At one time or another, you’ve probably looked at your business and thought “Ok, now what?”
Maybe it was because work stopped coming in. Maybe it was because you realized you were in a rut with no inspiration. Maybe it was because you reached a turning point in your business. Or maybe self-doubt and fear crept up on you when you weren’t looking. Whatever the cause, feeling stuck when it comes to your business isn’t unusual and that stuck feeling will resurface every now and then.
Since we are all individuals with unique businesses, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to feeling stuck in your business. However, when I asked five fellow business owners what they did when they were feeling stuck in business, some common themes emerged.
Why did I ask these five women for their input? I’ve known them for several years, they each have a different kind of business, and they are experts in their fields as well as being thoughtful people.
Julie Jacob owns Traveling Julie Photography is a Portland family and maternity photographer. She also offers head shots and business photography.
Nedra Rezinas owns Blue Deer Forest. She is a website developer, business coach, and speaker.
Selena Maestas is speaker, coach, and the founder of the Love YOU More Project.
Abbi Wood is a Wordsmith and workshop leader. She helps business owners ensure their “biznality” (she is a wordsmith, after all) shines through in their writing.
Chelsey Craft owns Amethyst Bodywork. She is a Portland massage therapist and doula.
I asked them each a simple question "What do you do when you feel stuck in business?"
Take a break
When you’re feeling stuck, your first instinct might be to quit. You might also find yourself in a worry spiral that keeps you up at night and keeps you from getting unstuck. Instead, consider taking a brief break to clear your head. How you do it is up to you, but planning downtime regularly is vital to running a business and avoiding burnout.
You’ll notice the common theme is self-care and finding a way to temporarily change your view.
Julie says “I take my camera out for a walk. Sometimes just to see what I see, but often with the intention of taking self-portraits. Sometimes I have a plan and sometimes I wing it. Most often I have a plan that then flows and changes as I shoot. Since I’m both behind and in front of the camera, I’m not rushed or shy or concerned about looking weird in a photo. (I lost that worry years ago!) Sometimes the resulting photos are unexciting, but sometimes I'm really proud of them."
“Getting away from the computer. Taking a break from staring at the screen - it could be running errands or going for a walk,” says Nedra.
Chelsey explains “For me, it always comes back to self-care. I take extra time for myself, to nurture my body and soul. My first go-to is Epsom salt baths with some essential oils in a dark room, it helps me reconnect with my heartbeat, the rhythm of life. Getting a pedicure is another favorite. It allows me the time to sit still while also enjoying some pampering while caring for my feet, that take me so many places. Or even something as simple as taking a walk around the block. I find peace in solitude, allowing myself some space to just be and appreciate what is around me.”
Fall in Love Again
Sometimes being stuck is a symptom of burnout or feeling uninspired in your work. It may sound strange, but we’re in a (hopefully!) long-term relationship with our business and that means ups and downs are to be expected. Look at the things that inspire you about your business and what made you decide start in the first place in order to fall in love again.
Julie says “When I do personal, creative projects that I have complete control over, I feel even more exhilarated and excited than I usually do about photography. I think about the giant list of random ideas or visions for things *I* want to shoot. Two summers ago, I came across an incredible location and just had to do a shoot there. So, within two months, I found a model, put together several wardrobe options, and we created gorgeous images.
Last winter, I had a full, complete vision of another nature-based maternity image. I almost did nothing about it, but I had recently started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, so I forced myself actually make a shoot happen. It did, and it was amazing. After a client shoot last year, I had a ton of more creative ideas, and that same client became a model for me to bring those visions to life in a separate shoot, and I loved it!”
Falling in love also means getting your focus back so you know what to do to move forward.
“Nobody says it better than Nike. 'Just do it.' In the moment, of course, this is easier said than done because the thoughts of overwhelm and daily to-do lists consume your mind. So, you have two choices. One, dive in. Two, take a step back and evaluate. What is the most effective thing for you to do right now? Then do that.
It's easy to fill our days with busy details and short-term successes for quick wins. Where are your long-term wins? Look for those and direct your attention there. I promise you will feel equally accomplished doing something that your future self will thank you for," says Abbi.
One of the more challenging aspects of owning a business is feeling as if we should have all the answers all the time (hint: we don’t). A little self-doubt coupled with the sometimes over-glossy and over-rosy view others present on social media can send us straight into the mud.
Instead of feeling less-than, look for people, books, and podcasts that inspire you.
“One of the most common things I do is listen to podcasts that aren’t about photography. Since I spend so much time either doing photography, editing photos, thinking about photography, I don’t usually like listening to people talking about it.
However, I *love* business/creativity/entrepreneur podcasts! I find that I’m inspired by people’s stories who do different things than I do, and very often it gives me ideas or new ways to think about something—either visions of work to create, or ideas about marketing, or renewing efforts for things like writing and sending newsletters,” says Julie.
Nedra is also a fan of business podcasts. “I listen to "Breaking Down your Business" podcast while running or driving on a regular basis and I get lots of ideas from Jill and Brad. It's been amazing how many eureka moments I get listening to their advice,” she says.
Chelsey explains “I have an extensive library of books that I don't always give the attention it deserves. Choosing a few to revisit helps me get out of my head and put different thoughts in it, which is so helpful when I find myself playing the same record over and over. And on that note, keeping a gratitude journal is invaluable in my life so that I have a tangible thing to touch and see how much I have in my life to appreciate.”
It is also valuable to recognize when feeling stuck is a symptom of a larger issue that needs to be addressed. With my clients, I often see money issues, fear of visibility, and money fears pop up over and over.
Selena says “When it comes to being stuck, it's because we get in our own way. There is something inside of us that tells us, we aren't good enough, aren't smart enough, not "enough" enough.
Our inner critic is based out of our fear or repeating past experiences and our fear of our perceived future. None of it has to do with the NOW.
Your Inner critic, let's call that the EGO, wants you to remain stuck because it's easier. It's comfortable. It's what you know. Pushing forward in business goes against all of that, which causes the EGO to pull harder and scream louder - "Watch out! You don't want to fail!"
Now, no one likes to fail, but it's actually very important for your growth of yourself and your business. If you fail and survive, then you can show your Ego that it's OKAY to make change. It's OKAY to try something new. It's OKAY to move ahead.
Get out of the stuckness and into your success.”
Busy lifestyles and juggling, well, everything can also get in our way when it comes to successfully running our business. A little dedicated quiet time can go a long way.
“Giving myself a few hours each week of uninterrupted time gives me time to think about my business and work on internal projects. It's amazing what I can think about and change in that little time,” Nedra explains.
Too often we’re led to believe we need to do it all and do it all by ourselves to be successful. We know that isn’t true, accurate, or even possible, but those voices creep in despite our best efforts.
When you are feeling stuck in business, invite a friend out for coffee to reconnect and get support. This is especially helpful when you ask a fellow business owner out to coffee because you can be sure she needs some support as well!
Nedra says “I reach out to a colleague in person or over the phone. I really enjoying running ideas, problems, and brainstorming with them.”
“Reaching out and asking for help or attending more networking events. Connecting with my people, my tribe, to remind myself that I am not alone is so very comforting and uplifting. We're not alone in this journey and the more we can take care of ourselves, the better we are at helping others. I know it works for me,” explains Chelsey.
Regardless of which method you choose, remember to be kind to yourself. Feeling stuck is almost always a temporary situation. Look at what is going right in your business and which parts make you feel happiest. How can you increase those aspects?
It may also be time to examine your systems, work flow, and look at the things in your business you don’t enjoy or that make you dread doing them. Look for ways to outsource those, if you can. If you can’t outsource them, look for ways to improve either your response to them or looking into training or education to make the processes less miserable for you.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.