Keeping your sanity when business is slow

Our hats are off, and we’re saluting – you’ve given up the security of a permanent job to go it alone, and venture into the unknown.

Let’s not be under the delusion that this is going to be all carefree and easy:  be prepared a potential slow burner with lots of challenges along the way. There will be ups and downs, and times when you feel like giving up when business opportunities seem non-existent.

When times get tough, it’s vital not to lose sight of why you decided to set up your own business and become self-employed in the first place. You made this decision to fulfil your dream and release the entrepreneur within you. You now have the freedom to work from home or remotely from a beautiful destination, become your own boss, or to get away from that boss. The reasons why you made this choice and the possibilities ahead are endless.

We look at how to keep your mental health and personal wellbeing in check on those days when the tumbleweed does roll past.

Dealing with rejection

It’s human nature to fear rejection. This irrational fear is probably the reason why you didn’t ask that person whom you were attracted to out on a date, or approach them in the nightclub before the lights went on and it was too late.

With over a thousand companies set up in the UK every day, the freelance market is getting more and more competitive, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Some contracts you will win; some contracts you will lose. Before you put the client that you didn’t secure to one side, ask yourself:

‘What have I learnt from this experience?’

‘How can I improve my business from this experience?’

Answering these questions will put you in a better situation to beat off competition and win that contract next time around.

Perceived failure

How we see failure is a funny thing. Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything”, and he was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.”

After 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb, a reporter asked Edison, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison was quick on the draw: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. I’ve just found 1,000 ways that don’t work”. What someone else perceived as a failure, Edison regarded as a success. He went to become one of the greatest inventors of all time.

There was also the case of Joanna. Joanna was a single mother on welfare, who was jobless and penniless. Joanna started writing a book in her local café as her baby slept next to her in a pram. Joanna approached countless publishers with her story from all over the world – none were interested and many criticised it. Despite this, she kept going. Finally, one publisher paid her a small advance to publish her book. That story was about a young wizard named Harry Potter, and Joanna is better known as J.K. Rowling.

Then there was James. James designed thousands of prototypes for a vacuum cleaner over ten years, but no one was interested. Dyson Ltd is now worth over £5bn.

“Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr Epstein. We don’t like your boys’ sound”. With that breezy dismissal, Dick Rowe, the man who believe it or not was responsible for spotting talent at Decca Records, made one of the most significant misjudgments in entertainment history.  John, Paul, George and then-drummer Pete Best were sent packing back to Liverpool from London, and George Martin capitalised on this Dick’s mistake. Fast forward 56 years later, and guitar groups have been anything but ‘out’, and are still very much ‘in’.

Another talent spotter, Jim Denny, told Elvis to “go back to driving a truck”. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.

Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Michael Jordan and Marilyn Monroe: all rejected. Bill Gates’ first business: a flop. Worth bearing in mind for the next time your services are turned away, and thoughts of self-doubt start to creep in that you’re not good enough, or the other person is better.

Resistance in the face of adversity

All of the above names have something in common: their refusal to take ‘no’ from anyone who deemed them not good enough, their belief in themselves, their desire to keep going despite rejection, and how successful they became.

Making the most of your downtime

Those quiet days will enable you to make the most of your downtime. Make sure your website and social media channels are looking sharp, maximise the use of free social media marketing tools, network on LinkedIn or at events to win new business, or do some unpaid self-appointed work that will boost your portfolio.  Use this time to do that gym or home workout, spend time with friends and loved ones, watch that film or read that book.

Becoming self-employed has lots of rewards, and the income possibilities are endless. When business is slow, productivity needn’t suffer.  Keep the faith that your next contract is just around the corner.