I am delighted to share with you this month’s guest blog from web designer and global inclusion specialist, Danbee Shin. I heard her speak at a conference last month about the ways she welcomes her clients into her business with kindness. In this blog she shares her simple tips for making everyone feel welcome, supported and celebrated.
No one’s ideal customer
If you’re an online business owner, you know all about how there’s so much to learn. It can be difficult, choosing which programs and educators to learn from.
But there’s something else that’s been an even bigger challenge for me as I started up my web design business: dealing with how almost everyone that I paid to learn from made it clear that I was not their ideal customer.
Sometimes it was implied. Programs that ironically used messaging about supporting their “diverse and global community” had fixed coaching calls that always took place at 2 am Singapore time.
Sometimes, it was explicit. I’ve been told, “We’re a community for women of color. You could check out this other group for Asian Americans.” I’m South Korean.
What I heard was, “This program wasn’t designed with people like you in mind. But it’s an excellent program and you should figure out how to make the most of it. Or, you can leave.”
It wasn’t just hurtful, it made little sense: I actually was their ideal customer. I was a new entrepreneur they could really help, who wanted to pay them for their expertise. But they didn’t think of me as someone who was valuable to them, and each interaction left me feeling so incredibly small.
Treating each person like… a person
Because of those painful experiences, I made sure that as I built my business, I treated every client with the kindness and consideration that was missing in our industry. That meant treating each person like a full human being with many layers to their identity.
There are of course many different layers that make each of us who we are. But when it comes to the online business space, there are two specific layers that we interact with most often: geographical location and cultural context.
When I think about my clients’ geographical location, I’m literally asking: Which country, region, city, town, or village are they in?
At a basic level, where someone is in the world determines their time zone. Live online events (webinars, conferences, classes, workshops, etc.) have always been a feature of online business. In this era of covid, it feels like they’re everywhere.
I personally love them, but the experience of participating in a live event can look wildly different for people in different time zones. To create inclusive live events for people in different geographical locations, here are some things that I do differently in my business.
When choosing the time and date, I consider the impact of that decision on people in different parts of the world.
This isn’t about accommodating every single time zone in the world.
It’s about making a decision, having thought about how my decision affects other people. Who is going to be able to join me live? Who isn’t?
Once I’ve chosen the time and date, I share the information in multiple time zones.
Instead of saying, “November 5th, 11pm US Eastern Time,” I might say, “November 5th, 8pm US Pacific / 11pm US Eastern, which is November 6th, 3am London, 8.30am New Delhi, 11am Singapore, 2pm Sydney.”
It makes a world of a difference (pun intended) for my clients because I’ve made it so much easier for them to figure out what time the event will take place where they are.
For those who can’t attend the live event, I find other ways they can participate.
I invite people to ask questions before the event and address them during the live session.
Every live event is recorded. I share the recording as soon as possible after the event, inviting participants to send in post-event questions whether they attended the live session or watched the recording. I might respond to questions individually, or host a follow up questions and answers event.
Considering my clients’ cultural contexts goes deeper. I’m asking questions like:
- Given their geographical location, what historical and current events shape their day-to-day experience?
- What cultures are they interacting with, online and offline?
- How do they think about their own personal culture?
To create inclusive experiences for people from different cultures, here are some things that I do differently in my business.
I ask my clients how to pronounce their names.
If ever I am not sure how to say someone’s name, I say, “I want to make sure I’m saying your name correctly. How do you say your name?” I also make sure that I say my own name clearly so that it’s easier for others to say it correctly.
Whenever I use video, I add manually verified captions and transcripts.
This can be really helpful for people who are English learners. The great thing about inclusion is that when you design for one group in the margins, you end up designing for everyone — captions and transcripts are also really important for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
I avoid colloquial expressions or niche references.
Colloquial expressions or niche references often lose meaning in a multicultural setting and it’s not helpful for getting my meaning across.
So instead of saying, “Let’s get down to brass tacks,” I would say, “Let’s talk about what’s actually important.”
(If you want more tips and examples for making more inclusive word choices, get a free copy of my Inclusive Copy Checklist here.)
I ask my clients to tell me how they want to be supported.
Instead of trying to pretend that it’s possible for me to understand everyone’s unique cultural background and infer how they want to be supported, I ask them. I invest a lot of my time having 1-on-1 conversations with people who buy from me.
This is what belonging looks like in my world
You might be thinking, “That’s all great — but is any of this worth the hassle?” That’s really for you to decide for yourself.
What I can offer is a picture of what it looks like in my corner of the internet.
People who are used to being invisible or unimportant or now feel included. I have clients who say, “I used to think that my needs were just less important because most people don’t have the problem that I have. But you’ve helped me realize that we can be different and still thrive together.”
People engage more deeply, asking questions and sharing their perspectives. They know that even if their English isn’t perfect, their input will be appreciated because it comes from them.
They show up and live the fullest versions of themselves — and at the end of the day, that’s exactly what belonging means.
You started your own online business because you wanted to live the fullest version of yourself. With small tweaks to your business, you can also create a globally inclusive experience where all your clients belong and succeed together, no matter where they are in the world.
Want to learn more?
Danbee Shin is a web designer and a global inclusion specialist. She helps online coaches and educators build communities where people from all around the world belong. As a South Korean in Singapore, she has first-hand experience of the disadvantages faced by online business owners from outside the Western world. She’s working towards an online business industry where entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world can easily find communities where they belong. She shares helpful and interesting content on Instagram to help you run a more globally inclusive business.
Get in touch to share your story of making clients to your business feel welcome.
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