The entrepreneurial life is a series of fluctuations — surviving the storms is a badge of honour.
Several times a year, I enter a few weeks of a deep and disturbing funk.
One which has me questioning myself, my career path, and my business as a whole.
One which has me wanting to walk away from everything I’ve spent years painstakingly building.
I’m drained. I’m sad. I’m unmotivated and melancholy.
And in those days, actually sitting down at my desk to hustle in my business is a prospect that makes me want to literally vomit.
When I go into these phases of falling out of love with my business, this is always a red flag for me of one important thing:
I need to make some changes, and do it SOON, or else everything I’ve built will come crumbling down.
Nothing kills a business faster than an apathetic business owner.
In these crucial times, the solution isn’t just to ride out the storm. Businesses are ever-changing, and one must be willing to adapt to those changes, or you will get left in the dust.
Phase 1: I start daydreaming of what I wish I was doing instead.
It starts with me imagining how amazing and freeing it would feel to drop every single one of my clients and pursue my passion projects instead.
It then grows into me really pumping myself up to truly, possibly, do it.
I mean, yes, it would be a big risk — but I’ve taken that big risk before when I first started my business!
The adrenaline of that time was the biggest high I’d ever felt! Sure, it was scary, but it worked out!
Maybe I could do it again!
And then I look at my household budget and realize that times are different now.
I’m no longer a new grad, starting a social media business on my parents' couch, paying zero rent and not having to buy groceries.
I lost my chance to be that risky when I committed to buying a house, getting married to another human being who relies on my income, and chose to take in a rescue dog who needs boujie hypoallergenic kibble in his food bowl two times a day.
So, dropping all of my clients is not only unrealistic but also highly irresponsible.
Scratch that idea… *sigh*
Although, truthfully, I love my clients…it’s just some of the work that I do for them that I’m not super fond of.
There must be another way.
Phase 2: I stop feeling sorry for myself, and start turning my desires into action through assessing the current state of my business.
So, if I really do love my clients, but it’s some of the work I’m doing for them that I’m dissatisfied with, what could I do about it?
Well, actually, I can do whatever I want. I have the power to control the work I do, and how much of it I take on.
That’s one of the perks of being your own boss.
From here, I go into strategizing mode.
I break down my monthly tasks client by client — I flag tasks from the ones I love to do, to the ones I don’t mind, to the ones I hate so much I wish I could punch someone.
This isn’t an activity that is only nice and insightful — it’s a direct roadmap to how I can fall back in love with my business and the work I do.
It’s through regular and consistent assessing of our businesses that we breathe life into them.
Otherwise, they could lose their heartbeat, and without our finger on its pulse, it dies while we were supposed to be on the watch.
And in the worst-case scenario, by the time we go to check for life, we’re much too late.
The key is to get in there and do damage control as soon as an issue is detected — before we fall into red alert mode.
And from there, we do the work to make the necessary adjustments.
Phase 3: I find ways to change the face of my business and refuel my passion.
This final phase, of taking intentional and direct action, is what breathes life back into a business.
It’s the lifesaving CPR when I feel like I’m losing my love for what I do.
I drop the tasks and projects that are draining the life out of me.
I take on more work that makes me feel excited and challenged.
I not only look at the work I do with my clients, but I seriously assess my passion projects and figure out how to work them into my workweek, ideally on a daily basis.
Then I safeguard that time and don’t let anyone, including myself, rob me of it.
It’s key to have something that we look forward to doing to get the machine going every day.
As your own boss, you have the responsibility and power to ensure you are feeding your creative self, and are receiving self-fulfillment from at least some of the work you do.
The biggest mistake we can make as entrepreneurs is becoming passive participants in our businesses, and essentially become a slave to our own operation.
The mark of a truly successful entrepreneur is the ability to survive both the ups and downs that naturally come with fluctuating business ventures.
It’s the willingness to do whatever it takes to make sure your business and livelihood survive (as long as it’s legal).
Sometimes, that means having the awareness and insight to let a dying business go, and move onto the next, more promising venture.
But most of the time, it means not only riding out the hard times but actively working through the storm to adapt and ensure that you make it through.
If you’re on a rickety raft in the middle of the ocean during a torrential storm, are you going to just sit in that raft and say, “Well, I’ve done what I can until now, I guess we’ll see how this turns out and whether I make it through.”
You have your bucket and are emptying water out of your raft. You’re tightening the ropes and connections to ensure the raft holds just a little longer. You’re adjusting everything you can think of to give that raft, and yourself, the best chance of survival.
Business is no different.
We have to be willing to do the painstaking work to keep the raft afloat.
For those who give up when the storm comes, they’re rightfully the captains who will inevitably go down with the ship.
So, that begs the question of:
Which sort of captain are you?
And what are you willing to do to keep your raft from sinking?