The Gift of Discouragement

              When Your Business Is In A Slump Ask Yourself

  It seems to be a natural cycle of business—and probably, of life—that at some times you feel on top of the world and sometimes you feel like quitting altogether.  It’s happened many times for me—in my first six months of business when I only made two online sales, for example, or any time I go for a week without a sale now.  There has always been one more thing to try or one more commitment to fulfill.  I told myself that I would get past that one thing and if it didn’t push me any further along, I could consider quitting.  So far, it always has pushed me further along.

                This spring, I felt like I “leveled up” with my business, with doors opening, contacts made, tools procured, goals met.  I felt happy and confident.  Then came the dark day last week where I read an article which claimed that “craft businesses” were all promise and no profit, that very few people succeeded, and, most worrisome to me, that a cottage industry could never, operating at full capacity, produce enough to stock to result in a decent income.  That worried me a good deal because I was afraid it was true.

                I knew the piece was driven by a certain agenda.  I knew the people it described—women who quit white collar jobs and were looking to replace that income—were not me.  I didn’t quit a job and I want to make enough to help my family, but not to be our sole income.  Still, I was afraid the article was right when it claimed I would never make more than was needed to simply sustain the business.  Had I wasted two years of my life and my family’s life on something that was ultimately futile?

                I was driving down the road, thinking about how someone else’s bad day had turned out to be a blessing for them, and it hit me: this crisis of discouragement was exactly what I needed to force me to look critically at my business, past and present, to evaluate it, to put a fine point on the direction it should take.  It’s a bit of a discipline, sitting down to work through it rather than just crying periodically throughout the day.  In some ways, it feels like a waste of time that I could be spending more profitably elsewhere.  However, I believe it is important, a part of regular business maintenance.  I’m thankful, now, for the emotional crisis that led me to it.

                Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself:

What have I gained from the past two years of working on my business?  What has my family gained?  Were these gains worth the effort?  Is my business a legitimate part of my goals for my life?  How has my business grown?  What reasons do I have to think that this business can become profitable in the future?  What would I have to gain from the business in the future to consider it worth it?  What’s the next step?

I think this exercise will only make me more confident that my time has been well spent and that my business may indeed have a future, that it is at least worth taking a chance on.  I can only hope that next time I am plunged into doubt, I will remember to see it as an opportunity to refocus.

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