Even the best business plan and the most seasoned business owners can’t anticipate business disruptions. While all artists and creatives felt the impact of the worldwide shutdowns and pandemic, something more personal, like a family crisis or health issue, can also upend operations.
As an artist who had to recently put their business on pause due to an emergency, I’ve learned a few things about surviving business disruptions and hope to share some of my best strategies with other creatives.
This week’s blog post shares strategies to implement when at the crossroads of managing your own business and having to adapt to an unplanned event. These suggestions may be helpful during an emergency, but can also be implemented to plan ahead for a long-term artist residency, maternity leave, or an extended vacation.
Simplify: Maintaining momentum as an entrepreneur can be difficult for small makers and businesses especially when you are operating as a business-of-one. The toxic hustle culture of entrepreneurship can make a slower pace during a crisis feel unproductive. Slowing down, however, is going to be critical for handling the disruption and getting back to business as usual.
When life forces you to slow down, it’s time to shorten the task list. You may find yourself needing to prioritize necessities while removing other tasks, activities, and opportunities that are adding additional work and stress. Based on your current obligations, you may dial back client work or large projects to operate on a bare-bones foundation. This is the time to get back to basics and focus on what is essential to your business.
During my business disruption, I pulled out some pop-up sales events and completely eliminated all social media. Quite frankly, scrolling social media was stressful and increased the feelings of comparison and perception of being behind. I also slowed down on marketing efforts as well to reduce having to turn down prospective clients.
Take a Pause: It’s okay to completely step away from your business. Spend some time consciously pausing the business by handing any last-minute business priorities and communicating to your clients. An automatic email reply can help communicate important information to contacts on when to expect your response or return. Then step away completely.
Hurrying back to your business can limit the time and energy needed to deal with the crisis, so it’s okay to be patient and give yourself the time needed to get back to being your best art-entrepreneurial self.
Outsourcing: There are tasks that can be taken care of in your business that others can take on if you have the financial means to outsource. Consider hiring someone or outsourcing the task completely if you need something completed but you don’t have to be the one completing the task. Use some of the financial impact strategies to help you determine if you can afford to outsource.
Financial Projections: Stepping away completely may not be an option for everyone. A financial projection tool can help minimize a larger financial impact or allow for a time period where you have fewer financial responsibilities. This tool can help you project the amount of revenue and expenses you are expecting each month and maintain a budget that covers the timeline of the crisis.
Following my business disruption, I used a spreadsheet to determine my projections to shift around anticipated revenue and expenses. I allowed for minimal business expenses and determined the revenue I needed to source for 4 months. Using this tool greatly helped to reduce stress because I knew the amount of revenue and expenses I had to commit to.
Financial Support: When you have the energy and time, you can always apply for a grant or small business loan to help cover costs during this disruption. You can also write grants to help jumpstart your next project after the description has occurred.
Personal Support & Boundaries
Finding Help: Gather and lean into your inner circle. This can include mentors, therapists, creative colleagues, family, and friends. Listen to these supportive believing mirrors during your difficult time. In addition to people, find other modes of self-help. I attended a virtual conference, read books, meditated, and journaled during this time.
Accountability Buddy: An accountability buddy is a great person to include in your inner creative circle. They can be a great listening ear and reflect back on your progress over time. What’s nice about having a supportive accountability buddy is having someone to maintain a social connection during a crisis.
Remember when working with an accountability buddy, you are the one setting your intention and what your buddy keeps you accountable to. Even if you are having a hard week, your intention can be something caring, relaxing, or gentle. When I met with my accountability buddy, some weeks my task was to read an enjoyable book.
Communication: Communicate with current clients and obligations when an emergency happens. This can be as open or private as you would like. Lean into technology tools like automatic email responses to let people know you received the correspondence and when they should expect a response.
When communicating to clients and obligations about your emergency, it’s common for people to want to know the personal and private details about your situation. Some people are just interested in knowing the latest gossip and don’t need the details of your crisis. Maintain your privacy and only share your current situation with your closest inner circle or when details provide important context.
Long-term Changes: When you are ready to return to your business, you don’t have to return to business as usual. Ease back into your operation. Return with new methods of operation into your post-disruption business. Allow this experience to change your artwork, process, business operations, or anything that you discovered as beneficial.
Rediscovering Motivation: Getting through a crisis can be draining, leaving very motivation or inspiration. Getting back to business or producing artwork for sales and clients can feel like a task.
Some of the most fulfilling and motivating activities to get you back on track can be playful and non-business related. Cross-stitching, reading books, watching movies, sketching are just a few ideas. Julia Cameron’s tool of artists dates is another great way to approach creative playfulness.
Future Planning: It’s likely that another crisis or emergency will happen in the future. We will all experience a health crisis ourselves or with a close family member, death, recession, or other financial loss at some point in our life.
Spend some time building a strategy or emergency plan into future business plans to help with a future disruption. This can look like some emergency funds set aside or an action plan that encompasses some of the ideas outlined above.
Have you experienced and survived a massive business disruption? Comment below on the strategies or resources you used to get through it!