What To Do if You Lose Interest in Your Business before it becomes Profitable
Photo courtesy of Quin Dombrowski.

What To Do if You Lose Interest in Your Business before it becomes Profitable

Hey, Emilie!

I keep starting passionate businesses, people get excited about them, I make progress with them – then I lose interest in each before getting them to profitable – 4 so far. I still want them all out in the world, but I’m not an octopus!! :-/

Do you have something to say on this that can help? I know it’s not a lot of detail; I just hoped you’d dealt with this before.

Shauna

***

Hey Shauna,

Thanks for the question. I think this is something that a lot of multipotentialites struggle with, so I’d like to answer your question on the blog, if you don’t mind. That way more people can benefit from the discussion.

I’ve found that there is a huge overlap in the multipotentialite and entrepreneur populations. Maybe it’s because we tend to be self-starters, or maybe it’s that entrepreneurship lends itself well to doing many things, but I’ve found that most entrepreneurs also tend to be multipotentialites.

For one thing, running a business requires that you know a lot about many areas. You need to understand marketing, psychology, product development, branding, customer service, and so on. I use so much of my knowledge from past lives in the day-to-day of running my business. In other words, the process of entrepreneurship requires having a diverse skill set.

There’s still one problem though. And that’s not process, but content.

When you look at the business advice out there, most of it tells you that you need to choose a niche— one narrow focus for your business. The niche dilemma means that as a multipotentialite, you might end up with a lot of abandoned businesses. You start something up that’s very narrow, and because it isn’t multifaceted enough, you get bored quickly and desert it.

There are a few solutions to this.

Solution #1: Build a Renaissance Business instead of a Niche-Based Business so that You Don’t Get Bored as Quickly, or at All

Having a business that is a bit more broad can help keep things interesting so that you can shift to a new product or subject matter altogether when things start to get stale.

The key to having a business that focuses on several topics, yet feels cohesive, is having a strong overarching theme: one unifying idea that runs through everything you do. I’ve written about this at length in the past.

Solution #2: Get Your Businesses to Profitable Faster, before the Boredom Hits

The next way to address this problem is to create the type of business that can be profitable soon out of the gate.

Some types of businesses are easier to start up quickly and with fewer resources. Obviously online businesses fulfill this criteria when you compare them to most brick-and-mortars. However, the blog/community-based business does usually take longer since you need to build your readership, show that you know what you’re talking about by providing helpful content, and create a product. It just takes a while before people start to catch on. The first six months of blogging can be pretty lonely.

Service-based work (design, writing, consulting, etc.) on the other hand allows you to potentially make money from day one. All you need is that first client and poof, you’re profitable.

There are downsides to this model too, of course. Trading your time for dollars still means that there is a cap on how much you can make, and possibly also the number of people you can help.

Service-based work and creating a community/products are of course not mutually exclusive. I launched my coaching practice three months after launching Puttylike, and did that along with web design for my first year, while the community was growing. Working with students in a one-on-one setting that first year allowed me to come up with my procedure for helping people find their overarching themes, test it, make adjustments, and get a sense of the questions people had. All of this ended up being research for my book, Renaissance Business. So service-based work is a good way to get started, and can translate into a product later on.

Of course, getting your business to profitable faster isn’t going to solve the whole problem, it’s just easier to step away from a business that is making money than one that still has a ways to go.

The flip side is that it is harder to step away from a service-based business, though not impossible. I know plenty of web developers who used to do everything themselves but now outsource a lot of their work. My friend Jon is calling his new consulting business an “agency,” as opposed to branding it as a personal service. This will help set up expectations for clients that the project may be completed by a team of people, not just Jon himself. This way, he can can step away a bit more easily in the future.

Solution #3: Get Your Businesses on Auto-Pilot and Step Away

Another thing that works is launching a business and getting it on autopilot, either by automating procedures, bringing in a team, or even selling the business. Most business owners do this to a varying degrees, the most extreme being serial entrepreneurs.

I’ve been experimenting with this approach a little myself. I don’t plan on fully extricating myself from Puttylike, because I love what I do. But over the last year, I’ve brought a few people on board to help me run the Puttytribe and I’ll probably be bringing in a few more this year so that I can free up time to focus on new projects.

Another example of automation is the affiliate-marketing model. I have a few multipotentialite friends who are really into niche sites/affiliate marketing. They do a bunch of keyword research, create a website around a narrow topic, set it up, and let it go. Then they move onto the next, accruing a number of sites in different niches that each bring in a few hundred (or more) dollars a month.

I’ve tried this out a little myself. From time to time I give it a go, but I always inevitably get bored after an hour of keyword research. However, some of my multipod friends are fascinated by keyword research, SEO, and really love learning about the process of building these sites. I wish that I could do it, because it’s a cool model. But it’s just not my jam.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through creating Puttylike and the Puttytribe, is the importance of systems and looking ahead. If you think that you might like to step away from your business in some capacity, it’s smart to get some procedures in place, so that you don’t end up in a situation where nobody but you could ever run the business (these situations aren’t usually terminal, but they can take longer to extract yourself from).

Solution #4: Abandon the Business and Move On

Maybe your boredom is a sign that you should stop what you’re doing and refocus. Not all businesses need to develop into a long term venture to be a “success.” Maybe you learned a lot of useful skills that will be helpful in a future project, and only by stepping away, will you be able to go forth and start that new project that will be wildly successful. Maybe you had fun running the business, and now you’re ready for a new adventure.

Sometimes you don’t even have the motivation to get a business on autopilot and it’s just time to let the project die. It is totally okay to quit, if that’s what your heart is telling you to do.

Your Turn

How have you dealt with the urge to jump ship on the businesses you’ve started?

21 Comments

  1. Katja says:

    Oh, how I can relate to that! Nevertheless, I’d like to offer possibility #5: BE a octopus!! (Love that analogy BTW).

    I have three more or less unrelated businesses going and it works fine for me.

    My main business is our horse stable, which we rent out for horse-owners. Right now I care for 10 horses on a daily basis (my husband pitches in a lot after his full-time-job).
    We earn some additional income by sharing our horses with some nice young girls and by giving riding lessons now and then.

    I’m also a trained seamstress. That brings me to my second business. I sew bags, cell-phone pouches, laptop-sleeves (…) made from reclaimed clothes and textiles and sell them online. I don’t offer custom made bags so I can sew my stuff whenever I have time and the drive to do it.

    Last year the sewing business got a little bit on the back burner since I started singing and playing the harp in two reasonably good booked bands. This year we won’t play so much live because two of my band mates will have babies this summer. So I will probably focus more on my sewing business again.

    In on of the bands we play medieval music, so I can use my dressmaking skills for my outfits – nice side effect :-)

    What I`m trying to bring across – even if your businesses are not related, it can work!

    I have to add that I’m rather comfortably situated, because my husband works full-time and is extremely supportive of my multipotential tendencies. We do not aim for a high standard of living, so we could easily live on his salary and the steady income the horses provide. That makes it a lot easier, I don’t know if I could do it without him!

    Greetings from Germany,
    Katja

    • Emilie says:

      Very good point, Katja! You’re absolutely right. I can’t believe I missed that one. I’m practically an octopus at all times.

      Also, what awesome businesses you’ve got going on!

  2. Josh says:

    Of course. I want things to start right away and get tons of readers and subscriptions in the first month. Unfortunately it’s not always that easy.

    You touched upon your theory on niches. In Jeff Goins’ class he talked on how he bases tribe writing on worldview the audience resonates with rather than a niche, and that reminded me of what you teach. An example is rather than just the niche of sales, a worldview could be: “salesmen who believe selling is actually helping people, not coercing them.”

    Thanks for keeping all us multipods on track.

  3. Kim Thirion says:

    I can’t even tell you how much I needed to read something like this! I’m struggling with this exact thing – do I keep going? Do I move on? Oh so hard a decision to make.

    It’s hard because I have lost a lot of my desire to keep going with it, but not quite ready to give up. I almost feel like I can make it into something else. I just have’t quite decided what yet.

    • Emilie says:

      I hear you, Kim. I bet something will click soon and you’ll figure out what the right path is. Trusting your intuition and learning to differentiate it from fear or resistance is very difficult, but a good thing to cultivate.

  4. Hannah says:

    Great tips Emily! Something that came to mind as I was reading was that it’s important to be able to figure out whether you really want to step away from the business out of boredom, or whether there’s something else in there around fear and self-sabotage too. I know from experience that the start-up phase can be horrible, you’re putting in all this effort and getting echoes back. But I’ve also experienced a level of resistance whenever things have gone up a level too. The exposure that is necessary for profitability can be scary, and I know that it’s all too easy to justify that desire to back off by reasoning that I’m not sure whether this is what I want to be doing anyway.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Hannah,

      Funny, I just mentioned this in reply to Kim above. I think a post on differentiating between fear/resistance and boredom/time to move on is in order. I’ll write that up soon.

      It’s a very tough distinction. Usually I try to see if I’m feeling only dread or dead + a twinge of excitement deep down. The former usually means it’s time to move on, while the latter is often resistance.

  5. Josh says:

    Wow, this post was huge! I haven’t even finished reading it, but this quote got me:

    “You start something up that’s very narrow, and because it isn’t multifaceted enough, you get bored quickly and desert it.”

    YES, that is me, I’ve been going through ideas like cheap socks lately. I didn’t understand that the above was part of the reason why I kept abandoning these ideas!

    I should have known better. I wasn’t trying to shortcut the overarching theme, but when I first encountered it, it wasn’t coming together for me, so I latched on to a thing and that thing didn’t work out.

    I am also willing to entertain the idea that there is something about fear and self-sabotage in there, like Hannah mentioned above, that masquerades as me not wanting to do something.

    There must be, when suddenly the thing you really like and are interested suddenly becomes unappealing -that could also be because of fear. Fear of success, maybe?

    It’s even become a source of shame that I can’t hide, my wife doesn’t get it, so she says that thing nobody likes to hear: “You never finish what you start.”

    I can’t blame her for not understanding my multipotentialite struggle, though, that it’s not as simple as just choosing a thing. And I’m not planning on using the term as a scapegoat for why I don’t “finish” things, as long as I figure out what makes me happy.

    You’ve said before that “finishing” can also just mean “I got what I came for and I’m done,” which is good to keep in mind.

    Sometimes that has meant me putting an idea on the shelf that wasn’t going to be worth the huge amount of work I was setting myself up before any profit could validate it.

    This helped remind me that one: it is good to just try things and see if you like them, in a “minimal viable product” kind of way, and that this isn’t a waste of time, and two: that I shouldn’t react with a “Who the hell did I think I was?” mentality after putting away an idea I’d spent a few months setting up.

    • Emilie says:

      Totally! I love the minimal viable product analogy. I often allow myself “scanning time” where I’m free to just dabble in a project and see how I like it. Sometimes it sticks over time and I bump it up to a main focus, other times it just stays something I do for fun or for a break.

  6. Jakob says:

    Wonderful article Emilie!

    I’ve started two blog businesses myself and find I grow weary of them

    long before they obtain an audience or become profitable.

    Thank you for the wonderful advice!

  7. Creative says:

    My issue is that I have great concepts and ideas, but give up on them before I get started at all. But I’m great at pushing, motivating, and encouraging others to excel and people always love talking to me. Although, when I do apply myself, I’m usually good at whatever I do. I enjoy doing more than just one thing and not being so consumed with focusing on one task.

  8. Creative says:

    above cont… For example, I obtained my real estate license many years ago, sold one house and ‘retired’ my license. Due to my entrepreneurial spirit crying out for freedom/creativity/unlimited income potential, I’ve recently reactivated my license. Now I’m second guessing myself, wondering if I’ve made the right decision because of the work that’s involved in generating business. I’d like to learn fun creative ways (other than traditional) ways to generate business and still be successful, so it won’t feel so much like dreadful work. I’m in a place in my life where I desire a creative low-stress lifestyle, while still being able to support myself. I also enjoy baking (pound cakes and red velvet cake), and volunteering within the arts & culture sector of the community. Is there a way that I could combine my interests into a profitable business?

    • Emilie says:

      First off, when you say “I’m great at pushing, motivating, and encouraging others to excel and people always love talking to me,” it makes me think that you should look into possibly running a coaching business or teaching. Something that involves helping other people get their visions off the ground.

      In terms of baking and arts & culture, there are definitely ways to blend those. A cafe that is also a space for community events, art shows, etc. is one idea that springs to mind. If you’re thinking that you’d like to work in the digital sphere, I think of sites like Inky Bites. (Not exactly the same idea, but also a blend of food and creativity.)

      I think you’ll be able to come up with a platform for combining your many interests. Just keep brainstorming and playing with those intersections.

      • Creative says:

        Many many thanks for your insight! This gives me a great lead to build from. And by the way, I am SO glad I found this site. There were times when I’d think, I know I’m not crazy but I have so many interests. Surely there are other folks out there like me who’ve found a way to dabble in them all and still make living. Thank you again and keep up the great work on your site.

  9. Hullooo! :-D

    I’m the Shauna that Emilie so graciously answered. Thanks, Emilie! (hugs)

    So what I decided to do is be an octopus entrepreneur – Richard Branson and Oprah style. Sort of. ha!

    I have 4 and a half businesses I’m going to run – all at the same time!!! :-D

    Crazy? Stupid? Overly ambitious? That’s what I was thinking somewhere in my head – or what I thought others might think if they heard about it. When I told my friend about this, instead of “Do you REALLY think that’s a good idea, Shauna?”, I got a whole lotta strong encouragement and reasoning for why this is the perfect route for me to take.

    How am I going to manage it? Learn to juggle, of course!!! ^__^ Ha!

    Seriously, for each individual business, I’ll serve one client at a time, plus have a waiting list. So I’m not likely to get bored; I’ll always have 4 and 1/2 different creative client projects to work on.

    The businesses I’m going to build:

    1. Work Your Quirk! Life coaching for quirky individuals. Two books: The Quirkster’s Guide to Success and Happiness; and Quirk Your Work!: How to brand your quirks for fun and profit. Plus a global networking and social organization called The League of Quirky Individuals.

    2. Inner superheroine artwork: I have a visioning session with a woman to personify her inner superheroine. Then I make artwork for her – a drawing, maybe a short comic book, and a statuette. Then we have a KAPOW!! Session to integrate all that new found power into her life. Here’s a pic of my inner superheroine: http://on.fb.me/14Ro6ks

    3. I Love My Clients! Cards: They are a deck of cards with an entrepreneur’s branding on the tuck box, plus artwork (or branding) on one side of the cards, and the biz owner’s content on the other side.

    4. Monthly Comfort Kits (working title!!): Kits with earth-friendly, body-friendly, alternative products centered around a woman’s cycle – from girls to menopause.

    4 1/2. WordPress help and tutoring for 40+ aged women entrepreneurs.

    I’ve got my work cut out for me!!!! :-D lol This is going to fund my dream of moving to Portland, Oregon. Yaayyy!!!

  10. Charlie says:

    First off; love your posts! I know you hear this a lot but your words are just what I need right about now! Thanks!
    Personally, I think losing interest isn’t such a bad thing, depending on how much you’ve invested into it financially. Other investments like time, learning new skills for the venture and experience however can be brought with you to the next venture. For example, one of my fickle things was a monthly mag for local artists sent to agencies and businesses. I researched into it loads and learnt new things like the benefits of mailing lists and newsletters, contact lists and all that jazz that I probably would not have dabbled in if I decided not to pursue it. The idea may have been scrapped, but I’ve brought with me all these skills I can take to the next. It could also help narrow down what you would actually like to do by process of elimination. Like, I started out as a photographer, got bored and it wasn’t hitting the nail on the head on what I wanted to do so decided to offer the photos to be painted as well to the customers. Now I’ve completely eliminated the photography side (do it for fun now) and offer just paintings.
    Also, there’s no shame in giving up when your hearts not in it. yeah, you feel silly at the time but wouldn’t it be more silly staying in something that you hated or was bored with – sounds awfully like a generic officey 9-5 job!

  11. Jimena says:

    Hey! I was reading this article, and this paragraph sounded odd to me:

    “Service-based work (design, writing, consulting, etc.) on the other hand allows you to potentially make money from day one. All you need is that first client and poof, you’re profitable.
    There are downsides to this model too, of course. Trading your time for dollars still means that there is a cap on how much you can make, and possibly also the number of people you can help.”

    I recently read this PDF called Breaking the time barrier, and it sounds like it would be helpful for those of you who want to make a profitable business and have enough time to dedicate to other pusuits.

    You can download it here if you are interested http://breakingthetimebarrier.freshbooks.com/

  12. Paulus says:

    I really love your articles and already did some businesses myself, but reading your articles I even want to do more and do things different. However, sometimes I’m also thinking: what if we’re just addicted to always have the new impulse? Maybe we should learn more to be just more content with stuff? I don’t say we should settle for doing always the same though. For now, I’m just enjoying the new way of living I did not think of before!

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