. Sometimes this will be your fault and sometimes it won’t be your fault. Regardless of whether or not it’s your fault, you’ll face people who receive your product or service and are not satisfied with it. It happens.
To overcome the problem of dissatisfied customers: To your very best, always. Have a good guarantee and refund without hassle. Give generously. When someone has a problem, jump on it and try to make it right immediately. Once you have served them or refunded their money, move on. Don’t keep going back to them.
When you start a business, you are leveraging your past experience and knowledge. But you don’t know everything and you can’t possibly do everything. You just do the best you can with what you’ve got. Regardless of your very best attempts to the contrary, the critics will come out of the woodwork and tell you that you are wrong. Or dumb. Or they’ll generously tell you why your idea won’t work. I think it’s fine to take some criticism (constructive criticism!) from people who are qualified to give it. That’s why I recently wrote a blog post about exactly that topic (how to provide helpful criticism to your copywriter). But there are other times when you should not take the advice and criticism from people who are not qualified to give it.
To overcome criticism: Before you even start your business, decide who you will accept feedback and constructive criticism from — clients and mentors are a good group of people to start with. Also, rely on hard data to help you make decisions. (I’ve had lots of well-meaning but unqualified friends tell me to stop doing something in my business but the numbers didn’t back up their advice).
4. HATERS AND NEGATIVITY
I suppose this is related to the above but I consider it as something darker and more aggressive. You’ll encounter people who feel like it’s their job to be jerks. I’m not sure why. They must not have heard their moms tell them, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” They’re kind of like the bullies of the internet, safely ensconced in their parent’s basement, pounding out vindictive drivel while drinking giant Mountain Dews. My best advice is: Don’t engage them. They’re not worth your time. They’re looking for attention and if you don’t give it to them then they’ll eventually move on. A few years back, one of my posts (If social networking sites were college students) appeared on some site like Redditt (or maybe some other site like it — can’t remember now). And there were a bunch of haters that came out of the woodwork and commented on that site and on this blog. It was a crash course in having thick skin… and to be fair, the haters weren’t nearly as bad here as I’ve seen them elsewhere. Still, it was kind of a wake-up call for me.
To overcome the haters: Don’t engage them. Ignore them. Find people who love you and listen to them. If the haters get really loud, shut everything down for the day and go to the beach. Get a good sleep, stay hydrated, get some sunshine — I find these factors will really affect how I handle negativity.
5. CUSTOMERS WHO ASK TOO MUCH
I know you want to go the extra mail for your customers and most of your customers will appreciate it. But some customers don’t appreciate how far you go; they want you to go farther. Some customers will see that you go an extra mile and will ask you to go two extra miles… but only charge them for half a mile. I once worked for a leasing company and faced this exact type of customer; at the beginning of our relationship he walked all over me. By the end of our working relationship, I stopped putting up with his BS and he moved on. Since then I’ve learned to say no to customers who ask for more than I can give. There are lots of times when I’ll jump on something for a client I love and work all night to help them out. But when it becomes an expectation, that’s often when I part ways.
To overcome the situation of customers who ask too much: Give generously to your prospects and customers. Build relationships. Let your customers know that you value them and are willing to do just about anything for them. On your invoices, make it clear what you are charging them for and what you are not charging them for. If a customer starts to become demanding, give them a (professional, polite) warning and let them know that they’ve been enjoying your generosity but it’s an added bonus to the relationship. Cut those demanding customers loose if they persist.
6. SEARCH ENGINE HIJACKERS
This is one that I’m facing right now. I have worked hard to build a brand around my name that I am proud of. Unfortunately, someone else with the same name as me has started to appear online and they are not the angelic, generous, and handsome person that I am. The other person has had some trouble with the law so there are news sites that are talking about him. It’s not me but I have a unique enough name that it might seem to be me if someone is searching for me online (as some prospective clients do). I’m hoping that a combination of time and positive marketing on my part will push the nonsense away. It strikes me that I haven’t had to face this too much in the past because I have a fairly unique name but there are probably many people who have to face this daily when their name (or business name) isn’t that unique. It also strikes me that some search engine hijacking is accidental (as is my situation) but some of it might be purposeful (specifically if a hater creates a website that is intentionally designed to cast your business in a negative light — which is a situation that happened to a client of mine).
To overcome these hijackings: Do your best work, always. Aggressively market. Stay positive. Build good relationships with prospects and clients. Build contingency plans, deploy marketing methods that bypass search engines (such as referrals and direct mail).
If you are going to write content to market your business, you are basically inviting a bunch of other people to use your content with your permission to market their business. Some people are very diligent at monitoring this. Other people don’t manage it at all. I fall into the latter camp. I know it happens, I hate it, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
To overcome copycats: You could spend time and money monitoring this stuff but I honestly don’t think you’ll get a return on this investment. Suck it up and move on.
My blog isn’t that popular but I still get a ton of spam comments that try to get posted (but, fortunately, are thwarted by software). I can’t imagine how much worse a more popular blog has it. The same with email: I get a bunch of spam and I can’t imagine how much worse other people have it. I’m amazed that spammers still use this method since most of us can see right through their all-caps, poorly spelled messages. I think it’s worse once you start a business because you’re putting out a lot of content that may have your contact information in it.
To overcome spammers: Good software and diligent inbox management or blog comment management are the key. Stay on top of it daily and you’ll get most of it.
9. SERIAL REFUNDEES
Online guarantees are more complicated than some offline guarantees. If you have an offline business that sells products, you can simply offer to refund the customer’s money if they return the product. But if you sell a service or if you have an online business, you can’t exactly have them return what they bought. So you refund their money but they still enjoy the benefits of the purchase. Recently I faced this with a subscriber to one of the email lists I work with. They are “serial refundees” — people who buy something and then ask for a refund every single time. Fortunately, these folks are few and far between (at least in my experience) but they’re out there.
To overcome the serial refundees: You should have a generous, no-hassle guarantee. You should refund money when people aren’t receiving the benefit you promised. But when someone does it three times or more then you should stop serving them or unsubscribe them from your mailing list.
KEEP GOING ANYWAY
You’re going to face all of these infuriating things… but keep going anyway. The bigger your business becomes, the bigger a target you are. Fortunately, the rewards of running a business far outweigh the annoyance factor of these infuriating people.