Hey guys – Happy Monday and I apologize for the delayed post! I’m currently traveling to San Francisco to be with my sister and squeeze her cute babies, and Southwest’s wifi was not cooperating as I’d hoped. But guess what? Super small world. While my mom and I were sitting in the airport at our gate, one of my favorite people appeared right in front of my face, ready to board the same flight. I’m lookin’ at you, Jess! Such a fun little surprise to see her and Neal (they’re actually sitting in the row in front of us, haha)
Okay so – I hope you’re ready for a more in depth convo because today I’m going to get really real with you. I want to talk about something that I’m sure so many of you have experienced as in today’s society, being a business owner, entrepreneur, self starter, etc is on the rise. You see it on social media, on TV (Lipstick Jungle (and old fave), Girlboss on Netflix.. just to name a couple), and in the news. Women are killing it in the world of business these days, and it’s so exciting that so many of us are taking charge and seeing success.
BUT… something that isn’t talked about, is the struggle – and the fact that sometimes it can be freaking hard. When you start a business, you know it’s going to be a hustle, you know you’re going to have to work tirelessly and lose some sleep in the beginning. But when you’re knee deep in feeling exhausted, you’re burnt out and losing inspiration, not only can it be tough, but it can be a bit terrifying. Our minds like to play tricks on us when things either get too overwhelming or when things slow down to an uncomfortable pace. It likes to try and tell us that we’re failing, when in reality, maybe all we need is a little love nudge and some rest.
For me, I always get a little nervous during the slow months of my business. Which is funny since I’ve been running my business for about 7 years now. But every year around the end of October, the feelings creep in and I tell myself things I don’t mean. “Am I really cut out for this? Am I going to make it? Should I just go get a corporate job?!” As a freelance photographer and writer, the work is never steady and it’s up to me to create my own schedule. This can be both empowering and super terrifying – though for the most part, I find incredible motivation in knowing that my success is a direct reflection of how much effort I’m putting into what I love to do. With 7 years under my belt, I’ve come up with certain tools and tricks that get me through periods like this.
So, today I want to remind every single one of you out there who are creating your own job, that not only is this feeling and sometimes slight panic normal, but you can get through it with these easy tips. Remember, it’s tough – but so are you.
Here are a few tips to help you thrive during the busy months, and most importantly – remain calm through the slower months.
How to deal with business ups and downs:
Staying organized and ahead of the curve
This is truly one of the most important things you can do for your business to handle a major influx. While this is super good news that your business s thriving, it can be a serious “blessing and a curse” if you aren’t prepared. A couple of ways you can avoid the overwhelm (and tricks that I’ve used throughout the years) include:
Building email templates:
Designing email templates for your most frequently asked questions will not only save you so much time, but it will also ensure that each client is hearing back from you in a timely manner and no important information is falling through the cracks. This may take an entire afternoon depending on your business (for this blog, it took me an afternoon but for my photography business, it took me a couple of days)
Setting up your automated out of office
There’s no reason to not utilize the out of office function on your email platform. This is such a great way to have clear communication with your clients form the get go, and to set realistic expectations without having to do much work. You can be as broad or specific as you’d like, but this should be one of the very first things that you set up, should your inbox start to get more difficult to keep up with. Here are a couple of examples I have up right now:
The Calm Collective:
Hello! Thank you so much for getting in touch.
I’m currently on sabbatical, so please allow several days before a response. For those inquiring about a session: I will begin photographing portrait and commercial clients come 2018. I’ll continue checking this email once in a while, so please be sure to let me know if you would like to schedule something for the new year. Otherwise, feel free to browse my print shop which is being updated on a semi-regular basis, as well as my lifestyle blog, The Calm Collective, where I post every Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can also stay in touch via Instagram: Photography | Lifestyle Blog
Have a planner or set up reminders
Having a trusty planner is essential when it comes to staying organized and knowing what needs to be tackled for the month. While some people like to use their phones, I work so much better when tasks are written down by hand, and I can physically cross them off. I sit down on the first of each month and plan ahead for what I know I can expect, and do the same every Sunday night to look at the upcoming week at hand.
Economics ups and downs
This is honestly one of the hardest things to handle as a small business owner, since it’s truly out of your control. When I first started my photography business (back in 2010) it was a really tough year with the recession. I was hard pressed to find someone who could pay the amount that I wanted for shoots, so I had to adapt and adjust accordingly. Here are a few ways you can survive during an economic slump:
Create a simple budget
I have an overall budget that I look at each month, but I also create seasonal budgets for both of my businesses. For the purpose of this topic, we’ll stick with my photography business. I know that come the new year, no one is going to want to spend hundreds of dollars on photo shoots because they’ve just done their Christmas shopping and spent money on travel to be with friends & family. I totally get that – so I adjust accordingly. I’ll either schedule mini sessions (photo shoots that are 1/2 the time and 1/2 the cost) or I’ll focus on selling my prints here and here (far less of a cost than scheduling a session).
Creating budgets for your business also helps you know what months you really need to prioritize being frugal, and which months you can sit back and relax a bit more. For me, August – October are insanely packed, and while that isn’t something that I love, I’m grateful for it because it allows me to take my annual 3 month sabbatical from photography (November-January). Each year this has been possible, because I’ve created a budget that shows me what exactly I need to live comfortable for those 3 months, and I’ll schedule accordingly.
Come up with a side project
If you hit a rut with the economy and your business is taking a bit of a beating, think about some of your hobbies and how you an turn that into work. Here are some examples:
- As you all know, I’m a photographer in addition to running this blog. While I photograph people majority of the time, as mentioned above I also have a couple of shops where I sell my work from my travels which you can see here and here. So I’m still able to work even though I’m not booking physical clients. (we call this passive income and it’s the best)
- Also regarding photography: you can reach out to publications (both print and online) and ask for freelance work.
- If you love to write, submit examples to companies you respect and admire.
- If you love ceramics, create some staple pieces and open up an Etsy shop or sell your creations on eBay.
- Maybe you love kids? Offer to teach swim lessons, figure skating lessons, or pick up a part-time nannying gig.
- Research pop up markets in your city. If you’re a maker, you can apply, pay a fee, and sell some of your work to locals.
Rest, rest, rest
Whatever you do, please don’t forget to rest. We’ve been told time and time again that if we aren’t running ourselves into the ground or “living for the hustle” we’re clearly not running a successful business. This is so far from the truth and can cause major issues (for the sake of this blog post title – it an cause a lot of “downs”) to your business. So long as you’re prepared for whatever might come your way (as mentioned above) and you’re being responsible with your finances and carefully considering your budget(s) – you have the room to rest while still running a thriving business. You just have to give yourself the permission.
Several years back with my photography business, I started giving myself the aforementioned 3 months off each year. I do this for the sole reason that it completely refuels me and reminds me why I started in the first place. With this blog, I used to post 5 days a week (Monday through Friday), and quickly came to realize that it was leading me to burn out. So I brought it down to 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and that has made all of the difference. I’m putting in the right kind of energy, writing from a real genuine place, and not creating posts simply because “I have to get something up before the morning”.
Here are some other ways you can easily incorporate rest into your schedule:
Shut down your tech
I don’t mean close your computer or put your phone on vibrate. I mean shut it allllll the way down. Power it off. I turned off my phone for 2 hours the other day and I had such an intense feeling of relief and freedom, that I’ve committed to doing this more throughout the week. Same with my computer (puts it’s good for the battery life ;) I’m far less tempted to just “check Pinterest really quick” or load my email just one more time when I know that my computer is sound asleep.
Make one day a week (that isn’t on the weekend) a “rest day”
This doesn’t have to mean that you don’t go into your office or you don’t do any work – but take a more gentle approach to your tasks on this day. Maybe have this be your email catch up day, or work on some bookkeeping. Opt out of scheduling any big phone calls or meetings and making other commitments, and have this be your flex-day. I recommend making it a Wednesday, so you can give yourself a mid-week reboot. Extra credit: listen to some uplifting and inspiring podcasts while you’re at it.
The benefits of being a small business owner
Through all of the ups and downs, at the end of the day I wouldn’t trade this way of living for the world. It doesn’t come without it’s challenges, and I’ve certainly put in the energy and the effort to ensure that I can appreciate and take comfort in the months that are quiet, and keep calm when things get busier than usual. The main thing to remember is that life fluctuates all the time. Things change; only so much of it is within our control. If you dedicate the time to organizing your business in such a way that will take care of you, you will thrive no matter the weather.