Ep. 130 The feast-or-famine cycle #askanna

feast famine cycle

In today’s episode, Anna looks at how you can avoid that dreaded feast-or-famine cycle of income peaks and troughs.

If you have a question that you’d like Anna to answer on the podcast, then email podcast@onestepoutside.com to be included in the #askanna series.

One day, you have ten leads and the next you have none; this week you have too much work, next week too little; this month you have a spike in your income, and next month you’ll struggle to pay your bills. You may have taken that one step outside the 9 to 5 but you’re still trading your time for money and now you don’t even have that steady salary and all those benefits that you used to have as a full-time employee.

So how do you get off that feast-or-famine rollercoaster?

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

The One Step Outside Facebook group – Join us over in the Facebook group to meet like-minded people who are working on reimagining success in their life and business and to get access to direct support and free training sessions from Anna. www.facebook.com/groups/onestepoutside

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate



The feast-or-famine cycle


Hello there, and we are back with another episode of #AskAnna. So this week, this month, I have a question that came up in my business accelerator, and it’s a question that comes up again and again and I think is of relevance to many of you, perhaps from the fear of getting started or from true experience. And that is, “How do I get away from this feast or famine, the peaks and troughs in the business, that inevitable, or is it inevitable, rollercoaster of being a freelancer consultant, having 10 leads or even 10 clients one day and none at all the next day? Or vice versa, having nothing at all and being really easygoing, and my goodness, I can get up late and I’ve got such a wonderful lifestyle one day, and then suddenly, boom, you’re stressed and overworked the next day.”

And the truth is it’s not inevitable. There are things we can do. Now, of course, taking the immediate term, if this is you right now, you got to do what you got to do. I’m not sure what that accent was about. You just need to do what’s in front of you, right? So if you are in that famine, if you’re desperate for the money… Hopefully you’re not that desperate, but at least do what you need to do. So hustle away, get in touch with your warm leads, reawaken your contacts with former clients and see if they need work. Take some more pragmatic projects if you need to.

If that really is famine, if you really don’t have the money and if you really need that, then there’s no point in then trying to work on a long-term strategy, because you’re not going to survive long enough to have that long-term reward.

So do what you need to do in the moment if you’re in famine right now. Do what you need to do, be pragmatic, get the income that you need so you can have a breather. It might even be, by the way, if it’s a long famine, some part-time work consulting or whatever to give you that extra income so you can focus again on building a proper sustainable business model, if that’s you. So if you’re in the famine, do what you need to do.

Likewise, if you’re in a feast, do what you need to do. If you have perhaps over-committed to clients, if you’ve agreed pricing, if you’ve signed up to do certain things on certain deadlines, then I’m afraid you’re going to need to deliver, right? We don’t want to not deliver what we’ve promised. It might be possible to shift things around, it might be possible to renegotiate the terms, but really we need to suck it up and get on with it.

So that’s the immediate term. I know, not super helpful, but we’ll get to the longer-term strategy, right? But in the immediate term, do what you need to do to get the money coming in if you’re in the feast and to deal with the stressful phase, “I’ve got too much work right now.” It’s a good problem, but of course, what we don’t want then is to spend all our time on the client work, in the business, as it were, and not have any other time then to work on nurturing new leads and making sure we have a pipeline of clients for when those projects inevitably dry up. So that’s the immediate term.

Now, if you can, during that famine, if you have a bit of a runway, a bit of saving and you know more projects are coming, you can use that downtime to work on your business, not just in your business. Right? And I know I talked about that last year during the naive early days of the pandemic. Okay, what happens if I suddenly have some downtime? In fact, I was on a podcast in the wedding industry and a couple of girls there were saying how they’d really used that time to take a step back, really realign their priorities, work on their business model, really get everything clear and line everything up so that when the things took off again, they’d be in a really great position.

So again, if you have that luxury, as it were, use that time. Do the things that you haven’t been able to do while you’ve had the feast. So get on with the website tweaks that you need to make. Maybe your SEO needs updating. You are going to develop that lead magnet resource. What else can you do, right? What can you work on in the meantime? Work on some systems, whatever it is that you don’t usually get to because you’re busy. So if you can, use that time during the famine.

Now, again, if you can, during the feast, if you find yourself overwhelmed by all the people coming to you, then hey, see if you can sequence them. See if you can delay. Shift things around so you spread out the work. Consider raising your prices, because clearly you’re in demand and you’re charging too little. And if you raise more, then yes, a few people, a few companies, a few projects, clients, will fall away, but you’ll be earning more from the fewer projects, right? So again, if you can, during the famine, if you haven’t signed on the dotted line yet… Sorry, during the feast, then by all means make some strategic choices in the moment to get yourself into a better position. So ask to shift things. “You know what? I’m not available right now. I have a waiting list.” Or raise your prices, and then some people will inevitably fall away.

In the longer term, of course, a couple of things, and then we’ll wrap up and keep this episode short. Of course, I’ve got lots more to say on this, as ever. But again, the question was, how can I get away from this feast or famine? In the longer term, guess what? It’s about the five pillars of building a sustainable business that I talk about, but in particular, I want to raise two aspects. One is the business model, and that’s what we’ve been talking about in the last couple of months. So core to how well your business does, because your business model is how you make money. So if you’re in this famine-feast rollercoaster cycle, something isn’t quite working with the business model.

So of course the dream is to diversify your income streams, to have that more passive or at least leveraged income so that you’re not tied to trading your time for money, as it were, really being tied to having to be there all the time. You might need to probably, almost definitely, raise your prices. Maybe you need to look again at your niche. Maybe there’s a different client base you want to be working with. Maybe you’re only doing one-to-one and you want to launch a group programme or a course. These are things that will take time, but you need to be doing that alongside delivering the work, working in the business, so that in the longer term, you’re not subject to this rollercoaster.

So the business model is one thing, and of course the second part, the fourth pillar of the five pillars, but a really important part, is building your personal brand. So having that platform, being able to build that over time so that you’re consistently creating the momentum, consistently attracting clients to you so that you’re not just a nobody who’s chasing projects and trying to sell yourself and trying to compete on price, which makes us a commodity, makes it very difficult, but rather, you’re known. It doesn’t have to be being world-famous. We don’t necessarily want to be a celebrity, but within our space, within our small part of the world, we’re known, we’re respected, we have that word of mouth. We have the authority. We have a platform where people have heard you speak on podcasts, perhaps. They’re following you on social. They really respect what you do and they will come to you. Right?

And that, of course, over time, not just weeks, months, but really years… And I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve had clients come to me and say, “Hey, I’ve been following you since the beginning,” which I love hearing, and, “I’ve been listening and reading for a few years and now I’m ready to work with you,” and that’s incredible, but that comes from showing up consistently again and again over time. And they love that too. They can follow you on that journey. Of course, you can and will evolve. But consistency is a really key theme there, showing up consistently, trusting that the results will come. If they don’t come over time, if three months have passed and nothing’s really changed, you need to look at, “Hey, do I have the right strategy? Am I actually implementing it correctly?” But generally, showing up consistently with the marketing, with the sales and so on, you will see results. And if you show up consistently, you’ll get those consistent results.

So I hope that answers your question. Again, I think and hope it was relevant to a few of you out there, and really the first thing is to shift your mindset. It’s not an inevitable part of being a freelance or running a business. Yes, there might be some instability and there might be some ups and downs initially, but you want to learn sooner rather than later what’s working and what’s not. You may have heard of the Pareto principle, 80:20. 20% of your clients often generate 80% of your income, and that means pretty much you can scrape off the bottom of the pile, the bottom work that takes a lot of effort, doesn’t give you a lot of impact, and then you can really focus in the longer term of developing that right business model that’s going to leverage your time, the pricing that’s going to work for you and of course the market, and then also build that unique personal brand that’s going to attract people consistently to you.

So I hope that was helpful. Do send me your questions, podcasts@onestepoutside.com or message me on any social platform where you can find me and I’ll be happy to answer your question on an upcoming episode. Thanks so much for listening, and I’ll see you next week.

If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall

Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate


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