HAPPY HUMP DAY! I know I work from home, so I didn't really have 'snow days,' but we were snowed in all weekend and yesterday I finally dug out my car and ventured out. We got a LOT of snow. Grohl LOVES it. I couldn't get him inside most of the weekend; I had to bribe him with lots of treats. He gallops and jumps around, rolls around in it, eats it...typical puppy things. It's so much fun to watch though.
Anyways, after a short hiatus of dealing with other items, today we are finally continuing the Online Shop Blog Series and we're going to touch on The Fine Print: policies, returns, exchanges, refunds, cancellations, shipping, disclaimers, and more.
Policies in your online shop are SO IMPORTANT. They protect you; they protect the client; they keep it consistent. This goes for policies in a contract form as well for ANY client you work with.
*Some of the examples I discuss are from MY store. It is extremely important that you think about your products and your store when you write your policies as every one and every product is different. Don't forget to think about the client as well.
PAYMENT | Luckily for online shops, payment is pretty standard because the customer pays at the very beginning to even place an order through your online shop, and you don't have to do that awkward 'Pay Me' email dance. Which leads right into product descriptions....
DESCRIPTIONS | Be sure to write out in the listing exactly WHAT'S INCLUDED in that price. If it's a custom design, how many proofs? How many changes? What is the final file format? If it's a print, are they allowed to make requests for changes or does it come as is? Make sure to list out any materials used, what its printed on, textures, specific sizes...anything to help describe what the item is like.
CANCELLATIONS | So what happens if a client cancels an order? What happens if they not only cancel but you've already started work on it? My suggestion would be to have a time limit for cancellations, like 24 hours.
SHIPPING | Ugh, shipping is the bane of my existence. It never fails that about 1 in 10 people don't get their package for like 3-4 weeks from the USPS because the USPS is terrible. Because of this, I stopped guaranteeing delivery dates. I have realized that it's impossible for me to know if I can 100% rush an order and have it to them on time, and I because I cannot guarantee it, I don't lie to my clients about it. If they contact me about a rush order, I am completely honest with the options and let them choose.
When choosing shipping options, be sure to research the price points for the avenues you use (FedEx, UPS, USPS). And don't forget to utilize their online tools,: ship and print your labels from online, and definitely go to the store and pick up the FREE boxes to have in your office. I have a whole shelf of envelopes and boxes from the USPS and UPS that makes flat rate shipping SO easy.
SHIPPING DAMAGES | Yes, I have had the UPS or USPS damage my goods on their way to a client. It's a good policy to have once you decide how to handle it. Don't forget to think about the customer and how they would feel if your product showed up damaged.
REFUNDS & EXCHANGES | First and foremost, make sure you have a return by date. Meaning, no returns after a certain amount of days. You don't want someone to try to return something 2 months later and not have an answer to them. Also, let them know if they need to contact you beforehand to approve a return or exchange. You don't necessarily want to get blindsided when an order comes back in the mail and you don't know why.
If your items are custom, decide if offering refunds on custom orders is something you want to take on or not. Also think about if you want to cover the time you spent on an item since it was custom. If an item is custom and we agree to refund it, our policy is to only return 50% of the total price because we still spent our time designing a custom item for them.
EDITABLE FILES | This is another area that you should ABSOLUTELY cover yourself for. It is SO important, that I'm actually going to touch on this topic in it's own blog post next week. Bottom line: NEVER share your editable files. Just don't do it. And make sure you have that somewhere in your listings or policies.
MISCELLANEOUS | Depending upon your project, there are lots of items you may want to include clauses or disclaimers for. Some items might include:
- Color standards
- Size standards
- Weather or water proof items
TURNAROUND AND BUSINESS HOURS | Include a standard turnaround time after a purchase is made, and make sure you stick to it! It may depend on the item as well. For example, my standard turnaround for proofs is 2 business days following purchases, but my gift boxes are fulfilled and shipped out only once a week.
Be sure to mention if you're closed on weekends or national holidays and if you have specific ones, include those.
FAQs | This is another great resource to have. The longer you have an online store, the more of the same questions will come up again and again. By putting in FAQs that answer these questions, it may help decrease the amounts of messages you get with those questions. However, I will tell you, most customers just don't read and might email you anyways.
Owning an online shop is awesome, but initially it can be a lot of work trying to figure out what's right for you when it comes to policies. Don't forget that it's okay to change policies as you go. It is a fluid document that can be edited at any time as you learn things.
Still to come in the Online Shop Blog Series, we'll be discussing Editable Files and Dealing with Customers.