what to do if you feel stuck in your small business
I’m 20 months into my owning my own online business. That’s almost 2 years, guys! What’s that daunting statistic every new business owner hears? Something like 9 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first year… It feels good to say I’m 1 out of the 10 who didn’t fail within the first year.
And it feels even better to say I’m confident I won’t fail in the second year (only 4 months until I hit that milestone) or the third year or the fourth year or ever, if I’m being honest.
Why So Many Small Businesses Fail Within the First Year
Let me start off by saying, what I’m about to say is my own personal opinion. There are no hard facts proving that this is 100% true. But I’ve worked alongside a lot of small business owners over the last 20 months. I’ve seen people fail and I’ve seen people succeed way past what they thought was possible. And I’ve seen the common denominator between why people fail and why people succeed.
Determination when things get tough.
9 out of 10 new businesses fail because when things get tough, it’s easier to give up and go work on someone else’s dreams. When things get tough and you start wondering, “Will I be able to pay my bills this month?” or “Will I ever land another client?” or “I don’t want to work all hours of the day and night,” entrepreneurs who succeed are people who figure it out instead of giving up.
Entrepreneurs who succeed are people who think, “What can I do to make sure I’m able to pay my bills this month?” and “What do I need to do to land another client?” and “I want to keep working because I will make my dreams come true.”
I’ve seen people fail because they’re tired of balancing their 9-5 and their side hustle. So instead, they settle for that 9-5. Even if they’re absolutely miserable there. I’ve seen people fail because when they don’t land a client, they think of themselves as a failure and give up hope. I’ve seen people fail because they think clients should flock to them, they’re not willing to put in the work to see their client base grow.
But I’ve also seen people succeed because they know that by balancing their 9-5 and side hustle, one day they’ll give their notice to that dreadful 9-5. I’ve seen people succeed because when they don’t land a client they know it’s because there is a better client out there waiting for them. I’ve seen people succeed because they know it’s not easy, they know they have to put in the work to get clients (people don’t just flock to you because you sit there and think it’s going to happen).
I’m one of those people. And because of that, right now I’m working maybe 20 hours a week on client work and then I get to spend the rest of my week working ON my business. But it definitely wasn’t like that when I first started.
Which leads me to the biggest lesson I have learned as a business owner which also happens to be what you should do and know if you feel stuck in your online business.
You Have to Close Doors for other Opportunities to open
Getting rid of retainer clients who are dragging you down, eliminating services that aren’t generating any income (even though you worked on them for so long), parting ways with your social media manager because they don’t understand your voice (even though they’re the sweetest person ever)… these are hard things to do.
Getting rid of retainer clients (even if they’re dragging you down) means you’re reducing your guaranteed monthly income. The anxiety and uncertainty of being able to pay your bills will set in.
Eliminating services that aren’t generating income (even though you worked on them for so long) means admitting that not everything you do is going to work out for the best. It means accepting that all that work you did was for nothing (other than a great learning experience).
Parting ways with your social media manager (even though they’re the sweetest person ever) means accepting that you made a bad hire. It will be a hit to your ego but you’ll get over it.
Closing doors, ending relationships, firing clients and contractors… it’s all hard to do but once you’ve done it, you’re ready for new opportunities.
By getting rid of that retainer client, you now have more time to work ON your business. You can develop new services or shift your focus entirely. You can find a new retainer client to take their place or start working on an online course that will replace that income with minimal on-going effort. You can start checking things off your to-do list that have been on their forever or you can take time for yourself!
None of this would have been possible if you held onto that retainer client simply because you were afraid of what would happen if you did.
By eliminating a service, you open up a slot for a bigger and better service. One that your audience has been asking you for. And since you’ve learned a lesson from developing a sub-par service, you know what to do and what not to do with future services.
If you would have kept that service, you would have been in an endless loop of feeling like a failure.
By parting ways with your social media manager, you have the opportunity to look for and hire a new one. One that does understand your voice and can grow your following like you never thought possible.
Just because you are where you are right now, doesn’t mean you have to stay there. When you close a door you’re making space for a new opportunity.
My Experience Closing Doors in My Business
Letting go of a client
Last year I took a month long solo trip to Thailand. During that time, in my business I had a huge 20 hour a week client that I signed on when I was trying to quit my 9-5 (alongside a few other clients). The work I was doing for them wasn’t fulfilling and it took up so much of my week that I never had time to do what I really enjoyed doing… web design. I didn’t have time to market myself and I didn’t have time to find web design projects. Even if I did find a web design project, I didn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to working on the project.
When I was on the flight home from Thailand I decided I was going to fire the client. It was terrifying. It was basically half of my income that I was deciding to let go of.
Not too long after, I decided to invest in a business coach. Cut my income in half and fork over a bunch of money for a business coach? Call me crazy.
Or call me smart. I prefer that because these two things opened so many opportunities for me.
Since then I’ve been landing web design clients with ease. I freed up my time to write marketing material, create email opt in freebies to grow my email list and attract an audience who wants to purchase my services, and develop and online course. I got articles published in a couple of online magazines (here’s one of those!), I did presentations in online summits, and I was interviewed for a membership site. None of that would have happened if I gave into fear, if I kept that client who was draining me, and if I accepted that things were the way they were.
There are a few things that I enjoy doing for others that I used to offer as services. Creating email marketing templates and helping people launch their online courses were two of those. Then there were some services I offered that I actually despised (general VA services) but still offered.
2018 was the year of cleaning up my services. I no longer offer the general VA services, I only do email marketing templates per referrals or if someone happens to send me a request (but I don’t market it), and I no longer help people launch their online courses (I design the pages through referrals but I don’t market it). I focus solely on web design now – designing websites for clients and teaching web designers how to create websites that convert.
If I wouldn’t have eliminated these three services though, I would still be struggling to find clients because I would be offering too many things and I wouldn’t have my online course teaching web designers how to create websites that convert because I simply wouldn’t have had time to develop it.
Eliminating services allowed me to change course and grow my business in a way that felt right. New doors opened, new opportunities presented themselves because I was comfortable closing doors.
So many small businesses fail in the first year because they don’t have the determination to push through the struggle, the unknown, and the fear of failing or making a wrong decision. When you make the decision to not fail, to not be miserable, and to make things work like you know they can, you put yourself on the path to success.
But in order to be truly successful, sometimes you have to close doors in order for new opportunities to present themselves. By staying on the same path and accepting things that really aren’t working out for you, you’re closing yourself off to some incredible opportunities.
So be okay with change. Be okay with closing doors to let new opportunities into your business.
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