"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig!"
If you haven't read the poem, the joke is that the narrator has eaten all of the other people. I, on the other hand, am an entire crew to myself: marketing manager, business manager, customer relations expert and a number of other things in addition to being the writer around here. So I tend to take note of good business practices.
I was treated to a very smart business move on the part of Amazon today when I received a $70 refund on the Kindle I bought last month. Amazon dropped the price from $265 to $189 a couple of days ago, and I was, understandably, slightly miffed. So I tweeted my miffedness to the world, and received a reply from a Twitter friend that she'd received a refund. I immediately emailed Amazon, and got my refund within a few hours.
YES! Very smart move on Amazon's part. I am happy with them, I'm telling the world about it, and they'll easily recoup all those refunds by keeping their customers loyal.
At one point in the last five years, I worked as a sales associate for a big-box store whose policy was that we cheerfully refunded with no quibbles. It's still one of my favorite stores, by the way; I left because I'd had a really good offer and retail was never a strong focus for me. So one day I was working on the cash register and this very, very old guy came in. He reached into his bag, pulled out a dirty toilet brush (and I mean DIRTY. Go look at your toilet brush right now. Yeah, like that.) and waved it under my nose.
"Look, it's broken" he said. "Can I exchange it for a new one?"
Well, this store empowered us to make our own decisions about these things. So I smiled, transferred it very gingerly to the nearest trash can, and arranged for a new one to be brought to the register. My employer was out a very few bucks (I learned a lot about retail margins in that job) and the ten or so people that saw me do the exchange were likely to buy more in the store that day because they knew they could return ANYTHING.
How do I translate these tales into my own business? By internalizing that being a giver is a win-win scenario. That can be applied in any situation - from being willing to give out free information or tips online that I could easily sell, to ensuring there is some pro bono work in my business (that's easy, there has been since the beginning), to being ready to refund promptly where there's an issue.
Or better still, to avoid issues altogether by passing unsuitable jobs on to someone better able to tackle them. Sometimes, you're just not a good fit with a client and it's better to recognize that at first glance.
Which brings me to the "you" part of this post (yes, there is one!) If you're an independent contractor in a writing, print production or communications field, drop me a comment about the sort of assignment you like to do best of all. For one thing, I'm interested to know how many freelancers are reading this. And second, you just never know when an assignment may come my way that I would rather pass on to someone else. Networking! I love it, and it's the lifeblood of indie workers. I read somewhere that nearly 1/4 of the American workforce is self-employed. So feel free to drop a little self-promotion on this post. Don't overdo it.