I started my own business in 2005 in a strong economy. Then came the Great Recession of 2008. I was completely unprepared. In 2008, I made $110k. In 2009, I made $14k.
On the heels of that, my grandmother and brother died and I divorced (and then had to short sell my house) all in 6 months.
It was A LOT. Not a global pandemic like Coronavirus (COVID-19), but certainly an upended of my life as I knew it.
I learned a lot in that time and the years that followed, and I thought it might be helpful to share that with others who have not yet faced this type of business challenge. Here are 5 business and mindset tips to help you personally and professionally as we navigate this unique challenge.
1. Feel your feelings and take care of yourself
- An event this big and potentially difficult is traumatic for anyone. It can also trigger unresolved trauma from childhood or adulthood, which only compounds the feelings.
- In some cases, advice like “count your blessings”, “enjoy time with your children” is fine. But for many people, they don’t help or can make things worse. Trauma isn’t something you can easily think or talk yourself out of.
- Allow yourself the space to feel what comes up. Don’t beat yourself up or do what you “should.” It’s okay not to push or be super productive or be grateful for this time.
- Don’t surround yourself with people who tell you to “get over it” “work harder” or not let your “scarcity mindset” or fears get the best of you. Your feelings are real. Your fears are real. Your situation is real. Honor it and yourself. Do what you need to to protect yourself and your family.
- Quiet the news and social media if you need to.
- Also, do what you can to care for yourself. With our families home and not a lot of alone time these days, it can be tough to do. But self-care is more important now than ever. Find ways to take time for yourself to feel your feelings and do whatever you think is self-care (there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription for self-care either).
2. Ask for help
- Asking for help is hard for so many of us, especially for women who tend to be cast int the role of caregiver, putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own.
- Where can you find community when you are stuck in your house? Now is the time to have as many virtual coffee chats as you can. You need to talk to other adults and other business owners who get what you’re experience. You’re not in this alone! Most of us are, or will be, struggling.
- Start a mastermind if you don’t already have one. Get a trusted group of peers with whom you can share the scary feelings. People who get it and can affirm your feelings for you.
- If you realize you have old trauma that’s being triggered, seek out help from a mental health professional. Therapists everywhere are now offering tele-therapy so you can get help from the safety of your home. Don’t try to “push through” and end up far worse by the end of this time.
3. Act like a CEO
- I went far too long treating my business like a hobby, even though it was my full-time job and I made a full-time living.
- My experience through the recession taught me that it’s so important to set your business up like a business (and this current crisis is definitely reaffirming that).
- If you haven’t already, at minimum you should”
- Set up an LLC and EIN
- Separate your business and personal finances
- These steps are to protect your personal life from your business. If ever you’re sued, or if you default on business loans, etc., you can protect your personal finances
- I cannot recommend using the Profit First accounting method enough.
- Implementing it allowed me to finally be ahead on taxes, and has now given me a cushion to help weather this storm.
- Create an operations manual to get your business organized. It not only helps you have everything in one place, it also will better position you to put the gas back on when things improve. You can hire help and more quickly put them to work.
- Diversify your client base (fuck niching) and income streams for the future; I have writing work (with several types of clients), 1:1 coaching (and 2 offers within that, a 6-mo. package and a low-cost monthly accountability program), courses, digital downloads, affiliate income, and ads income on the blog
- Track your data: It’s easy to spiral from “I’m not making enough money right now” to “I’m a loser.” This is particularly true when we rely only on our bank account and our feelings to assess our success.
- The cure is to track more metrics in your business so you can use factual data to assess your progress. Sales may be down, but perhaps you’re growing your email list or appearing on more podcasts—or any number of other things that might later result in sales. Revenues may be down, but perhaps your actual profits are up, or you are getting more repeat clients. Knowing *all* of your numbers will paint a more complete picture of the ways you’re growing and improving, even if actual sales are down.
- Also, you can use this real data to be aware of your specific feast-famine cycle. If year after year, work slows down every holiday or every summer, you can be better prepared for them, financially and emotionally.
- The truth is, you may not be able to work for a while. This can be a good time to do big-picture thinking and planning. Thinking about how you may want to shift your business in light of all that’s happened, what you to do on the other side of this crisis. This is something I recommend doing once a quarter anyway, but for those of us who put it on the back burner, now can be a good time to sit down with pen to paper and have a CEO Day. There are loads of free resources you can hunt down online for this, or I have a $10 20+ page workbook you can get
4. Keep planting seeds.
- I want to again reiterate what I said earlier. Do what’s right for you. Don’t feel pressured to be productive or to become a thought leader if that’s not where your head is at.
- If, however, you truly want to do something during this time to be productive, then these ideas are for you.
- Also, it’s OKAY to want to be doing something right now. That’s 100% where I’m at. That’s why I’m doing this today. It’s why I’ve put together a free summit in a week (I’ll tell you about that in a minute).
- A slow time—even if it’s one we didn’t choose and that is very scary—is an ideal time to plant seeds that will later help your business grow.
- Write that content you’ve been sitting on; now is when to get your blogs and opt ins and courses together or upgraded; and optimize it for SEO while you’re at it
- Launch the podcast, YT channel, or FB group
- Pin the heck out of existing content
- Keep in touch with your customers/prospects via email
5. Don’t make big decisions—yet.
- Don’t make big decisions on your worst (or your best) day. Those decisions are based on feelings, not facts. They are rooted in the story you’re telling yourself, and one that will very likely change. Feelings aren’t facts! Take a break and, when you feel more even keeled, analyze the facts before doing something rash like changing your business model or quitting.
- If it comes to it, and it’s possible, there is no shame in getting a bridge job.
- It’s easy to panic right now. But also, there is so much that is outside of our control.
- I’m looking at our bank account dwindling. I’m looking at ZERO new work/sales coming my way. I have moments of panic and fear, but thanks to all of my mindset work, I am mostly remaining pretty calm. And believe me, that’s saying a lot, because I suffer from pretty intense anxiety (and this situation is quite a trigger for me).