Despite what people say, and what some cringey, misguided craft influencers might post Reels about (she got blocked, ☕️) , running a small business is no walk in the park. As much as I play it down because of my serious case of imposter syndrome, I run a small business, as do members of my close family, and we cope with the things that this way of life gives you. Working for yourself has its benefits and drawbacks much the same as working for an employer does, but it’s always difficult to explain to other people how and why working for yourself is more often than not fraught with worry. Like, how can it be? You are your own boss! You can do what you like! Right? Do you want a day off? Go for it! You jammy git. Working for yourself sounds so relaxing! Do you remember that bit in The Office UK Christmas Special when David Brent is newly self-employed and is laying in bed asking himself for a day off? Go and watch it now, it’s mega.
That isn’t to say that people who are ’employed’ don’t have any worries, OBVIOUSLY NOT. I was employed for all my adult life until two years ago. I also don’t want people who aren’t self-employed to think that this is a huge ‘woe is us’ exercise. Not at all. What I am saying, though, is that people often see self-employment as an easy way of working, and on top of that, small business owners almost always have to do practically everything themselves, from packing orders and making the actual stuff, to working on weekends to just get the bare minimum done so the weekdays don’t send you into a spiral of hatred and overwhelm, invoices and admin and working with your accountant who you also have to pay (a fact that people struggle with), answering emails straight away so you don’t potentially lose custom (the idea that if you don’t answer an email from a client/collaborator in less than 3 minutes can often trigger anxiety – what if they don’t buy the thing? They’ll leave a bad review! They might not want to work with me!), having to jump through the constantly-changing hoops that social media forces on us (algorithms can eff off), having to constantly sell yourself and push your products on peeps even when you feel like you’re being OTT, the pressure of sites like Etsy introducing their catty and frankly unfair “Star Seller” incentive that adds extra, uncalled for stress on small businesses (seriously, don’t get me started), and, bonus, we have actual lives with kids, other-halves, responsibilities and almost always full or part-time jobs, too.
I may be on the verge of another rant here – and I will be mentioning this again later – but for me, Etsy’s Star Seller incentive is yet another way of putting pressure on small businesses. Don’t even get me started on the people who brag about being Star Sellers, too. It’s the small biz equivelent of those people who dob you in to the dinner lady and show off their new Nike Air Max like a twat in the PE changing room saying how amazing they are when everyone else is struggling to afford trainers from the market. It’s a way of punishing small business owners who don’t have as much free time or responsibilities as others. I digress…
The next time a random tells you that you have it easy running a small business venture, wipe a bogie on them from me, will you?
So, it’s with great joy and love that I have the pleasure of sharing some of favourite small businesses’ pet peeves and things they can’t stand about running their small enterprises, because although being able to do what we enjoy as a hobby for actual work and money is beyond fabulous, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth. There isn’t light without dark, there isn’t… Yeah, you get the picture. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, etc. On with the show! All business owner’s first names/business names have been abbreviated for their privacy, obvs, and this article contains some strong language.
“Family and friends expecting everything for free…” – F
My loves, if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this I would have a lot of pennies. One of the most disheartening things about being a small business that makes stuff is when people who are supposed to support you ask for freebies, somehow conveniently forgetting that actually doing so takes time away from creating items that will actually be SOLD for CASH. The best way of dealing with relatives and friends who do this (or your mum’s colleague’s neice’s neighbour who saw your work on Insta and would “LOVE” one of your blankets, for free) is to politely explain why it’s unreasonable that they’re asking for a free item. Ask them why they are expecting it for free. Or you could ask for a deposit. See them run.
“People who aren’t tech savvy blaming me when they can’t purchase/download one of my patterns” – B, and “The people who tell me to print their digital downloads for them” – T
Being able to sell digital items and generate a passive income is one of the many reasons I’m thankful to be living in a digital age, but sadly some people who aren’t used to our internetty world exist and blame YOU, YES YOU, who dares to sell these things in this way for their lack of knowledge and shortcomings in the world of digital downloads. It isn’t your fault, of course, and no matter how many times you might write “How to Download Digital Items” instructions on your website, Policies or FAQ they will still message you and threaten to give you a bad review or a legal letter (I wish I was making this shit up) if you don’t absolutely immediately send them the digital item via carrier pigeon or horse. Sadly, the best way of dealing with this stuff is by giving them the instructions again, and again, and probably once again for luck and then waiting for the “thank you” that will never arrive. Joyce, learn some manners and learn how to use the internet before you use the internet, k babes?
“When people treat your small business like it’s just a little hobby on the side. Like, bitch, I work f***ing hard!” – L
From the condescending remarks to the ‘when are you going to get a real job?’ to the frankly infuriating, ‘is that all you do all day? Sitting there knitting? You make money from that, then? Weird… Lol’ it’s often bloody hard to convince people that doing something that isn’t a standard desk job or working down a mine shaft IS WORK. Some people see you crafting and making stuff and automatically assume that it cannot be possible for you to make money from it, pay tax, put food on the table and generally live off it. Who knows if this will change with time? I hope so.
“The constant need to create content that generates sales is actual BS” – R
Content creation (despite how many posers will try and dress it up) is basically taking photos or making graphics and putting them on your social media platforms, and it’s hard work, and most of the time you can’t win. Post too much? You’ll be seen as spammy by customers and/or the algorithm (ugh) will think you’re a bot and hide your posts from followers. Aside from working around the unpredictability of the algorithm’s PMS, coming up with ideas is exhausting and unforgiving. So yeah, it’s actual BS, for real. I Iliterally have nothing else to add here apart from we’re all in the same blinkin’ boat, even the biggest names in the biz have trouble, too.
“Blunt requests like PRICE? Or if the item is €25 they message you saying ‘I’ll pay €20, no more’. Umm, no you won’t!” – S
Would you walk into ASDA or Mercadona, pick up a box of Milk Tray and tell the cashier, “I’ll pay 2 quid for these, no more’? I’d wager that you wouldn’t. Would you stroll into Zara, pick up a handbag and say, “this is nice but €60 is a bit steep. I can only go up to €30 on this. Sorry, hun xxx”. No. So, why do people think this is okay with small businesses? Some people treat purchasing handmade items much like one would act in the Souk Semmarine, haggling and bartering with the sellers until they get a good price. If you ever find yourself in this sticky situation, remind the buyer of the price again and if they don’t like that, they can bugger off to Primark. In terms of the blunt requests, I have started deleting all blunt requests from my comment feed and inbox, even if they are surrounded by emojis, like that suddently makes their rude YARN? PRICE? WHAT IS THIS? comment more palatable. These people will not be your customers, supporters or friends, so sod them. Also, I’ve heard people remark about this saying things like ‘Oh, it isn’t meant rudely’ or ‘they’re just asking’, to which I will say, I don’t care if you’re just asking, insert some please and thank you’s. It means a lot. You’re talking to a fellow human being. Manners, Mavis.
“People asking what patterns I use. They want to make it themselves instead of buying the item from me…” – L
There are WIDELY differing views on this. Some small business owners I know have no issue with sharing the yarns they use, patterns they work from and even sharing elements of their business model and how many times they go to the loo every day. That’s cool and I respect these people because you can run your venture however the dickens you like. However, a lot of us don’t think that this information should be a free for all, and I’m one of them. You may have gathered this already if you follow me on social media…. HEY GIRL, HEY. My personal belief is that my work, process and materials are sacred and are to be protected. Hours of research, trial and error goes into that stuff and I will not be spreading that precious knowledge freely. Sorry about it. I tend to ignore messages and comments that ask what yarn and stitches I use (especially if the pattern will be charged for later on. Blame having patterns stolen in the past for that), where I bought it, etc. I’m not being a bitch or a gatekeeper, but it’s the way I do things and I love the element of exclusivity.
One tip for people who would like to know about the process or materials a crafter uses: be polite and don’t get in a piss if the maker declines to tell you. If you want to know the yarn and stitches used, support the maker and buy the pattern or item.
“The fact that people think you should respond to their messages straight away. They never think that it’s just one person doing everything and that they may have families or even a full-time job!” – S
Gosh darn it, this is atrocious and brings us once again to ENTITLEMENT. That needed to be in uppercase.
One thing that gets my goat hugely is when people ask a question, usually at 7am when you’re getting your kids ready for school or 2am or on Christmas Day or on a Sunday – and get in a piss when you don’t reply instantly. Normally this is followed up by a few “ANSWER ME” type messages and by the time you read them they’ve threatened to take you to court and drag your business’s name through the mud. I mean, how very dare you take weekends off and take a break from social media and not respond to messages! Because you want to be a Star Seller? Really? You like that useless pressure? How cool of you… Another phenomenon is when people suddenly people think that, as well as running your tiny business you are also in charge of DHL and Correos and Royal Mail and can control exactly where a parcel is. Funny.
Of course we should all answer messages promptly, politely and as quickly as possible. I have beef with sellers who ignore messages regarding purchases, tell fibs about tracking numbers and shipping dates (sipping tea, don’t mind me) and other bad things like that, but if you’re messaging small businesses on a weekend or during inhospitable hours, don’t be a dick if they don’t respond immedately. Just like that person who works in the supermarket, in an office, hospital or wherever, we all have delays, days off and responsibilities.
“When people leave a glowing review and then give you three stars…” – A
I think that a lot of the time this is because the person leaving the review isn’t very internet-savvy and just doesn’t realise that they can actually click the star icons, but either way it’s annoying as heck. There’s nothing worse than Chantelle in Luton buying your pattern or candle and saying everything was AMAZING and LOVELY and your packaging was SO PRETTY and that she’s going to offer you her gorgeous, Jamie Dornan-lookalike brother for a night of passion only to then notice that she’s given you one star. That stuff matters, sadly and it’s often the first thing that people see when they load up your shop… Oof! Maybe we should start writing FAQs and Policies about that? No that anyone would read them, obviously…
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed their woes and irks to this article – it couldn’t have been written without you! Some answers were duplicates and have been integrated into one, but I read and laughed/cried/punched a wall when looking at them. You’re all amazeballs, mean it.
Do you have any experiences with any of these, or did we miss any out? Let me know in the comments!