Running a business can often feel like you’re strapped into the wildest rollercoaster with no idea what twist or turn is coming next. I’ve been there, and let me tell you, it’s both exhilarating and daunting.
In my best month, I soared high with earnings hitting over $95k. The next month, it’s a plunge into a $15k loss. Yeah, it’s a wild ride.
And here’s the thing – it’s completely normal. There are going to be amazing days and some not-so-great ones. You might even hit a rough patch that lasts weeks, months, or, brace yourself, an entire year.
But here’s what I learned: it’s crucial to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Those down times? They’re not the end of your story. They’re just part of the journey. Often, there’s something incredible just around the corner, waiting for you.
All you need is the resilience to ride out the storm and the vision to see beyond the immediate hurdles.
So, let’s dive in and explore how to navigate these ups and downs, and most importantly, how to keep your eye on the big picture.
Don’t let a few bad clients discourage you
The beginnings of running a service business are, without a doubt, the most challenging part of the journey
In those early days, you’re likely to encounter more than your fair share of difficult clients, but they’re crucial for learning and growth.
But here’s the good news: it changes over time. As you grow, as your brand gets stronger, you start attracting better clients. The kind that align with your values and appreciate your work.
If you’re a designer just starting out, you might find yourself feeling discouraged after a few rough projects. It’s natural. Those initial gigs can be a real test – dealing with demanding clients, scope creep, maybe even payment issues.
But remember, these experiences don’t define your entire journey.
Don’t judge the entire experience of working with clients based on few bad projects. They are not always reflective of how things will be in the long run. Each client, each project is a learning opportunity, a step towards better clients and more rewarding projects.
So, hang in there. The beginning might be hard, but it’s setting the foundation for a more fulfilling path ahead.
My stoic approach
Think like a stoic: don’t get overly excited during the highs, and don’t plummet into despair during the lows. Being too swayed by either can throw you off your game.
Focus on what you have control over and how you react and the actions you take. It’s all about responding thoughtfully to whatever situation you’re in.
When times get tough, that’s your cue to double down on your efforts. Sometimes, you may even need to ramp it up tenfold. It’s all about perseverance and a willingness to push through the challenges.
But it’s not just about charging ahead blindly. It’s also about being flexible and open to change. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to pivot. This could mean tweaking your offerings, introducing a new service or product, or even adjusting your prices.
Staying stoic doesn’t mean being emotionless. It means maintaining a steady course despite the ups and downs, focusing on what you can control, making calculated decisions, and being ready to adapt when necessary.
Play the long game
This isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon, one where patience and persistence pay off.
- Building relationships: The core of any service business is the relationships you build. It’s not just about the current project or the immediate transaction. It’s about forging connections, partnerships, and networks that can last years. These relationships often become the backbone of your business, leading to repeat clients, referrals, and a solid reputation.
- Being helpful and proactive: Always look for ways to be helpful to your clients, beyond what they’ve asked for. It’s about adding value wherever you can. Offer insights, suggest improvements, and be a problem solver. Being proactive in your approach shows clients that you’re invested in their success, not just in completing a task.
Remember, in a service business, every interaction, every project, every client relationship is an investment in the future of your business.
It’s about laying the groundwork for sustained growth, not just quick wins. So, keep your eyes on the horizon, build those relationships, be helpful, and stay proactive. The rewards of these efforts might not be immediate, but they are enduring.
Consider monthly retainers for income stability
If the unpredictable nature of your income feels like a never-ending rollercoaster, it might be time to consider offering monthly retainers.
Retainers can provide a more stable and predictable flow of income, smoothing out those financial peaks and valleys.
- Stability over high rates: With retainers, you might offer a slightly lower hourly rate compared to one-off projects. However, the trade-off is worth it for the stability and consistency in income. It’s about ensuring a steady stream of work and payment, which can be a game-changer for your financial planning.
- Diverse retainer services: Think about what services you can offer on a retainer basis. This could include design direction and support, marketing design, website optimization and maintenance, WordPress support, and more. The key is to find services that clients need on an ongoing basis.
- Start small and adapt: Begin with lower retainer fees as you test the waters to see what works best for both you and your clients. Gradually, you can adjust your fees as you understand the value you provide and the market demand.
- Plan for time off: One important aspect of retainers is managing client expectations, especially when you plan to take time off. Be transparent with your clients about your availability and ensure you have a plan in place for any work that might need attention during your absence.
Offering monthly retainers is about creating a win-win situation – your clients get the ongoing support they need, and you get a more predictable income. It’s a strategic move to buffer against the financial uncertainties that often come with running a service business.
Having a personal project on the side can be a game-changer, especially during those quieter periods between client work.
It’s about using your downtime productively, channeling your creativity into something uniquely yours.
Client work is great, but having a personal project gives you a sense of ownership and creative freedom. It’s an opportunity to build something from the ground up, on your terms. This could be anything that resonates with your passion and skills.
Personal projects aren’t just for fun; they can also become an additional revenue stream. Think about creating something that you can actively develop and sell. This could be a digital product, a tool, a course – anything that fills a gap in the market.
These projects began as side ventures but have now become substantial parts of my business.
But now, I’m curious about your story. How do you handle the ups and downs in your service business?
What strategies have you found effective? Comment and share your experiences.
Looking forward to hearing your stories!