I made a mistake.
I admit it, plain and simple. I messed up. Oops. Thankfully, I’m a PRO at making mistakes, so I was able to recover quickly and painlessly, from this one anyway. If you’re interested in peeking behind the curtain of my brand, and watching the very human person humbly recovering from her own mistake in business, then read on!
With roughly a month to go until Christmas morning, I was up to my ears in custom painting orders. During the entire months of October, November and the first half of December, you can find me in the trenches, painting as quickly as I can, producing original paintings, wrapping them up with a bow, and shipping them off to their spots under their respective trees.
One particularly productive day, after signing a newly completed portrait, I glanced at my order queue and recognized and name and order request from earlier in the year. Side note: I had had my first baby this past summer, and had a waitlist of orders to do first, before the newer Christmas orders. I pulled up the reference photo, grabbed the correct size canvas, and dove in. I completed the 16”x20” wedding portrait in roughly 8 hours, and with a satisfactory smile, snapped a pic and sent an email to the client.
The detail was on point, and the resemblance to the reference photo was uncanny, so I was expecting some “wow”s and “I love it!”s, but instead I got a text that made my heart jump to my throat.
“Hey Stephanie… Can I call you in a minute?”
Shoot. What did I do wrong? I immediately reread our entire email conversation, (thank you Honeybook for keeping spotless conversation records!) to make sure I was not the one who messed up. That’s when I noticed my mistake.
I never sent her an invoice for a deposit, and thus she never paid it.
In the few months that passed since our conversation, life had happened to my client (as it tends to do) and they had bought a house! While this is a fabulous new adventure for her, it required her to refocus her finances, and in that time, she forgot about our conversation.
I keep saying “our conversation” instead of “her order” because the deposit would have solidified her order.
Ohh my friends, I’m sure you are imagining how I felt at that moment. I felt a wave of nervousness wash over me, and my stomach turned. On the other end of the phone, I could hear her voice quivering as she tried to explain her situation to me. She felt the same way.
Here’s where I messed up: I should have sent the deposit when we first spoke, and I definitely should have stopped my roll and touched base with her before I began, handling the deposit and confirming her order.
Here’s how I handled it: After realizing the miscommunication, I immediately reassured her that the mistake was mine. When I sensed that she was not in a position to pay for the painting, and was starting to become emotional, I told her that she was not obligated to pay for it.
Should she have? Probably. I know a lot of people who consider a verbal confirmation of an order a binding one. Also, considering the hours that were put into completing her alleged order, anyone would insist on her paying for it. I really wanted to. However, I realized in that moment that to insist that she pay for it would result in a potentially emotional dispute between the two of us. This argument would have effectively ruined my day, wasted both of our time, and tarnished my reputation as a good person, reputable artist and business owner.
I made the decision to reassure her that I made a mistake, and she was not responsible for paying for the painting, as she had not officially placed a deposit. I also told her that since the painting was complete, and obviously could not be sold to someone else, it would be carefully packaged and put away in my inventory for safe keeping until she was ready for it. I encouraged her to continue saving so that when she was ready to receive it and gift it to her husband as she originally intended, the purchase would not be a financial blow.
Needless to say, she was very relieved and grateful to me for my understanding and kindness, and we both hung up the phone and went on to enjoy our day.
Not only did it help me grow in humility and improve my own professionalism, that error of mine has prompted me to add steps making my sales funnel through one step, which is more streamlined than before.
I don’t have to tell you that you will inevitably encounter awkward situations in business due to your own mistakes, but I do hope that in those moments you can step outside of the situation, focus on the bigger picture, and make the correct moves that will mean both parties can walk away with respect for the other, and your reputation still intact.
In case you were wondering, this mistake of mine cost me about $800. Here’s to hoping that my next mistake will not be so costly.