A Tale of Two Emails: On Negative Feedback

Recently, I reached out to my email list to announce something *huge* – a live course on copywriting and a blog post I wrote about it, How to Write Product Listings That Sell. It’s a pretty big career win for me, and I was so excited to share the news.

On negative feedback

I sent the email first thing in the morning, and then went out to run some errands with my children. As they were browsing the toy section at Target, I checked email through my phone to discover this message, the first reaction I got to my good news …

angry personI mean, one minute I’m browsing my favorite store with my favorite children. The next, I’m all: What just happened? Wait. Where’s this coming from? 

Sometimes it’s so weird to be a blogger.

A person who has never purchased from me (read: not my client) is very mad at me. Why? Because she’s trying to make some damn extra cash already, and I sell marketing services. But, she can’t afford my marketing services because she’s trying to sell things that aren’t selling.

It’s a conundrum, for sure.

The weird part is: I owe her nothing, yet she feels so entitled to it all. Yes, I freely give away a portion of what I know on the blog, and I invite everyone to enjoy it. My blog posts take an average four hours to write. Here’s a delicious sampling:

My mission is to give like-minded creatives the support they crave and the results they desire, so I love writing these blog posts. And also, this is my business. Don’t forget, dear emailer, I work for my clients. And together, we’re working our asses off.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

You’ve been eating up all of the delicious free meals I’ve been serving, and you have the gall to call me names and criticize my cooking?! Bye, Felicia.

I have a snarky side, and entitled people are her perfect target. She said in reply,

a snarky reply

I’ve talked about this before; I’m so over it. I can’t even tolerate this mentality anymore, and I’m not trying to be polite to the person who’s only ever taken, who just had to tell me how I’m not living up to her high standards.

And That Was My Knee-Jerk Reaction

I shared this to let you know that you’re not the only one who has to contend with negative, irrational feedback or insensitive people. It happens in the Etsy conversations from customers who request a million customizations and then never reply to the listing you researched and created just for them. It happens in the blog comments and reply emails from people who were already feeling cranky and irate about other things. It happens when people simply feel like debating. It happens when your email lands in someone’s inbox on a day when they’re too busy to deal. Don’t let one difficult person slow you down.

It’s nothing personal. Double-check that they’re unsubscribed, and move on 😉

Thankfully, right under that email came this one …

dream client

I love you, dream clients (past, present and future). I’m happy to report that nothing but support has been rolling in ever since. Thank you all so much,

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  • Yikes, you are definitely not going to like my comment but your response was not professional. As a business person you need to expect some negative feedback, even if it is annoying to receive it. It’s part of being in business.

    Dear Felicia,

    I’m sorry you are unhappy with my emails — my business is definitely selling to other business people and I am sorry for any misunderstanding. I wish you the best of luck with your Etsy shop.

    • If being honest and authentic is wrong, then I don’t want to be right! But, I do appreciate the different point of view, and I admit that I had a knee-jerk reaction.

      That said, I refuse to be sorry who people who don’t like my work. As stated in my reply, I write specifically to an ideal client, and I invite anyone who’s not her to unsubscribe if they mistakenly signed up for my emails.

      I had to chuckle out loud when you wrote your suggested letter to “Felicia”, though.

      • You can be honest and authentic without going negative on a commenter. Your response to my pretty negative comment was not nasty. So, it can be done!! You are a business woman. Don’t act like Donald Trump. You should be modeling how to deal with a negative commenter, which is almost always to ignore or to return the negativity with kindness. It pays off and you look better.

        And now I am bowing out. I’ve made my point. Good luck with your business.

        • I’m not being snarky in this exchange because you’re contributing to the discussion, and I value contribution. I disagree that, as a business woman, I should politely try to placate everyone and “return the negativity with kindness.”

          I honestly can’t see who that would help, and it seems more like a position of martyrdom than prestige.

          I’m good at what I do, and I deserve to get paid well for it. If somebody wants to question that, I’m getting mouthy and setting an example out of the exchange for sure.

  • I don’t have any problem with your reply to her. People get mad at Facebook because Facebook sells ads! The expectations of getting things for free has gotten entirely out of hand. Who do they think pays for all the “free” stuff? It’s one of my pet peeves.

    But you really hit on a big item for me. I can’t count the amount of time I have spent responding to custom requests and I don’t not even get a “thanks, but no thanks” reply. Drives me nuts!

    • Vicki, I agree!

      She’s admittedly NOT my customer, but I should perform polite + professional customer service as if we’re in business? WHY does that feel like the new rule?

      I actually stopped accepting custom requests on Etsy because of the sheer amount of conversations I was entertaining with people who were just bored and browsing online. Too many hours wasted!

      Thanks for your add 😉

  • Lisa, I get so much from your articles and blog posts, thank you SO much for all the free information you provide. I think your response to her was perfect, and I agree-she is not your customer. She had no reason to pile her negativity on you.

    Also, I have to chime in about people requesting a custom order, then disappearing when you create a custom listing per their request. It’s so aggravating because often it does require research, and it’s a huge waste of your time when they vanish on you! Because of that I was tempted to stop offering custom requests but haven’t because I have gotten some wonderful customers from those requests, and sometimes great ideas for new products.

    Keep up the great work Lisa! I subscribe to lots of creative business blogs and your blog has by far provided me with the best, most actionable and useful suggestions of all of them. Because of you, I signed up for AWeber and my mailing list is finally growing!!

    • I totally agree Annette – there are a lot of good reasons to stay open to custom orders. I got to a point where I no longer wanted to entertain them, but you bring up excellent reasoning in favor of them.

      Thank you for your kind words + I am thrilled to hear that your email list is up & growing!

  • YES! Thank you for sticking up for yourself and your work! You have every RIGHT to defend what you do and not tolerate the wanna-be-entitled. Your website is very inspiring and you offer so much of yourself to it, along with plenty of free information. There is no reason this person should have even wasted the time and energy to write this email as it makes no sense!

    • I like the way you put that, Di. It was about sticking up for myself and my work – exactly.

      Thanks so much for adding + your kind words and support!

  • My initial reaction is “What was she wanting to accomplish with her email to you?” Did she really think that you (as a creative business coach and entrepreneur) would say, “Oh yea, why am I making money on my expertise? I should give it away for free!” Would you ask the same to a doctor or lawyer? Absolutely NOT!

    I would not be where I am today without you and The Summer Shift plus all the wonderful and informative documents that you’ve put your knowledge and experience into. We are not given anything for free in this life. She probably needs to be reminded that you make the life you want – blood, sweat, lots of tears and tenacity, little bit depression, doggedly hard work!

    And I think your reply comment was spot on!

  • I get where you’re coming from and even why you felt so annoyed by this email but I think you dealt with it in a really unprofessional way. Being snarky to someone? That’s rude. Then making a point out of it in a blog post? Woah, pretty childish. Sure, write the blog post because it’s a good topic that should be discussed but screen grabbing the actual email? That’s kind of unnecessary, you could have made the same point without being so personal.

    • Interesting take.

      However, I believe the emailer’s greedy attitude is all too common, and it plagues my paying clients and the masses of us working our asses off in creative business. All things considered, I stand by my choices, and I’m very proud of this blog post.

    • As a business owner who prides myself in having great customer service, I know that sometimes enough is enough. When you’re constantly giving out good, quality, FREE, and helpful content, and you have to deal with rude people basically complaining about you making a living off of your expertise, you can’t always let it slide.

  • In our private discussion on the matter, one of the Luminaries said, “Thank you for not saying ‘sorry’ …”

    I think this exchange definitely strikes a chord and holds some underlying insight on shame-throwing (as if my selling services is somehow bad or wrong) + creatives + women + business.

    Thank you all so much for adding your thoughts on the matter, and I hope to hear much more about it!

    • YES, YES,YES.

      I am so sick and tired of women in creative businesses (or heck, women in general) constantly apologizing for…everything.

      We run businesses, we want to get paid (fairly) for our work. End of discussion. We need to all come together and end this nonsense of everyone feeling entitled to all of the cookies all of the time for free.

      I could literally talk about this issue of shaming for hours but I just wanted to drop in and say Good on you for being authentic!

  • I don’t think your reply was out of line. I think people lose sight of the fact that they are talking to an actual human being. I had someone last year accuse me of fraud and threaten to sue me because their item got lost in the mail. I sent her an email back explaining that I have over 2,000 sales and have been selling for almost 5 years and that if I was in the habit of defrauding people that I probably wouldn’t still be in business. Then I reminded her that she was dealing with a person and not some faceless corporation and that maybe it she should try to remember that next time she felt like acting in that matter. I then fully refunded her. She sent me an email saying she hadn’t wanted a refund and that now she felt really bad. I didn’t feel bad telling her the truth. You shouldn’t feel bad either.


  • Lisa, I think you’re response was spot on!

    She is admittedly NOT your customer and was only subscribed to get as much free knowledge out of you as she could. I doubt that she was ever going to BE your customer. Honestly, I think MY snarky side might have been even MORE snarky than yours in that situation.

    Don’t let “Felicia” (giggle) get you down! You provide amazing insight and information for us creative entrepreneurs. I found you in April when Boho Berry was just an idea on paper and look where I am today. I definitely think it’s time for a mindset shift in creative business where we quit being ashamed of wanting to get PAID for what we do.

    I, for one, am so happy that you shared this experience with us all! You just keep on doing your thing!

  • She called you a huckster. Call me crazy, but nasty name calling doesn’t merit an “I’m so sorry, how can I make it right response.”

    I refuse to embrace the “hug your haters” ridiculosity for two reasons.

    1. Most dissenting opinions aren’t hateful and there’s no reason to throw the phrase around needlessly.

    2. Really hateful people need to be cut out of the loop in the way that suits you best. She didn’t buy a flipping thing. Thus she doesn’t get to benefit from your best customer service experience. She was a taker and she felt taken.

    I’d have told her to take a long walk off a short pier. I’ve always told it like it is. And, SHOCKER, I’m not hurting for clients.

    • I appreciate your point of view, Mallie! I’ve been fascinated by that “hug your haters” mentality in this discussion.

      I’m wondering: Who is that good for?

      • It’s certainly not good for me to eat that negativity, and kindly offer an apology in exchange.
      • It’s not good for the emailer to think her entitled behavior produces results in her favor!
      • It’s not good for the creatives I work for to think we have to be polite when we’re shoved around in order to deserve to be here!

      Appreciate your add.

  • Lisa, I loved your reply. This person must not have been really reading for long or really diving in to your posts. You offer SO MUCH good advice! FREE!!!! Your content is some of the best I’ve found out there. It’s specific. It’s helpful. It’s realistic. You’re practically telling people HOW to do it all step by step. I cannot imagine complaining about it! I’m so grateful for all of your advice on your blog; it has made a huge difference in my business and my life. It takes a lot of time to implement everything when you are making all the mistakes; but it is so worth the time and energy when you know it will yield positive results. I’ve designed a business website for myself, started a business blog, had an artist profile/about the artist video made for my website, and have streamlined the way I tackle instagram, facebook and twitter. I am currently finishing my first newsletter design and am actively building my list per all your great wisdom (although that is slow going!). It goes out on August 1st and I’m making sure to include lots of free art goodies in it and other fun content as I now know to make it all about the collectors. I have a ways to go and I now know it will take time for these seeds to germinate. I’ve already been contacted by an old co-worker who wants to commission a painting as a wedding gift for his bride. So, something is starting to work! I appreciate what you do and I just want to thank you for it. All my best, Megan Carty (@meandwee)

    • Megan, what fabulous results!

      Congratulations on all your hard work. I know how much time + energy + persistent your creative efforts cost, and that list of tasks achieved is amazing.

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Pretty much everyone charges for their services. Does your hairdresser cut your hair for free? Does your CPA do your taxes pro bono? I think not!
    We need to value our time. our work and our worth.
    Good for you!

  • This whole thing floored me because…has she even visited your web site? You offer so much great, usable, meaty content to everyone who visits your blog. The idea that all you do is sell your products and are a huckster?

    It made me wonder if she and I were reading the same email newsletter. 🙂

    Thanks so much for all you do. I’m continually impressed at the level of quality of your information.

  • Key word…entitled. Our entire culture is afflicted with entitlement. You wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you didn’t have some spunk to you;)

  • Imagine that- a business owner using their newsletter to sell their own products! (not that you were even selling something in this case). That person would do themselves a favor to get familiar with the concept of Selling… your own products…for money. Kind of rule #1 if you want to stay in business.

  • Well, you can’t please everyone, that’s for sure. The thing about it is she felt so entitled that instead of simply unsubscribing, she felt the need to hop on her high horse and voice her negative opinion to you. It was rude and insulting because it wasn’t constructive criticism. Just her bitter opinion.

    Lisa said, since we’re sharing opinions, I guess I’ll give you mine. lol!

    I bet she had no problem consuming the AMAZING free content you offer (and it is amazing). But the moment you bring up your product or service, its a problem.

    Oh please.

  • Thank you for sharing the story, Lisa. I guess those things happen inevitably. I can sense a lot of frustration in her mail, and frustration makes us do weird things sometimes. And envy too? Probably….
    I admire the way you are dealing with those issues and I will keep this in mind. Keep up the great work!

    • There’s frustration there for sure, and nurturing a sense of entitlement is the best way to keep yourself in that place of frustration! The more this is discussed, the happier I am that I did not empathize with or appease this person. I’ve learned a lot from the exchange + this thread myself!

      Thank you for adding, Marie.

  • The most ridiculous thing about this is that she hadn’t even bothered to check the offer to see that it’s indeed, free.

    Not that a paid offer would merit the response she gave.

    I see there are some differences in opinions in how you should have responded.
    Now, I would not even differentiate “professional” versus “unprofessional” based on whether a person pays me.
    (I also have a slightly different definition of the word “professional”. And I include interactions that don’t have any transactions attached to them into my professional domain.)

    What I mean to say is, whether a person pays me or not does not determine how I will respond to them – only their attitude is.
    And I agree that you had no reason to apologize to the said person when you did absolutely nothing wrong, and the “misunderstanding” is not your responsibility.

    I won’t say how I would have responded to it because I wasn’t in the exact same situation yet.
    I have had my share of hate mail, but I either answered it tactfully, or just ignored it.
    I find that knee jerk reactions rarely end well, and man, my snarky self can be a real bitch so I’d rather not let her write my e-mails ever! 🙂

  • Having haters is a part of being successful, so long as you have more fans than haters of course. You’ll always have those. I think you’re doing pretty great with your business and your blog so it should be easy for you to shrug them off and ignore them if you believe they are wrong. Then again, it’s a point where you can learn something and improve to become even better in your business. Reacting to them in a negative way is allowing them to win because that’s what they are trying to do. They’re trying to get you pissed and you sound like you are. They seem like disappointed subscribers and were probably expecting something different to receive in their email. Here’s a tip: You don’t have to change your style in sending out your newsletters. Newsletters are great for pitching for your business to make sales, that’s really the main purpose of it but we should still give some quality content to people who subscribe to us, and I’m pretty sure you do. But if people are disappointed because they are expecting something different, be the better person and apologize, like “I’m sorry to hear that you are disappointed with our newsletter, rest assured that these are noted and we will do our best to improve our services.” Something like that. That way, they’ll feel assured or maybe even guilty. I know it’s making you sound like a customer support, but yes it should. Bigger companies use it as a technique to grow their business, even if complaints are coming from people who are only using their free services.

    Anyway, like I said, you’re doing a pretty great job so there no reason for you to be pissed. Don’t let them win.

    Stay awesome.

    • I hear you, and I respectfully disagree. I won’t offer an inauthentic apology in order to get “be the better” person – not interested. She tried to throw shame, and I really dislike the idea of throwing guilt back in her face.

      For whatever reason and at this time in my career, the thing that felt right was replying in kind. I’m not pissed; I wrote that email because I’m quite proud of the work I do.

      Here’s a tip from me: Value your work. Expect to get paid well for doing it. Don’t placate anyone who doesn’t understand your worth. Best of luck to you!

  • Let’s be clear – Someone should never apologize for the thoughts, actions, and feelings of others!

    Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean they need to accept another”s thoughts and feelings. We craft the business we want and should never apologize for that. Our businesses should grow and evolve because we want it too, and not because we are trying to satisfy the masses. Absolutely everyone is different, and that’s the way it should be.

  • Interesting topic. Personally, i LOVE your site and I feel that you do quality work and make much of it accessible for free! I guess I am not sure how a person expects an entrepreneur to make any money without promoting both their free and paid services. Calling a legit business person a “huckster” for promoting their business is pretty ridiculous.

    The best part is that the content being complained about WAS free! Whopps 😉 I teach yoga and I find that most people have a serious listening problem. The same goes for reading comprehension I guess!

  • Lisa,

    I have only read a few of the comments, but I agree with Giada Weiss that your reply was not professional. Up until the end of last year I have helped hundreds of Etsy and Artfire artisans by giving them lots of FREE information on how to improve their Etsy and/or Artfire sales.

    I started doing that on Etsy at the end of 2008, early 2009 on the Etsy forums and in 2010 on Artfire. I even have my own team on Etsy, although I stopped accepting new members on my team at the end of last year. I did not charge a penny to help my team members.

    Not everyone that sells on Etsy happens to be wealthy. Some people are trying their best to pull in some additional income by selling on Etsy so that they can live a better life. I understand where they are coming from and I usually accommodate them in some way.

    When these struggling sellers receive help from me for free they are usually very grateful and they appreciate the help that I give them. They may never buy any of my products but that is ok. In my book, taking a few minutes to help someone improve their shop and possibly increase their sales is well worth the effort.

    The way that you conducted yourself in this particular case is not something that you should be bragging about.

    Why don’t you contact that seller and offer her some assistance for free. If you don’t want to do that why don’t you send her my contact information and let me try to help this person for free. I don’t make any kind of promises that I can help them, but I am willing to try.

    Maybe some of the people who you help for free will be able to purchase your products in the future, or maybe they may refer you to some of their friends who are also sellers on Etsy. Even if they don’t you will feel that you have done a good deed for the day by helping someone in need. Yes, I was an Eagle Scout and the Boy Scout Motto was Do A Good Deed Daily.

    Also, my reputation on Artfire was exceptionally high on Artfire while I was a seller. People appreciated all of the free advice that I provided to them in the forums. When I announced on the Artfire forums last December that I was leaving Artfire the comments that I received by other Artfire sellers were very rewarding. Many of the sellers told me that I would be missed in the Artfire forums.

    Show some thanks for your success by giving back to the community once in a while by offering free advice.

    • My blog is full of free advice – there’s literally hundreds of pages here, and that’s in addition to the two published e-books that I give away to all email subscribers.

      This reader has already taken my free advice and assistance, and it wasn’t enough for her. She wanted more, yet she was unwilling to pay for my services, so she insulted me.

      In your eager reply (the bulk of which only serves to try to promote what a good samaritan you think you are), you failed to notice the most important part of the story: the course I was promoting WAS FREE TO ATTEND.

      Do your research before you tell someone what to be grateful for, or at least have some idea about what you’re talking about before you start rambling on. I wish I could “send her your way”- you two are a perfect match!

  • Thank you Lisa for not falling in the bandwagon of the ‘professional sorryness’ that goes around online and offline.
    Your response was perfect and right on point.
    As for Mr. self promo guy Jim Juris, please stop spamming blogs with your infomercial of how great and wonderful you and your business are. It does not add to the discussion, but rather bothers it.
    Respect people. That begins by not self promoting your stuff in other people’s blogs.
    thank you Lisa for all you do and your hard work and experience.

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