If you listen to entrepreneurs on social media, you’d think life as a business owner was a perfect series of early mornings, motivational podcasts and inspirational stories.
But we all know that’s not true. Every business has its ups and downs, and some days are just downright awful.
Maybe that big sale you were pinning your hopes on has fallen through, or a piece of equipment has broken and you’ve been scraping up the cash to replace it. Or perhaps, after weeks and months of hard work, you’re simply feeling burned out.
Whatever the reason, it happens to all of us. And after a particularly tough year, it’s important to stop and recognise when things are getting on top of you.
Here are some practical strategies I’ve learned to manage the bad days in business.
Remember why you started
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but on a difficult day, it really does help to think about what motivated you to start your own business in the first place.
I recently wrote about knowing your “why” in business, and I really do think this is essential not just for motivating yourself, but as a way of providing a great service to your customers too.
For some people it’s a passion for what they do that drives them. For others it’s about independence, not having to work under someone else’s direction, and having the freedom to make their own business choices. Often, it’s a combination of the two.
Personally, it’s the people I work with who matter to me. Even on the most difficult days, thinking about the times I’ve helped clients to thrive and succeed makes it all worth it.
Plan for failure
This one might sound a bit pessimistic, but the truth is, most businesses fail.
That doesn’t have to be the end of the world, though. Making mistakes, and learning from them, is one of the best ways to develop as a business owner.
So if you’re stressed about a sudden expense or a bad sales month, the best thing you can do is step back, take a look at the numbers, and think about your next move.
Your business planning, monitoring and forecasting should help you to see what the worst-case scenario is, and from there you can put concrete plans in place to deal with it.
Take a moment for yourself
Despite what the internet might say about hustle culture, ‘rise and grind’ and so on, your business doesn’t have to be your life.
Maintaining the distinction between work and life is often tricky when you’re self-employed, and it’s become even more difficult for those who’ve switched to working from home during the pandemic.
And even outside of the working day, family life can be full of stresses that take over the rest of your time before you know it.
Finding a moment to do something that’s just for you can make a big difference to your outlook. Then, when you do get back to work, you might find your fresh perspective helps you to tackle problems you would have struggled with otherwise.
Write it down or talk it through
When you’ve got a lot on your mind, sometimes your best option is to get it all down on paper.
You don’t necessarily have to take up journaling full-time – although research does suggest this can help with things like memory, sleep and even your immune system – but writing down how you’re feeling can be a helpful way to organise your thoughts and deal with stress or negativity.
You might find that as you write, you’re better able to identify the specific things that are bothering you, and figure out a strategy to deal with them.
Another option is to talk things through with someone you trust.
Again, this is a way of processing the pressures you’re dealing with, and making them manageable by breaking them down into smaller points.
Ideally, this should be a reciprocal relationship where you both know you can talk things through with one another and deal with them in a productive way.
You might have a friend or fellow business owner you can talk to, for example, who can offer practical tips based on their experience. And when they need support, you can offer to lend an ear in return.
A bad day once in a while is normal, but if you find you’re struggling for long periods in a way that impacts your day-to-day life, you might find it helpful to seek mental health support through the following resources:
You don’t need to face business challenges alone – for advice and support from someone who knows what it’s like, get in touch.