Feeling Stuck? Try This Rut-Busting Tool Kit

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hello! I'm Ashley Pahl - the writer behind She Makes A Home and Etsy shop owner at Ashley Pahl Paper Goods. Since I've been selling online since 2007, I am no stranger to ruts. They bring uncertainty; feelings of overwhelm; a lack of motivation or inspiration - in indie business, they happen to us all. The responsibility of being both shop owner and creative powerhouse can cause even the most accomplished entrepreneur to feel down sometimes.  So: what does one do when they feel stuck in a job that they've created for themselves? 
image credit small talk studio

Step one: identify the cause of the rut
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed? Too many sales, too many inquiries, and not enough time in the day?
  • Or are you feeling underwhelmed? Stagnant sales, stale ideas, or a lack of growth since last year?
  • Perhaps your muse has disappeared. Plenty of sales, plenty of time, but no new ideas. Inspiration is fleeting.
Step two: Take action...  Feeling overwhelmed by incoming sales + everything else on your plate? Scale back: - Don't accept custom orders.  - Don't offer items for sale that aren't made yet.   - Or, raise your prices: it might cause you receive fewer sales, while still bringing in the same amount of money, or more! Raising prices is actually useful when you're feeling underwhelmed as well. Sometimes when deliberating between two items, a customer will actually choose the higher-priced of the two; after all, handmade is more about quality, and less about the "best deal". A higher price tag raises the perceived value, and could make your products more enticing. When inspiration is gone, try doing something creative... but nothing that is related to your business. Take a class in watercolor painting; buy some dance DVDs. Get out in nature and take some landscape photos. Try some new baking recipes. Do anything to get your creative juices flowing again.  Alternatively, don't take action at all   If you're feeling overwhelmed, give in to your rut - that has always been my philosophy. Between running a business for almost six years and trying to keep up with two toddlers, I can say that I've had my fair share of ruts. Sometimes, you just have to order a pizza and turn on Netflix; sit down with a moleskine and journal every thought you have; curl up with a new book for five nights in a row. Let your mind rest and be free.  My favorite indie business guru, Danielle LaPorte, believes that chaos and uncertainty often precedes newer and bigger ideas:
"The beauty of stopping is that things loosen — sometimes to the point of becoming unhinged. And unhinged is very, very disconcerting. And essential. Coming unhinged is the passage way to innovation. Keep the faith and let yourself go crazy. I’ve been stuck, and nuts, and saved enough times to know that clarity always succeeds confusion. Spring in certain. It’s not the uncertainty that’s frightening, it’s not knowing how long the uncertainty will last."

Step Three: question if it's time to quit If your heart is still in it, never stop; don't give up too easily. We all get into these funks, and that's just what they are: funks. It doesn't always mean you're on the wrong path. There will be times when you question your dreams, but if the passion is still there - keep working at it.  On the other hand, if your work brings more dread than happiness, or more anxiety than excitement, it may be time to question your endeavor. When the passion is gone - that's when it might be time to uncover a new dream. 

{Thank you Ashley for sharing your wisdom & strategies! I know that many of us can relate to feeling like we're in a creative rut & just need a few ways to bust out. Love having you here!}