I think most people start their 'blogs' with something catchy, fun or upbeat or better still, something that taps into a trending topic (my wife knows all about this stuff but I'm clueless). I'm going to go against the grain and start with a rant about some of my pet peeves. You're welcome!
It's been just over six months since we brought our baby home and changed both of our businesses forever. Whereas we used to both get on with things, in the workshop together, we now take it in turns to work either two or three full days per week, taking care of the bub for the others. One day on, one day off for daddy and mummy daycare. It's working well, apart from the fact that I've noticed that my admin takes so much longer on my workday mornings now. Amy used to do it all for me, but she's really busy again and, after telling a perpetual timewaster (more on these later) that we didn't want to quote for him anymore and being informed that she is rude and killing my business, she has stepped back. I wish she hadn't. Even when 'rude', she is far more tactful than me and has the patience for admin that I don't. She didn't even swear (as a lot of you know, this must have been a challenge for her!).
To be totally honest, it's not so much the admin itself that I hate as it is the amount of time wasted. Chasing missing parts is annoying and dealing with supplier warranties is all to be expected, but emailing people who know they are going to ghost you? That's the real issue here and I think every framebuilder has to deal with it.
It's always great to hear from people that are interested in a wheel build, frame, pair of forks etc and of course, that initial contact is going to centred around the issue of cost. Nothing truly custom comes as cheap as something stock-sized or off the peg, we all know that, so getting a rough idea of how much something might be is always a primary concern and I'm happy to answer questions about that. The problems start arising when I'm five or six emails in and things start turning to design specifics. Can we include this and that? Can we shave weight off anywhere? What would I suggest for a particular problem? I can answer all of these questions and frequently have, with the conversation leading to workshop visits, bike borrowing and even requests for an invoice and then...NOTHING. This year seems to have been particularly bad for the dreaded ghoster.
Now, I understand that getting excited about a potential build is one thing and actually putting a deposit down is another. I know that anything custom is a total luxury and something that has to be justified, saved for and even agreed with other members of a household. But is there ever really any justification for getting all the way to the point of asking for an invoice, only to go completely silent? Or organising a drop-in and not showing up or getting in touch to cancel? Did good manners simply disappear? I was raised to believe that being courteous was important and now I'm self-employed, I'm extra sure to always thank someone for their time and to reply, even if I'm not going to be using their services. A short 'I'm going to have to say no' or 'That's more than I am looking to pay' or even a simple 'Thanks but no thanks' is all it takes to keep good relationships open and order books organised. With this in mind, I'm going to write something that I think all self-employed people want to say and all potential customers need to hear:
WHEN YOU WASTE OUR TIME, YOU COST US MONEY AND IMPACT OUR FAMILIES.
There, I said it and it feels good. We have a strict no-chase policy over here, so when somebody goes quiet, we simply let it go. If a customer wants something from us, we assume they will be in touch, but we have no interest in cajoling, persuading or schmoozing someone into making an order. Also, if you have proven to be a serial enquirer that never amounts to anything but wants to engage in huge email threads, don't be offended if my wife does eventually message you to say that we no longer want to quote for you. It's self-preservation and she leaps in when I know that I'm banging my head against a brick wall but don't know how to say it. She's not being rude or attacking you personally, she is freeing up my time so we can take our bub and pooch out for a walk together, without my phone going off with another pointless question. Also, if you do take it personally and verbally attack her, know that we will tell relevant other parties so they know why we refuse to work with you.
My final little rant is about the double-edged sword that is Instagram. It's a great tool for spreading the word about what I do and given that it's my only social account, I use it almost daily to showcase the projects I have going on, things I can make and update my customers about their own builds. And that's all it's for. It's my highlight reel, not a tutorials page. I don't upload pictures of things I have designed in order to encourage an influx of DMs or comments asking how, what the dimensions are, what tubing thickness I used etc, because this is how I make my living. It's how I contribute to the household and go halves on our food shop. If I told everyone how I make the things that are unique to my frames or shared Catia drawings that have taken me days to finesse, I'd be a total idiot, so please don't ask. I know everyone starts somewhere, but I'm not a teacher, I'm an engineer and I don't know where to start in terms of charging an hourly rate for the, formerly free, advice I'm constantly asked for!
So there we go...a good rant for a Friday, but let's finish on a positive note. A huge thank you to all of our amazing customers that have allowed me to build some fantastic bits and pieces for them. From coffee tampers to stems, racks, frames and forks and some of the more unusual things too (baller record weights included), we've been having fun for almost five years now and we're looking forward to more of the same in 2020. Customers have become friends, friends who wanted freebies have disappeared and industry peers have turned into trusted confidants and even customers themselves. Now if only I could master the art of spotting a ghoster, I think we'd be all set. Answers on a postcard of how to deal with them please...(no Instagram DMs though!)
This is something that the Vanilla Workshop used to do on their blog and I always enjoyed it. Now they don't seem to be updating it anymore, I'm going to shamelessly do the same kind of thing (although with a little shame, as I'm saying where I first saw it)...
Number of coffees drunk today: 5 (as of 11:46am)
Miles walked with the dog: 3-ish
Grams of pasta consumed (so far) today: 250
Eye-rolls from the wife about my rants: Too many to count
Metres of scotchbrite used this week: infinite