How do I keep up my entrepreneurial momentum?
March 21, 2017 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm changing paths with my business -- how do I keep up optimism and focus?

I've been in business for a long time, but family medical crises have interrupted my career. I can no longer do the type of work I used to do. I've sort of ground to a halt with what I was doing before - I really can't fit that kind of work in anymore. I've done therapy to deal with the grief of that. I see a new opportunity to take some of what I've been doing in part of my business and spin it out as the focus, in a way that could provide a revenue stream and career opportunity that will work within my life constraints.

But this means going from larger sales values (think $10k) to more like $100. When I think about how I will need 100 people to pay $100 for me to earn $10k, it feels daunting. But, on the other hand, I really can't do the work I did before. I need to embrace this. I look at it, though, and then I can't imagine how I could ever scale it up to where I have 40 or 50 buyers a month at that price point. And then I think of all the other places my career could have gone and how much I could make there and this feels kind of pathetic. Wondering if I can make $10k seems kind of pathetic. I know I have the business skills and the right pitch and that I can do this, but then it feels so pathetic.

Aside from more therapy, how do I build myself up to keep focused on this work? When I wrap myself up in it, I get excited and the day blurs by. I know part of it is that I've had a career interruption and I have to get back into things. At first, my idea seems brilliant, but then I start thinking it's pathetic and that earning just $10k a year seems both daunting and useless. Yet I know it would make a difference to my life and move me more toward financial independence and away from the drudgery of doing caregiving I don't want to do.

I guess it's that I need to embrace the idea of making $10k or $20k a year and having to work hard at it, but knowing it represents only a couple of hours a day of work time, so I can't measure it against bigger things. It's depressing as all heck, though, to know my income is so constrained, I guess. And yet I tend to be kind of an optimist -- my therapist says most people would have completely given up, not instead gone back to figure out what they could still do and have a meaningful career. I'm not having trouble with the meaning or value -- it's more about the money and the daunting idea of having sales come in small amounts, not $10k at a time.

Any advice? Thanks.
posted by shockpoppet to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry you're in this position. I think it would help MeFites provide suggestions if you could be more specific about what you used to do and why you can't do it now.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:25 PM on March 21, 2017

You need to let go of your previous life/income/earning potential and even though you say that therapy has helped you overcome the grief, your question doesn't sound as though you have.
posted by Kwadeng at 12:51 AM on March 22, 2017

What do you care about other than making money? Helping people maybe? It sounds like you'll be able to help more people now -- not just in terms of whatever specific product and service you're providing, but also in terms of just being there as a possible human connection.

It's easy to become focused on something measurable, like how much money one gets per transaction, but most of the measurable things are not the most important things. Money is just a tool for safety, creativity, and other actual valuable experiences and conditions. You can work to achieve those separately from money -- and arguably, that kind of work is greatly, tragically scant, specifically because people don't focus on it as much since it's not measurable.
posted by amtho at 3:47 AM on March 22, 2017

changing paths with my business -- how do I keep up optimism and focus?

Frame your change of path as if you were originally starting out, but this time, you have the wealth of knowledge from your years of proven experience. What initially drew you to the doing business X? Instead of dwelling on the what ifs, draw upon the past your optimism and focus in moving forward.

the idea of making $10k or $20k a year and having to work hard at it

Think of taking the dollar sign out of the entrepreneurial equation? In terms of either 10K, 100K...... business Xs, each amount requires the same fundamental entrepreneurial efforts to accomplish.
posted by mountainblue at 6:36 AM on March 22, 2017

Response by poster: I used to work in professional services, where I mainly performed the services, although I would also contract out to other people. I had productized some of those services and that's really where I need to put my efforts now. I cannot spend time with clients, I don't have time to answer the phone, I don't have enough time to commute to a meeting and back, I don't have enough assurances that my day will go as planned and not bump all my appointments. Things are too precarious for it to work, even if I shift to exclusively subcontracting. And I don't have enough revenue (right now) for me to just go out and hire a sales person and VA and try to do it that way. The reality, too, is that people want to hire me for my expertise and they expect some face time and access. I've tried it over the past several years and it just won't work with the obstacles that family health circumstances present.

So, yes, I'm excited about helping more people. I just see this mountain ahead of me (say 100 unit sales or $10k) and it seems so huge. Before, I would just go make a sale for $10k. Also, I used to have great joy at even a small sale. Now, I guess I have so much more riding on these small sales and it just seems depressing to think about how many I need just to earn as much as I did before. Mind you, if I get the system up and running, that revenue should continue to come in, which is the entire point of this shift.

(Yes, I can work through more in therapy, but I am also working through other stuff there and I have at least arrived at knowing I can't do the work I used to do and what I would like to do.)

Hope that helps.
posted by shockpoppet at 10:26 AM on March 22, 2017

My guess is that the new business has a really different sales model than the old - surely you aren't going to do as much work to get one $100 sale as you did to get $1000. In fact, the sales techniques for a higher volume are usually things that scale well once you get going. So when you think "one sale used to equal $1000 and now one sale equals $100" you are comparing apples to oranges.

Think about this in terms of effort - to get and complete one sale took x hours of time. Now, you can get and complete each sale with far less time. Plus, I hope there will be economies of scale so that in the beginning your hourly return may be low while you are building your market but once you get going, you may well be in a position where additional sales just role in with almost no incremental effort - free money!! Whereas before you always had to deliver an intense amount of personal effort to complete the sale. So maybe think about return on hour of effort (both short term and long term) instead of return per sale - after all hourly wage is more significant to your lifestyle than dollars per sale (since one sale could be hundreds of hours)
posted by metahawk at 10:07 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

if I get the system up and running, that revenue should continue to come in, which is the entire point of this shift.
Focus on this! You are going to build a business that will be generating free money eventually! Your efforts will be highly leveraged. You will do a lot of work upfront but that work is not just about creating those specific sales, it is about building the foundation for a business that will have momentum without you needing to continue to invest so much of your time. Brilliant!

PS. I wrote a small book six years that I self-published through Amazon. I never expected to sell very many copies and I didn't. But now, it is continuing to sell all on its own with zero effort on my part. I only earn a $1.47 per copy but I get unreasonably happy every time I get a royalty payment - truly free money with no incremental effort on my behalf. It feels really great!
posted by metahawk at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

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