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The Fear: What to do when the work dries up?

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

I first wrote this article a year ago, but with all of the changes in the world with Covid 19 it feels like a good time to revisit and revise.

If you are a self employed business person of any kind there will come a time when work will dry up or slow down significantly. It probably wont last forever, but when you are in the dip you can feel like it will.

This affects you in two ways (1) Financially (2) Emotionally


This is easy to understand & explain to others. If you aren't making enough money your business will suffer and so will your lifestyle if you rely on it for an income. So you want to get out of the dry spell as quickly as you can.


This is much harder to quantify. When we feel unsuccessful we hang our heads, our body language changes, we don't want to take up too much room, we may feel down, in low spirits & full of anxiety. This makes it harder to get out of the dip because you are not in the right mindset. Try this simple exercise. Sit up in your chair,put your shoulders back, take a breath, and then smile.

How do you feel?

Now try this instead, slump down in your chair, & think about something really worrying. How do you feel now? It really is true that our minds follow our body language.

Our Courage Grows & Shrinks I had a meeting with someone recently & they put it so simply, when you are busy and booming your courage grows, and you can see a world of opportunities, but when it slows down you feel like your world shrinks too. First off just hearing another person talking this way made me feel like I wasn't alone in my own feelings when these bad times strike, and I also took a lot away from her wisdom.

What practical help can I offer you?

As a marketing consultant clients sometimes tell me, 'I don't really do any Marketing, I just get referrals via word of mouth' people also tell me that they know they should be doing more promotion during the good times but they get caught up in being busy & don't take it forward. It's ok, this is very human. When things are good we don't like to think about the bad times.

This is where having a marketing plan can help. It isn't bullet proof because slow periods can hit for all sorts of reasons outside your control but drawing up a plan of action of what goals you want to pursue for your business & having a sustained approach can really help.

Things are bad right now

If you are currently in a down turn this is what I would focus on.

1) Expand your reach if what you have always done to find work is not working do something different. If you are a freelancer, then sign up with new agencies, new websites & go to new networking events. There are so many virtual networking events, many of them free. It is probably easier than ever to network in fact. Tell your existing network that you have availability for work immediately. Don't let pride stand in the way of making that call.

2) Nourish yourself. In Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown she talks about how comforted she has always been by the work of Dr Maya Angelou Brene talks about surrounding yourself with the content of people you find supportive. Do this too. If you are struggling and feel low, you need to work on lifting yourself up as much as you do business things in step one. If I want a quick reminder of the importance of resilience then I pop on a Gary Vee podcast.

3) Diversify. Most of us have skills that we aren't using. If you are on a second or third career, what can you do that you aren't anymore that could get you through a bad patch? If you are interested in having a multi faceted career as a permanent thing I really recommend the Multi Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon. She makes a strong case for multiple revenue streams being an important way forward for modern workers where none of us are guaranteed jobs for life. Emma also has an excellent podcast Control Alt Delete if you prefer audio.

Long Term

In the long term having well defined marketing objectives for your company can be a way of insulating yourself from downturns. Deciding things like which customer segments you want to focus on & how you will do that for the year. What communication strategy to pursue with each one to keep customers close to you. It is unlikely that you will have one customer type only, so knowing which ones are likely to be affected at what times in the year will really help keep slow periods at bay.

Future Proofing To finish, a final few tips of things that I would really recommend you implement to help keep you strong in the market place

1) Spend time building up your owned assets. This means your website visitors, blog audience and mailing list. If Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Linkedin disappeared tomorrow how would this affect your business personally? Work over a sustained period to move your customers off social media and onto your own platforms.

2) Create a social media content plan and stick to it. Social Media can be timely & costly depending on your use of advertising, but the best way to create an engaged audience is to show up on a daily basis, or as often as you can manage, but do it consistently. You will not build an audience by posting 9 times one day and not again for a month. The key to this is planning ahead, ideally a month in hand, deciding on what content your audience like and delivering it. Use scheduling tools if you want to be super organised.

3) Use your Insights Your website can track visitor data from how long people spend reading your content to how they flow through your site. Your social media can tell you how people reacted to which bits of your content. How many people clicked on your web link after seeing a post, how many people saved a post, who reacted. You can see who filled a trolley and abandoned it, you can see who opened your email marketing. In a nutshell every activity you carry out online is trackable. If you aren't already using all this rich powerful information to guide you as a business then this is a big gap for you, and one to address very quickly.

Thanks for reading, I really hope you found this useful. Please do share on social media if you think it would help others! Disclaimer: I have recently started to support, please have a quick read of the following to understand how I may benefit from you purchasing books that I recommend.

" is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops. We also support anyone who advocates for books through our affiliate programme, which pays a 10% commission on every sale, and gives a matching 10% to independent bookshops." Thanks for reading


Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now

If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here. I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of!

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About Me

Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in South East London.

Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.


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