Running a business: when everything else is falling apart

Life is thoroughly unpredictable. Until August 2012 I was on top of the world. I’d just settled into my own pattern of running a business, with a strict schedule, methods and a fabulous rebrand under my belt, we were starting to take on staff, gathering huge momentum on social media, stats were soaring, we even had a massive bash in Brighton to celebrate. Things were coming together for me in a way I couldn’t have dreamed. Life was a wonderful whirlwind of press events, tweet ups, bridal shows – I was living in girl heaven.

I had every waking hour of the day to dedicate to the business, often on Twitter until the early hours, or typing away first thing in the morning.

But sometimes life has another plan for you – and in August my little world came crumbling down around me when, two weeks before my wedding, my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

I won’t go into details, anyone who has been the primary carer of a loved one can empathise with the pressure this puts on your time and your emotional energy. Being in business mode 24 hours a day was no longer an option. I had to find a balance.

So I guess I’m writing to let you know that, if something happens to life as you know it, if there comes a time where things get too difficult to juggle, then all is not lost. This isn’t a pity party – this is a message of hope.

How to keep your business going when life isn’t cooperating

Tell people

We live in a culture where oversharing is frowned upon – and I can see why. It’s jarring to read very personal information on someone’s professional sites – I’m not suggesting you share every detail of your emotional journey. I’m fairly sure if I’d have done that I’d have no followers left. But tell people a loose version of what’s going on with you. Tell people you work with regularly, whatever your job.

This isn’t to act as an excuse when things go wrong, but rather to explain when you have to drop off the radar for a while. When there have been medical emergencies or those very bad days here, and a post has been delayed by a day, a lot of my lovely contributors are aware of why this has happened. It makes life easier for me and it saves them unnecessary offence.

Scale back

I used to juggle Under the Vintage Veil work with quite a bit of extra freelance work. I had to sit down and have a long, hard look at where my revenue comes from, what I could afford to scale back on and what takes up the most of my time. It was hard to do, but in the end I decided to focus my full efforts on Under the Vintage Veil. It’s where I make my money, it’s my baby and it meant that the blog, while it might miss a day here and there, wouldn’t suffer.

What jobs can you scale back on? Is there anything you currently do that takes up a lot of time but doesn’t earn you a lot of money?

Delegate

I know for a lot of people and for a lot of jobs this just isn’t possible. But if you’re able to delegate any part of your business, even your admin, then do it. I know how hard it is to let go. Without my husband, John, Under the Vintage Veil (and me) would have crumbled months ago, and it’s so hard for me to hand over my baby to someone else, but gratefully accept help where it’s given.

Social dilemmas

Networking is an important part of business. But if people understand and know your situation, they won’t begrudge you a few months off of long Twitter conversations and networking events. If you can, getting out there occasionally can feel wonderful, but if socialising at the end of a long day is too hard for you or too draining, then don’t do it. You will always have time to catch up with people when you feel more up to it and the conversation will feel like a relief instead of a duty.

If you want to go out to a networking event, ask the organiser if you can decide on the day. If they say no, that’s fine, but if they say yes, it takes the pressure off you and you can just see how you feel when the time comes, so you’re not always missing out because you can’t commit.

Give up doing favours for people. Your “you” time becomes too precious when you have other things going on. I used to help a lot of people out “just cause” and I probably will again, but right now my time and energy needs to be with the essentials of the business – like writing posts, putting up real weddings and keeping up lovely new content for everyone.

Image © Sacco & Sacco Photography

Be kind to yourself and do what you can

I can be incredibly tough on myself when I haven’t posted in a day or two, or when I’ve forgotten to reply to someone or had to delay someone’s post. Lots of little extras have slipped as well. I think the most important thing to do is to keep things running. Decide what’s realistic to do, for example, it might not be realistic for me to look at everyone else’s blogs today to see what’s happening – but it is realistic for me to reply to my emails and to write a couple of posts.

Take advantage of days where you have time, space and energy to get as much work done as possible. Don’t try too hard to stick to your old schedule, or to do everything at once – you will only feel bad if you don’t manage.

In short, you’re only human – do what’s necessary and don’t beat yourself up for having a bad day.

Give yourself long-term goals

Even with everything that’s going on, we have our long-term goals. We’re working with an incredibly talented designer, taking the whole process slowly and planning something really big for the site. We’ve taken the pressure off by not giving ourselves a launch date, but we know it’s in the pipeline, we are busy working on it and it’s something to be excited about. Giving yourself something to look forward to is so important.

The results

When some (or lots) of your emotional attention has been drawn away from the business, it’s easy to feel that it’s all falling apart. But even if you’re not in it 24/7, you’d be surprised how your hard work in the past can pay off. Is our traffic down? Quite the opposite – our traffic has climbed quite dramatically, we’re still refreshing content daily, we’re still doing what we do best and Google searches have brought in thousands of new readers. Your emotional state doesn’t always reflect reality.

The hardest thing in the world is to keep going when it’s all piling up on top of you. There are days where it feels easier to hide from the computer rather than get on with it – but just because you’re not firing on all cylinders doesn’t mean you’re failing. Everything in life is temporary, and when your difficulties pass, you want a business to come back to full throttle. 

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