Dealing With Doubt

 Doubt - it can be absolutely soul crushing. How do you escape, make a plan, and then start designing the life you actually want to live? 

In my previous life I worked in a cubicle. This meant that every day I was scheduled to work, I would show up and do my work. As long as I did this consistently, I would receive a paycheck every 2 weeks for my efforts. Some days I didn’t work as hard as other days, but as long as I showed up, that check was always the same. I even had sick and vacation days that I would get paid for not showing up! It was a magical thing to always know my check was on the way.

In my current life, I am an entrepreneur. I created this business in which I must do work and hope to get paid, but sometimes there is no guarantee. There is no magic paycheck that comes every 2 weeks. I can sometimes work my patootie off and not get a check or any form of payment. Other times, I have lots of money coming in and life is good. It is a rollercoaster ride of uncertainty to be a business owner.

When the work is steady and clients are calling and needing my services, money is coming in and I am busy and confident. I know I’m providing a valuable service for people and my enthusiasm for my life and my work is high.

Suddenly, without warning, the calls stop coming. My calendar is empty. There is no check expected in 2 weeks, or ever again unless I figure something out. What happened? Was it something I did wrong? Nobody complained to me about any of my services. I have no bad reviews on social media. There just aren’t any requests on my phone or calendar. This party that was rolling along has come to an abrupt, unexpected stall.

Doubt. At first it stays on the outskirts of my mind. This is just a slow part of the year, things will pick up. They have before.

Doubt. Yeah, but last year started to slow down, which didn’t happen in the previous years. So maybe things won’t pick up this time.

Doubt. If things don’t pick up, I am going to have to figure out some other way to pay my bills. Maybe I can do some marketing events in the next few months. Maybe I can start working on that other income stream I thought of back when I was too busy to do anything about it. Maybe I should just start looking for a job….

This is the moment the panic can take over. What could be taken as a very well-deserved bit of down time can instead become either a frenzy of chaotic attempts to get something going again or a Netflix watching, eating ice cream by the carton binge of self-sabotage.

Stop. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. This is NOT the time to panic. Trust me, I’ve done it. It does not help anything!

There are tons of self-help and confidence boosting books you can read and actions you can take in times like this. Google them and get your hands on ones that call to you.

Don’t be a hermit and don’t panic in isolation. Reach out to a friend and go for coffee and a chat. If you are in mastermind groups on Facebook, reach out to others who may have dealt with the same situation and learn from them. If you aren’t in any mastermind groups, find some!

If you are close to the panicking stage of things, you probably want to get real. The first step in getting real is just facing the worst possible thing that can happen from this. So ask yourself…

“If I never get another customer and this business fails, what is the worst thing that can happen?”

Write down anything that comes to mind and then write down how you can counteract all those things with other actions. These steps are your contingency plan. If the worst possible scenario is that you would have to work somewhere else for awhile to pay for things, that is what you could do. So for now put that out of your mind, because you have a solution if it comes to that.

The second step in alleviating your worry is to see where you are currently financially. If you have a savings, figure out how many months you can live on that if you never make another penny doing your business. (This probably isn’t going to be the case, but remember, we’re talking worst case scenario here.) Now you have a date in mind for when you’d have to put your contingency plan into action.

Maybe that date is sooner rather than later. If money doesn’t start flowing soon and you’re going to be unable to pay your bills, be proactive. Make a list of all your monthly bills and the amounts you have to pay each month. Prioritize them in order of importance. (What I mean by this is, what bills do you want to make sure get paid so your ability to live and make money aren’t hindered if the service or item is turned off or repossessed.) Here are some things you will want to make sure are addressed first:

  1. House payment or rent
  2. Utility payments
  3. Car payment
  4. Business needs that have monthly payments (website, insurance, memberships vital to making money, etc.)
  5. Car insurance

Depending on your situation, you may have less or more priority payments, but this gives you an idea of what to consider. Now you need to start making phone calls to these creditors.

When making these calls, have paper and pen handy to write down any details. You are just going to be upfront and let the representative know what is going on in a matter of fact way. After they identify you and pull up your account, they will ask how they can help you. Say something like this:

“I was just calling about my payment for this (or next) month. I am a (insert business title here) and we really had a slow down this past few months, and I don’t want to get behind on my payments. I would like to know if you have any options to help me.”

Chances are, there are a few different options they may have for you to skip a month or two of payments without penalty. This temporary reprieve gives you a bit of breathing room in regards to business picking up and getting back on track, OR getting a new gig going that will bring in that income you need.

Once that is done and you can stop panicking, it is time to decide your next steps. You need to decide why business has slowed down and what you can do to get it picked up again. Depending on what you do, it could just be a seasonal slow period, and will naturally pick up again soon. I’ve been a pet sitter for the past 5 years, and have noticed we are typically slower in the beginning of a new year, but within a month or two, things pick back up again.

If you determined that this could just be a slow period and have had an idea for a second income stream, now could be the best time to start working on it. If your creditors have given you a reprieve for a month or two, you can breathe easy. Consider this time a blessing and get your creative juices going for the new idea you have had. Be sure to take time to relax and be kind to yourself also.

Perhaps starting something new isn’t for you right now. Instead, consider ways you can get word out to new potential customers. Are there any vendor fairs or other events you can be part of? What about contacting some local businesses and seeing if you can have a table in their lobby advertising your wares or services?

If you are an online only business, maybe you can do guest blogs that complement your services whose customers would potentially become customers for you. Can you freelance your services out? There are lots of sites that look for freelancers of all sorts. Look in the help wanted section of your local or regional paper or online site. Often local businesses want temporary help and that could be just what you are needing right now.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you are not alone. Any person who is or has been an entrepreneur knows the worry that comes when business slows down. This life isn’t for the fainthearted, and you must learn to enjoy the rollercoaster of ups and downs. Try to look at it all like some big adventure, and just go with things as they come.