How to Survive the Quiet Times in Business

I’ve been running my own creative business for about ten years, and have had to endure a few quiet times, which has not been fun. These are some ideas that have helped me out during quiet patches:

Recognise larger patterns in play. Surfers, climatologists and gamblers all have something in common: They know that things happen in patterns. We have limited control over these. But we can control our reaction. It’s important to recognise them, and take appropriate action. We have a lot of control over how much business comes to us. But there are also forces beyond our control, and this needs to be taken into account.

Take a little time for yourself. Remember 2 months ago when you were working 14 hour days to reach some tight deadlines? Well, maybe you’ve built up some time in lieu? What if you take advantage of the situation by, let’s say, dropping the kids at school, sitting in the sun for an hour or two and reading a book about marketing, or going for a walk and clearing your head. Gotta be better than sitting in the office beating your head against a wall or treading water on Facebook.

Practice Mind Control. No, I don’t mean some kind of magic ju ju to get your prospects to sign. I mean sticking with an exercise and stress release regime that helps you ward off despondence and negative feedback loops. Meditation, pole dancing, deep water running or yogic flying. Whatever floats your boat. Just keep doing something that will help keep you fit and keep the demons at bay.

Reduce your expenses. No need to batten down the hatches but hey, maybe you can put off buying another Faberge Egg until the next big job is signed.

Do some work for a colleague. Much of the longevity of tribal cultures can be explained by their sharing of resources. Your neighbour will slice off some choice cuts of buffalo for you, because he knows it might be his plate that’s empty next season. You may well have a colleague who’s currently under the pump trying to get some jobs done and delivered, who could do with contracting out a few days work with no strings attached. You’ll have some work to do, bring in some much needed cash, but also get to experience work life outside your bubble, which may well bring with it a changed perspective and dose of inspiration.

Forgive yourself. Most people tend to be their harshest critic, and can give themselves a pretty hard time for temporarily veering off the road of perceived success. Spend some time reminding yourself of the great things you have achieved, and will continue to do so in the future. For those with a more deeply ingrained masochistic streak: once you’re done lashing yourself, go fishing for compliments from your greatest fan. Only you know who that person is.

I feel like I’m just scratching the surface here. Help me out. Suggest some other strategies to use when business goes quiet.

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4 Responses to “How to Survive the Quiet Times in Business”

  1. On 05/09/2010 at 9:06 AM Adrian Elton responded with... #

    I’ve certainly had the occasional quiet patch while building my design and advertising business. While it can be a challenge to remain positive I’ve found that this is the perfect time to go into networking overdrive and to follow up on all of those contacts that you’ve been meaning to. So whether it’s a coffee, lunch, office visit, to colleagues, allies or prospective or existing clients, all of this can stimulate new opportunities and sometimes from completely left of field.

    It can also be the perfect opportunity to work on a personal project that allows you to test or showcase what you can do when you’re the client and you’re not constrained by commercial considerations. Alternatively you can either enter industry awards or enter relevant creative competitions, each of which provide great opportunities to draw attention to what you can do in a way that goes beyond just sticking your work or website in front of people without a context for doing so. And if this bares fruit then you have a good reason to get your name and achievement covered by the local press, (both general and industry based) which is great for profile building.

  2. On 06/09/2010 at 4:29 AM ryanspanger responded with... #

    Excellent points, Adrian. I think the idea of pursuing a personal project is a great one because this is the sort of thing that drove us to be creative in the first place. And long term it can help to bring more work in, by demonstrating another facet of your work that may not have been displayed through commissioned work from clients. I think you’ve given me an idea for my next blog post 🙂

  3. On 22/05/2011 at 5:19 AM Jann responded with... #

    Enjoyed all of your thoughts. One I might add is, think of what might be a logical addition to your services, or how you might tweak or repackage what you’re already providing. We’ve been slow lately and I realized that there are many things we do that are in demand that I haven’t properly promoted. Just be sure that you’re not adding something that isn’t truly an area of expertise. As always, authenticity rules.


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