How to Fix the “Bad” Month Trend Each Year

Fix itIf you’re anything like me, as a small business owner with reports at my fingertips, I noticed that I had my superb month(s) and my absolutely horrible month(s). The good ones were great enough to buy luxuries and the bad months couldn’t buy our groceries, let alone pay the mortgage. I needed to fix that, somehow.

Being in business for more than two years showed me, or so I believed at the time, that some months were set in stone to have particular results. Februaries were 2 for 2 being horrible, like sub-mini-project income horrible. The month of June was 2 for 2 for breaking revenue records, as was December.

Then it so happened that one of my favorite people in the world, Phil Gerbyshak, was coming to town to speak at a conference right before Christmas last year. I offered to pick him up at the airport and hang out for a few hours before dropping him off at his hotel. After some pizza, shopping, and a hot chocolate and coffee at Starbucks, I got the best business tip of 2012.

Don’t think about what a month has been in the past. That has no bearing on what you can do this February. You set it in your mind to do what you have to do to make it as good a month as your good months. Your good months aren’t set, either. Those come with hard work, too.

When it rains, it pours

It’s no surprise to those who know Phil to hear that he was spot on. February of 2012 was a great month. It was a good thing, too, because I spent five days in the hospital at the beginning of March. We were able to confidently tell anyone who asked if we were okay that we were. Financially, I could have taken more time off.

Projects came in so fast in February that I was scheduling projects to start in April. March was mostly working my way through project after project.

…and the opposite, too

Because I was working on so many projects instead of taking on mini-projects or tasks, March, April, and May were all slow. It was hard to find a happy medium. It took several more months to learn (far into my 3rd year doing this full-time) before I found a balance of doing work for a day’s wages and working on the bread and butter that is project work.

Some tips for this balance:

  • Don’t schedule projects further out than 6 weeks. Beyond that, people get antsy that you took their deposit and are flakey. At that point, you have to either drop everything or give them a refund. I gave 2 out of the 4 refunds I’ve done in 42 months of business in just the past 4 months.
  • When a request to look at a site and help fix something comes in, unless you have a deadline due that day, take some time to help. You’ll probably make 4x more than you did at your “real” job and help your cashflow. It can be a long spell between a deposit and a net payment.
  • Just because you’re busy, don’t turn down work and…
  • Just because you’re twiddling your thumbs doesn’t mean to accept every project that comes your way.

Discussion

Which do you prefer: steady work or gluts and minimal work? There are advantages to smaller months to allow you to recuperate from months of overwork, so long as they still pay the bills. How do you achieve whichever work situation?

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Comments

  1. says

    I struggle with workflow. I tried scheduling start/finish dates for my big projects this past year, but found that most of them went over, due to clients dragging their heels. The result projects piling on top of each other during the fall and me being in “fire fighting” mode as opposed to steady paced. It left no time for me to do business development.

    I think your 6 week out plan is a good rule of thumb. Timely article as I’ve been thinking about how to manage time/projects differently in 2013.

    • says

      It’s still a constant struggle for me, too. Sometimes cash flow requires stacking… but I hate doing that because that’s stressful, too.