What to do when your business is failing

Jul 14, 2015

We all go through ups and downs in business, but what to do when your business is actually failing?

Though increasingly less taboo, a failing business can be a huge sucker-punch to your wallet and your self-confidence. Luckily, the internet is rife with entrepreneurs telling their failed business stories, so there’s a lot of wisdom and practical advice out there for anyone struggling. And hey - it doesn’t hurt to know that you’re not alone.

The first step to evaluating your business takes some serious emotional intelligence: remove yourself from the equation.

That’s right - scrub that id and ego and super ego right out of your business plan and take a hard look at your current practices. If you were advising a friend or a colleague, would you do anything differently?

Next, ask a trusted network of friends and colleagues for their advice -- or hire a consultant! Just be prepared to face a few hard truths.

As you’re doing all this soul-searching, consider these common problems:

1. Your goals are…. ambiguous?

You kind of want to be one thing, but also another, and maybe a little bit of that other thing. An actionable business plan requires specificity. Choose one and go for it. You never know, your other goals might follow!

2. Your marketing is meh.

You’ve probably come across people in your own industry who seem to be doing so well despite the fact that their work isn’t exactly genius material. These professionals have mastered the marketing game.

While you’re perfecting your craft, they’re out there wooing your potential customers. Don’t get self-righteous, recognize that marketing is a skill just like any other -- and you can always improve.

3. Your prices are too low.

It’s common knowledge that freelancers tend to lowball their costs. Whether it’s due to a lack of confidence or poor math, if you’ve got the customers but not enough income, it’s time to take a hard look at your rates.

4. You’re trying to do it all.

If you’re offering some services that fall outside of your skillset, it’s likely that you’re spending lots of time on them and producing subpar work.

Consider outsourcing those services or removing them from your offerings -- you’ll be better off if you focus on your strengths.

5. No one wants what you're selling.

Gulp. This one's tough, but sometimes you just have to face the fact that the market for your product or service just isn't there.

That doesn't mean you're a horrible entrepreneur and all your ideas are lame. Thomas Edison had over 2000 patents by the end of his life and they weren't all for the light bulb!

You've already proven to yourself that you've got what it takes to start something, now take a step back and do a little more tinkering - you never know when the light will pop on.

Ultimately, a failing business is a growth opportunity. Though the going may be tough, you’re bound to discover new things about yourself and come out on the other end with a new perspective.

What did you learn from a failed business venture? What have you done differently in your career since? Share your stories with us in the comments!

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about sustainability, technology, poetry and pop culture. Find her @Pennyscientist or on Freelancers Union.

Laura Murphy

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about community, poetry and pop culture.