Emily Aborn Content Copywriting and Consulting Services

What to Do When Business is Slow

Business is Slow, Now What? What to do when business slows down. 

In May of 2022, I went through a weird time in business. For the first time ever, things got really quiet and my business was officially slow. 

I’m accustomed to working at a pretty fast clip over here.

I’m typically at least two weeks out on project start dates because I ensure each and every client gets my full attention and don’t overbook myself. I do a lot of relationship-building and a lot of marketing. I also am lucky enough to get really beautiful referrals from my past clients, and from those three focuses, my pipeline stays nice and full… most of the time. 

Here’s what the scene in mid-May 2022 looked like: 

  • I had a client who’d paid me at the beginning of April and I was still working off the hours for their project. We were almost complete so it was a little here, a little there. 
  • I had a small website audit that took about a week to complete.
  • I was putting the very final touches on copy for a website client, who’d already paid. 
  • I got a teeny tiny content bank client who paid but hadn’t completed her paperwork. 

There was very little coming in monetarily and my invoicing system was sending me tumbleweeds instead of dollars. 

I was in a holding pattern with a few folks. I’d had several phone conversations and Zooms with prospective clients, but nothing was translating to actual work and closed business. I actually had a running list of people who I’d had conversations with and had since ghosted me, even after my following up. 

Most days, I finished my client work in about an hour and then looked around wondering what I should do next… 

Then, May became June… and for the first two weeks, things were pretty much in the same exact spot, minus wrapping up a few projects so there was even less daily client work. 

After four fairly uncomfortable, depressing, and sometimes dark weeks, the dam broke open up at last, and I was back to full force and busier than ever with clients. 

I wrote this blog, from my personal experience, because well, I lived to tell about it. My desire is to open up an honest and real conversation around this very real experience and share some thoughts of my own on what to do when business is slow. 

I’ll share what tasks I did to help me get more clients, create new momentum, and the gifts that came out of this period. I’ll offer you some really practical action steps you can take when business is slow.

I wrote this so that if you’re freaking out and wondering, “Business is slow, what do I do?” like I was, you can rest assured that there’s greener grass on the other side and lessons to be learned in going through it. 

Remove the shame when your business is slow. 

Sure, there are times when the onus might be on us for business being slow.

  • Maybe we let our marketing efforts fall by the wayside 
  • Maybe we’ve stopped networking and connecting with others 
  • Maybe our hearts aren’t in it and we’re taking a step way back to reevaluate
  • Maybe we’re not offering what our market wants. There’s simply no demand for it. 
  • Maybe we have too many offerings and it’s confusing 
  • Maybe our messaging is off or we lack clarity on what we’re delivering and to whom 
  • Maybe we have too many priorities and aren’t focusing on our business
  • Maybe we’re burnt out

If your business is slow for any of these reasons, this blog will help you through.

You simply need to be willing to take responsibility for taking an action. But no matter what the reason, do not let yourself fall into the trap that it’s your fault -there’s no shame here. 

It’s also important to realize that there are SO many other factors outside of our control that can slow us down when trying to get more clients: 

  • Holidays and seasonality 
  • Weather 
  • Economy 
  • Consumer trends
  • Current events
  • Technological shifts (AI replacing some or all of your services) 
  • Something happening specific to our target market (ie. moms just before kids are getting out of school for the Summer) 

The list goes on… 

Even though these things are outside of your control, they can affect you mentally and make you feel as though you’re doing something wrong as an entrepreneur. It can still feel like it’s your fault. It can create anxiety, panic, and worry, and have you running to Indeed.com and looking at jobs. 

Instead of going into a downward spiral, let’s focus on tangible action steps you can take and what to do when business is slow. Move forward on the ones you feel most inspired by and comfortable with first, and then continue to build from there. Before you know it, you’ll be back on track and on your way to getting new clients again. Feel your feelings, and acknowledge what’s going on, but don’t call it quits (unless of course at the end of reading this, that’s your decision -which is OK too!). 

“The best way to make things better is to see how they are. And then do something about it.” — SETH GODIN

What to do when business is slow 

1. When business is slow, work on your marketing 

I’m not necessarily recommending you blast on social media every day about your need for clients or try out a bunch of inauthentic marketing strategies. Instead, take this opportunity to take a bird’s eye view of your marketing and do a little bit of clean-up. 

You can look at: 

  • What’s worked well for you in the past and whether or not you’ve let that slip 
  • What’s not worked and has never worked? 
  • What marketing techniques light you up and which are you doing just because you “should”?
  • Where might you be missing opportunities? 
  • Does your messaging need some TLC? 
  • Who can you collaborate with to help you spread the word? 
  • Are you promoting yourself? 

2. When business is slow, work on your systems 

When business is slow, it’s a great time to work on all that behind-the-scenes stuff that bogs you down when you’re too busy! Create SOPs, streamline your systems, and get rid of all the gunk slowing you down. Clean out and organize your inbox. Look at where there’s a need to rethink, refine, and restructure and start taking those steps. 

3. Connect with others when business is slow 

The possibilities here are endless. It could be joining a networking group, showing up to more networking events, or showing up consistently to things you’ve already signed up for. It could mean connecting 1:1 with other entrepreneurs and getting their insights into your situation. It could be connecting 1:1 with other entrepreneurs to brainstorm lead generation, messaging, and business growth together. Maybe you use this time to show up more in Facebook groups and connect with others that way. Perhaps you form a small mastermind or CEO day with fellow business owners. Or maybe for you, it looks like getting a mentor or hiring a coach. 

Don’t feel like you have to go through this alone. Reach out and ask for help. You will be surprised at who raises their hand willingly and excitedly to help support you through this time. 

4. Take some down time when business is slow 

Here’s something I’m not great at… taking time away from my business. I’ll admit that during my recent slow period, I didn’t do it and I wish I had. I wish I’d disconnected earlier each day, and taken some time to step back and recharge. So, that said, I’m most definitely going to encourage YOU to take some downtime. It’s amazing what can come out of not thinking about your business at all. Maybe you even get away and go somewhere out of your usual environment to give your brain a true break. 

5. Sign up for a course or educational experience when business is slow 

This is something I DID and I’m so happy I did! I signed up for a 6-Week SEO Course for copywriters and I immersed myself in every bit of what she taught.

What have you been eyeing that you’ve been wanting to learn about but haven’t had time? Maybe it’s a tool or skill you can use in your business. Maybe you really want to learn French or Sign Language! If you’re looking for no-cost or lower-cost resources, use this time to listen to industry podcasts, check out books at the library, or even take to YouTube!  

6. Look at your offerings when business is slow 

Here’s where you might want to employ the help of a friend or outside perspective again! Take a good hard look at your offerings. The messaging around them, whether or not the market demand is there, and whether or not you have too many. Deep dive into all aspects of them, are you offering things that align with your current stage of business? Is the price point right? Is it clear what the outcome is for each? Do you need to create new offerings? Is there something you’re offering you really dislike providing? Is there something you’ve been dying to offer and haven’t had time to implement it? 

7. Work on your website when business is slow 

Similar to your offerings, your website is a place you might not have given much TLC or attention to during busier times, and it’s a great thing to focus on when business is slow. Is your website all about YOU or does it speak to your ideal client? Are you using the right SEO keywords? Is it up-to-date and accurate? Do all of your images have alt text? 

8. When business is slow, get creative 

Here’s my personal favorite “task” to tackle when times are slow… it’s not actually a task at all, more like a permission slip to get creative!

During my business’ slow time, I wrote approximately a bazillion SEO-focused blogs for my business. I created an entirely new program to launch in July, complete with a landing page, workbook, and outline. I came up with a content plan for months, and I crafted emails and edited podcasts weeks in advance. I had days when nothing creative would come out of me, and then days that I was absolutely on fire with ideas.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to create and produce but if you’re anything like me, you may find that… turning down the dial of client work can supercharge you to put that energy towards your own. 

9. Cut back on extraneous expenses and review subscriptions when business slows down

This is a good practice no matter if business is slow or not, but of course, a slowdown affords you more time. Make a list of everything you’re subscribed to technologically and see if it all still deserves to stay. You might need to consult your credit card statement to get an accurate look at this, but I’m talking about everything from CanvaPro, to Otter.ai, to that Facebook ad you forgot to turn off, to the project management software you paid for and never use. If you aren’t using it on a regular basis, cancel your subscription. Reduce your extraneous expenses and look at spending with intention when times are lean.   

10. Use the slow time in your business to get caught up on bills, bookkeeping, mileage, etc. 

Remember last year when the tax man cameth and you were late yet again? You can use a slow time to pay bills, get caught up on your bookkeeping and back-office tasks, and do all that tax stuff that you otherwise would wait until the last minute to do. I like to update my mileage spreadsheet, go through my expenses and income spreadsheet, track various metrics, and do similar tasks I forget about or put off. 

What to do When Business is Slow: Move forward by being radically honest.  

To really move through this time, I had to be straight-up with myself. Sometimes a slowdown is exactly what we need and is an opportunity to reevaluate our mindset. It can be a welcome season of reflection if we allow it.

What started as just a tiny bump in the road, my brain very quickly turned the bump into a massive speed bump. It took me a while to get out of my own way. To realize this was not permanent, and it was not indicative of my life as a whole. 

Once I moved through a heck of a lot of discomfort and frustration, I started to find endless opportunities in this experience. I found learning and gifts and developed a better relationship and trust in myself. I stretched myself into asking for support and help and putting myself out there in trying new things. I emerged with new connections and excitement around showing up. My eyes and heart felt like they’d been opened wide and there was a passion and FIRE for my business lit under me like never before. 

“I want to send some love for those “slow” months in your business. I know it’s not pleasant. Even though they are great opportunities to rest, we still make it hard on ourselves. It’s like our businesses love us so much that they want us to take a break, and we ignore it. I like to think of it as the seasons in a year (and even during the month through our cycle) – there’s summer (full-on energy) and there’s winter (hiding in the cave). They are both very valuable.” — ANDREEA SANDU, HABITS COACH

I had to get really honest with myself time and time again. And you will too. 

  • Are you giving it enough time? 
  • Are you being consistent?
  • Where do you feel lack, and scarcity? 
  • How’s your money mindset? 
  • Do you have fear holding you back from taking action? 

Dig deep into what mindset issues might be underlying your lack of results (these questions are the result of my brainstorming with Habits Coach, Andreea Sandu on the topic):

Are you avoiding marketing because you’re afraid of being visible?

Are you in a poor financial situation because you’re not charging enough, have too many free clients, or barter a lot because you’re not valuing your work?

Do you self-sabotage because you’re unconsciously afraid of the negative consequences of your success? Examples: “more money, more problems”, “rich people are bad”, fear of taxmen, fear of losing friends

Do you procrastinate on marketing activities because of fear? Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what others will think, fear that it’s going to be hard.

My own questioning looked like this: 

  • Was I really giving this my all? Did I want this? What did I want? What was my vision? Goal? Desire?
  • When I reached out to a friend and they offered me an idea or solution, did I want it? Or did I prefer to wallow?
  • Was I actually kind of enjoying the experience to have the gift of tapping into my creativity a bit more?
  • How did I feel when I wasn’t making money? Did I feel less worthy? Did this mean something about ME as a person? 

I hope that if you’re an entrepreneur going through a time of business being slow, this helped you just a little bit to not feel so alone and to inspire what you can do in the waiting. 

One More Thing You Can Do

If you want someone to talk to 1:1 about this who genuinely cares about your success, I’d love to offer you one of my Strategy Sessions. I’ll offer strategies and steps that are best suited for your business. We’ll go over messaging, content, and everywhere you’re showing up to attract your customers. I even give it to you all written down in your very own roadmap with specific action steps.

Remember, this is a long game. There are very few entrepreneurs who experience overnight success and don’t go through ups, downs and struggles along the way. If you’re open, every challenge can be reframed as an opportunity.