I’ve recently been talking with a lot of folks in the community who are regularly struggling with financial ups and downs – the feast or famine cycle.
One month they’re raking in the dolla dolla billz, the next they’re eating dried ramen for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. Often from their closet while they shake in cold sweats, stressed out about how next month’s bills will get paid. And probably from malnutrition, too.
There’s a lot of reasons that feast or famine cycles happen. Sometimes we get busy with current work and forget to promote ourselves, other times it’s simply the season or natural market cycle – every business has them. While we don’t have total control over the market or trends or seasons, we do have control over how we respond to them.
We need to be proactive through the good times and the bad to sustain our small businesses and create success.
Here are 5 steps you can take to set up a system and avoid the feast or famine cycle to grow your successful small business.
1. Set your rates
And stick to ’em.
I know how tempting it is to lower your rates, take on a not-quite-right project, or beg on street corners for work when business is slow.
#Truthbomb: I’ve done it. Repeatedly over the years. And you know what? Every single hair-tearing-out time I did, I regretted it. Those people didn’t value what I offered and they’d second guess and low-ball me into the gutter. Where I’d promptly curl into a ball and nurse a bottle of Colt45.
Sure, it was a way to grab a few quick bucks that covered the dried peas I tossed in that ramen, but it was never ever worth it.
Taking on low-caliber clients out of desperation isn’t the solution. People who don’t value what you offer is the quickest way to hate your life. And your business. When we do work that doesn’t honour our goals or process, it leaves us not only feeling dejected and shitty, it also undermines our business goals.
Instead, set your rates and spend time nurturing relationships with previous and new potential clients who value – and are willing to pay for – what you do.
In good times and in bad.
2. Get your head on straight: Set your priorities
We’ve all been there – we say we want to do something, but we never actually take action. Or we get distracted taking action on the wrong things.
I know there’s a lot of competing elements for your time and there’s only 24 hours in a day, which is why it’s vital you get your head on straight and set your priorities.
Sure, you can couch-potato-it-up watching Netflix. Or drink a couple beers with dinner. Or lose hours scrolling through your Facebook feed. But how do any of these tasks get you closer to a constant feast in business and income?
Are you spinning your wheels in Facebook Groups that don’t produce results? Sending low-value, salesy newsletters that don’t get a response? Or do you simply fall into a pit of WTF and curl up under the covers when things get tough?
Knowing what works for your business and concentrating your efforts there – be it email marketing, in-person events, social media, cold calling, hosting workshops, leaving business cards at local coffee shops, jumping up and down in a onesie covered in glitter – will help lift you out of the funk and keep your business afloat. It may take some experimentation to figure this out (I’d be happy to book you in for a coaching & consulting session to help you work through this), so throw some stuff against the wall and see what sticks – what works.
Then set your priorities to get shit done.Productivity Tip: Get your head on straight and set your priorities to get shit done! #SmallBiz #Entrepreneur Click To Tweet
Note: You absolutely need to unplug sometimes. Self care (breaking & taking a Netflix day) is just as important to the success of your business as plugging in and doing the work. But how you manage your time and the choices you make on the daily – the priorities you set – are deeply influential to reducing, as well as making it through, the feast or famine cycle.
3. Allocate your time (60/40)
We hear a lot about working “on” your business, rather than working “in” it, right? To do this, you have to allocate your time appropriately.
That’s why I divide my time each week by a 60/40 ratio.
60% of my time is spent on marketing and connecting with my community to build relationships, and only 40% of my calendar is dedicated to client projects.
I know 40% doesn’t sound like much, but to keep my business out of the feast or famine cycle, I deliberately time block this space as a hard appointment to work ON my business.
Without setting aside this time, we tend to fall into the too much / not enough work pattern and your brand suffers because people actually forget about you while you’re balls-deep-in-work mode.Productivity #SmallBiz Tip: Spend 60% of your time marketing & nurturing relationships, and only 40% on client projects. #BeingBoss Click To Tweet
You want to make sure you allocate enough time to working on your business, rather than in it, so you stay in the minds and hearts of potential clients.
That way when they’re ready to work with someone, you’re the first person they call!
Follow through. E’ry day.
Building a successful business and getting out of the feast or famine cycle isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes real time, committed effort, and thoughtful dedication.
I’m a strong advocate of flailing. And even failing. So experiment. Be courageous. Create quality and value. Try all the things.
Just be consistent.
Even as a successful small business owner, my biggest challenge is getting my mindset right and keeping it there.
It’s super duper easy peasy to fall into a pit of self-loathing and fear when you’re in the shit. I’ll be honest, when the hard times are upon me, I find it incredibly difficult to even get up in the morning, never-mind “attack” my business that day.
In those moments, taking a few seconds to realign your thoughts and perspective are what will make or break your business.
Take a breath, smile (even if you don’t feel like it – smiling actually produces happy endorphins in your brain whether you mean it or not), and re-write your story:
This is a beautiful day to connect with your community & find some new clients!
And then take it one step at a time.
- Set aside 5 minutes.
- Break out a notebook after dinner.
- Write down 3 things you’re grateful for.
When you hit a rough patch, you can pick up that book and look back on all the things that are good, and this helps re-position your thought process.
You can’t control all situations, but you can control how you react and respond to them.
It’s not always easy, but it is simple. And it just takes a little gentle conditioning and practice.
You are in charge of your mindset. Your perspective. The narratives you tell yourself. So choose one that will elevate you and your business, not one that brings you down.
Your business – and you – deserve that.
Your turn: Do you struggle with the feast or famine cycle? What are your tips for avoiding it or dealing with it? Leave a comment below or please shoot me an email and tell me directly. It makes me oh so happy to hear from you!