Ask Steph is a monthly column where I answer all of your tricky business questions! Get ready to tackle everything from setting up better software & systems, to organizing your work day, to planning out your business content, to establishing better boundaries with your clients. Have a question for me? Ask away, right here. See archives here.
How Do You Navigate the In-Between Times in Business?
“Hey Steph, do you ever feel like you’ve hit a dry spell in your business? I currently feel like I’m waiting to hear back about several opportunities, am not getting any new leads, and nobody seems to be responding to my Instagram stories or newsletters! How do I handle this ‘meantime’ space when it feels like there’s no momentum? What do I do while I’m waiting?”
Trust me, something is always happening.
I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but chances are that as we speak there is someone out there who just thought of you. Maybe there’s a potential client who just realized they need exactly what you offer and is about to do a Google search to find you or your product. Right now, someone could be dreaming up a panel discussion that you’d be perfect for!
In my experience, this is just the way it works. I’ve found that running a business is a lot like going through winter: we see nothing growing for months, and then all of a sudden things burst into bloom. You might pitch your services to someone and not hear back, but then four months later they’re ready to work with you. Or you meet someone at a craft show, and a year later they buy out your stock of products. Or maybe you follow someone on Instagram for years before you two decide to meet and start a mastermind group.
I know exactly how you feel, because I’ve been in the “in between” spaces many a time. I’ve played my share of the waiting game and I’m slowwwwwwly getting better at accepting that things just seem to move in cycles. I can try to rush things along by “hustling” or “pitching”, but it usually doesn’t work. Most of the time, things just move at their own pace and take twice as long as you think that they will.
But in the meantime…
How do we make use of this time while we’re waiting? I’ll tell you what we don’t do: we don’t repeatedly check our inboxes, spend hours on social media or binge-watch terrible Netflix movies. Instead, it helps to use this time to actually set ourselves up for success! Here are some of my favourite ways to use those pesky in between times in your business:
1. Keep Showing Up
I get it: sending out content without hearing anything back feels a lot like shouting into the void. But you really never know who is listening, or reading, or watching. You never know when someone will go from being a silent observer to becoming a client of yours, purely based on what you’ve been sharing.
If you’re only showing up based on the positive feedback you’re receiving, you won’t last very long. You’ll need to find a deeper, truer motivation if you want to keep showing up for the long term. Revisit your why. Tap back into why you started your business in the first place. WHY do you want to share this? WHO are you seeking to serve? WHAT do you want them to learn? HOW do you want their perspective to be shifted?
I know this is hard. I really do! But I also believe that consistency is key to creating a brand that people trust, connect to and want to be a part of. And consistency means showing up, no matter what. I promise that eventually the tides will turn and you’ll get more feedback! Until then: keep on keeping on.
2. Set Up Systems
You knew I was going to say it: down time is the perfect opportunity to deal with all those sticky areas in your business! You know all those things you never seem to have time for? Now’s the time.
Maybe you want to set up a CRM to keep track of all your client information & be able to invoice all in one place. Maybe you really need to revisit your contracts & ensure that they’re up to date. It could be that you need to research better options for shipping your products. Or maybe you just need to finally find a project management app that actually works for you!
Whatever it is, there is so much value in setting up a stronger foundation for your business that can support you going forward, for when things do become busy again. It’s not the most glamorous work (though it can end up being a lot more fun than you might think!) but a little goes a long way when it comes to setting up systems to help you streamline things.
3. Revisit Your Goals
Remember how back at the beginning of the year, you set a bunch of business goals and plans for the coming months? In between times are a great opportunity to reconnect with those intentions.
Some of your goals will likely no longer feel relevant, but others might light a spark of inspiration for you! We have a tendency to forget these things, so you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find when you re-read your reflections.
If you do feel inspired to take action on one of your goals, make sure to break it down. Split it into small steps, assign yourself some tasks, and take the first, smallest step as soon as you can (like, today).
4. Reflect & Set Some New Goals
One of the best practices for clarifying next steps is to look back and reflect on the past few months of your business life. My guess is that you’ll probably discover that you have more to celebrate than you thought! You may also uncover some places where you (and your business) are getting stuck, and have more clarity on how to move forward.
You can find some of my favourite reflection practices right here. And you can download my free Dropping In questionnaire right here. It’s designed to help you reflect on the gaps & opportunities in your business.
5. Refresh Your Online Presence
Everyone knows that the best part of America’s Next Top Model was the makeover episode. (Tyra always knows best!). If you’re tired of the in between space, consider conducting a makeover of your online life.
Here are some ideas: update all your profile pictures and make sure they’re consistent across platforms. Tackle your email signature, and your autoresponder, if you have one! Update your LinkedIn with your latest experience. Add current “about me” text to all your online profiles. Add your pronouns to wherever you communicate with people. Get to inbox zero. Clear out your downloads folder. And of course, make all those changes to your website that you’ve been meaning to fix forever.
Not only will you feel more in control, you’ll also feel more confident as you move through the world, both online and off. Confidence leads to action, which leads to momentum…which is what we want.
6. Make Genuine Connections
When things get hectic, connecting with new people is usually one of the first things to go out the window. But if you’re in a lull, connecting with new people is one of the best ways to get a jolt of energy!
Now’s your chance to reach out to that nice person you met at a networking event a while back, or to DM the entrepreneur you’re inspired by on Instagram. Not because you want something, not because you’re trying to sell something, but because you want to connect.
Just Keep Swimming
One of my favourite concepts from Seth Godin is the idea of “The Dip”: it’s the point in any creative endeavour when it’s not as fun anymore. Your motivation is at its lowest, and the work is at its hardest. The Dip is when most people give up. But if you know it’s coming and you set yourself up with tools to help you navigate it when it hits, you’ll get through it. And if you get through it, you’ll get to everything you want. So just keep going! You can do it.
I’d love to know: How do you handle those times when it feels like NOTHING is happening in your business? What tools allow you to keep going even when you feel like nothing is working? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @stephpellett.
PS. If you need some help navigating this in between time in your business, I’m here to help! Click below to learn more about my group program, The Foundery, which has created momentum for lots of entrepreneurs just like you.