There are times when you’re so busy you can’t see straight, and the money is flowing in. Then everything shifts, and you worry you’ll never make another sale or land another client.
This feast-famine cycle is common. Very few businesses, especially smaller or newer ones, are earning consistent revenue month after month.
When business slows, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of panic and shame.
In this video, I share five strategies I’ve found helpful in dealing with ups and downs in business.
[Another good read: 10 Books to help improve your relationship with money]
1. Know you’re not alone We tend to always believe that we are the exception to every rule. In this case, we think no other business experiences periods of drought.
Thanks to this story we tell ourselves, we don’t talk to anyone about our fears because we worry it would be admitting “failure” and looking like a fraud. That’s a lonely and scary place to be.
With 100% certainty, I can tell you’re not alone. I’ve been self-employed for 15+ years, and I still have highs and lows. In 2019, as an example, I had a $15k month and a $2,500 month.
Take a risk and be vulnerable enough to tell your biz besties about the hard times and your fears. You’ll likely hear a chorus of “me too,” and that support network can also help you devise a plan to turn things around.
2. Plant seeds Worry is a waste of time, instead view your open schedule as an opportunity to finish all the marketing things you put off when busy. Plant seeds now, and you’ll be reaping the rewards of this slow season for months and years to come.
When money starts flowing in again (and it inevitably will, especially if you’re planting seeds now), don’t stop your marketing and selling efforts.
Yes, it’s hard to make time for filling your pipeline, especially when you’re busy with paying work. But that’s a great problem to have! And it’s shortsighted and problematic to stop marketing when we’re busy. If a client doesn’t re-sign, you hit a seasonal slowdown, etc., then you’ll be right back to famine and panic.
Always be planting seeds, and you’ll always have more feast than famine.
3. Look at the 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.
4. Take a break When work is light and money is tight, it probably sounds counterintuitive (and impossible) to relax. Yet it may be the only time to slow down and recharge your batteries.
The truth is, most of us let self-care slip when we’re swamped with work. That makes it all the more important to take a little time during a slow season to get a massage, go for a walk, binge Netflix. Reframe “slow times” as flex time. You worked your butt off to earn this time off!
5. Don’t quit (yet) Never make a big decision on your worst day. In that state of panic, any choice you make is based on feelings, not facts. It’s rooted in the story you’re telling yourself, and one that will very likely change in short order. (The same is true, by the way, for making decisions on your best days.)
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.
While my business still has a bit of a feast-famine cycle, I no longer allow it to create a peace-panic cycle, too. That’s because I’ve done a lot of hard work to shift from a scarcity mindset to abundance thinking. I now know with absolute confidence that I can—and will—always make more money.