On staying the course and changing tack in our business

When we work for ourselves, there are so many decisions that we, and only we, need to make. We need to make decisions about when and where to work, about how much to charge for our products and services, about how to market ourselves and on which channels. One of these decisions that clients come back in our sessions together is how to stay the course with their business. As a small business owner, freelancer or artist, you’re the one who’s set the course—and just as easily, you can be the one to change it.

But how do you know when to stay the course and when changing tack is the right decision? How do you make this decision? In this post, I’ll share some of my thoughts and strategies around staying the course and help you figure out for yourself when to stick with something, or when to change things up.

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Staying the course and knowing when to shift

In general, I tend to be big on staying the course. I have a lot of in-born perseverance and in the past have persevered with something well past the point where any sane person would give up. This trait served me well when I was writing my dissertation: while my colleagues were struggling with motivation and procrastination, I declared that I didn’t believe in inspiration and just sat down every day at 9 to write (yes, I must have annoyed them tremendously).

It’s been eleven years since I got my PhD and since then I’ve certainly gotten more relaxed about perseverance. I’ve learned that in my post-academic life, I am much happier going with my energy and that at times, “simply” sitting down and doing the work is certainly not the right approach. I’ve also found the joy in not persevering with something: in following my gut, my intuition, what feels good, rather than persevering for the sake of persevering.

One of the biggest challenges many of us face when working for ourselves is that we have no immediate colleagues to bounce ideas off. There’s no one to tell us what to do (yay!), but there’s also no one to give us any parameters or help us make decisions. It can be so easy to doubt yourself and your decisions, especially when you see other people doing things differently, when business is slow, or when the next big hype arrives.

So how do you stay the course, and how do you know when staying the course is the right thing to do?

What I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that my biggest asset as a business owner is my inner compass, and being able to connect to it. It’s taking a step back and asking myself why I want to stay course or, alternatively, why I want to do something different.

How I decide to stay the course—or change tack

I’ve written and spoken a lot about my decision to not market my business on social media. The biggest reason why I made this choice is because social media doesn’t feel right for me. It doesn’t sit right with my business values of slow and gentle, and being on social media makes me unhappy. You might say that in life we all have to do things that we may not enjoy doing—but if we decide to work for ourselves, surely we have the chance to make our day-to-day life as pleasant as possible?

A less black-and-white situation around staying the course came up a few weeks ago. I was reading through some comments on a Substack post where writers were sharing their best tips for growing their newsletter audience. One tip that kept coming back was to send previews of all paid posts to all subscribers. Whenever they create a post that is only fully accessible to paid subscribers, they send a little snippet to free subscribers as well who would have to upgrade their subscription in order to read the full post. According to many people this works well to convert people from free to paid subscribers, and I can imagine that—only if people see what they’re missing are they likely to upgrade their subscription.

But it doesn’t sit quite right with me (which, by the way, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t sit right with you as well). The majority of people reading this newsletter do so in their inbox and I want to respect that space. I don’t want to fill it with things that they didn’t technically sign up for. However, I do want to show free subscribers the posts that only paid subscribers get: because I believe in the value of those paid posts as well as because I want to grow my number of paid subscribers.

I checked in with myself. What did I really want? Going with the advice felt wrong to me and, at this point in time, wrong for my business. So I figured out what does align with me and my business: I share about the posts in free posts and a couple of times a year I’ll send a preview of a paid post to free subscribers. I’ll only be doing this when it feels right, and only in a way that adds value and that respects my subscribers’ inbox.

You might say that in life we all have to do things that we may not enjoy doing—but if we decide to work for ourselves, surely we have the chance to make our day-to-day life as pleasant as possible?

There is a slower, gentler and more profitable way of running your business.

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Instead: marketing and launching that is slow, gentle and gets results. Clear boundaries and priorities that encourage you to live a life next to your business. Accountability and support to help you create the live and business you crave.

Staying the course when business is slow

It’s easier to stay the course when everything is going nicely than when business is slow, when it can be so hard. At those moments, we can be most susceptible to other people’s advice and we might be doubting ourselves the most. If money is not coming it, it becomes especially hard not to question your decisions. Maybe running your business the way you do is not the right thing? Maybe your products are not as useful as you thought? Maybe you should market your business more or differently?

If you’re in that place right now, just know that you’re not alone. We all have quiet periods and it took me years to get to a place where I felt like my business was really gaining traction. It’s hard.

If possible, give yourself a little bit of space and time from your business and bank account, if only by going outside for a hour or two to clear your head. When you return to your desk or studio, try to look at your business with a bit of distance. How did your choices feel when you made them? I very much believe that we all have an inner compass that we can access if we silence all the shoulds and stories that surround us. As much as you can, tell you inner critic to come back at a later time. How do your products and services feel? Are they in line with how you want to run your business and live your life? How does your marketing feel?

If your choices align with your values and how you want to live your life, you’re on the right track. If they don’t, that’s okay too—it might be time for some experiments. Depending on your situation and personality, you might experiment in a small way, for example by pitching to podcasts or trying a new marketing channel, or in a big way, by radically pivoting what you do.

For me, I am always guided by whether something feels aligned with me and whether it feels exciting and expansive, rather than anxious or rooted in scarcity.

Finally, have you given your business enough time? If you’re miserable then giving it more time will probably not make things better. But if business is slow, as it is at times for all of us, giving it more time rather than changing things up and adding new things can be the best thing to do.

If my newsletters and free resources resonate with you, I might just be the right mentor for you. I don’t believe in 10-step-plans, or get rich quick schemes. I do believe that it is possible to create and run a business that fits you and your life: your values and rhythms, your strengths and passions. I strongly believe that you don’t need to do all the things, or be on all the channels to make your business work. 

I’m here to help you feel more supported in your business. I’m here to give you the confidence to run your business from that place of deep inner knowing inside of you, offering my signature blend of mindset shifts and practical steps.

an experiment

Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:

  1. Where do you currently struggle to stay the course in your business? What is that feeling rooted in?
  2. Which parts of your business feel good and align with your business values?
  3. How can you root deeper into trusting yourself as a business owner? You might try affirmations or reminding yourself of past successes.

I’d love to know which of these strategies to feel more supported in your business you’ve tried, and which you’re going to try out. I’d love to know!

Please feel free to share it with business friends, in your newsletter or on social media. 💛

I’d love to support you in all phases of your business. Providing clarity, focus and next steps is something that my clients tell me I’m really good at. If you’re curious about how we can work together through 1:1 mentoring, check out what I offer or send me an email–no strings attached. I have payment plans available, and flexible options for mentoring calls (30 or 60 minutes).

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