*READ THIS* When You Feel Like Quitting Your Design Business

By October 31, 2014 18 Comments

This week I had two of my top-gun employees hand me their resignation letters… and I cried.

I just couldn’t hold it back. I couldn’t stop the tears. I had the puffiest eyes trying to put on a brave face for everyone in the office but I felt sick. I felt panicked. I felt beaten.

I just wanted to crawl into a thousands holes and die.

Have you ever felt like that?

Of course you have! Who am I kidding?!

That’s business.

And business is bloody HARD.

It’s like going to war.

Every day you’ve got to drag your exhausted, battered body out of bed, put on a brave (nervous) smile like everything’s gonna be okay, armour up and go in for battle.

You don’t know if it’s going to be peaceful on the front or whether you’ve got the tentacles of 10,000 men trying to suck every last inch of life out of you.

Some weeks feel like you’re never gonna catch a break. But you keep on fighting.

Suddenly it’s like a 25 round boxing match and you’re on the floor, all bloodied on your last breath asking yourself:

“What the hell have I gotten myself into? Who am I kidding? I can’t fight anymore, I’m done. I’m beaten. I’m not cut out for this. When is it going to end? When am I gonna have MY breakthrough? I can’t do it anymore. It’s all too hard….”

Then out of the blue you land that big job you worked your butt off for and things start looking up again. The sun starts shining, you hear the birds chirping again, the juices are flowing and the money’s rolling in. Life is great again. For a while.

Juuuuuust when you feel like you’ve finally figured it all out?


Something happens and you’re in the thick of a war zone again.

Fighting tooth and nail for your life. Your dreams. Your freedom. You’re right to survive dammit.

And you start questioning your ability. All. Over. Again.

The worst part?

The more successful you become, the more people try and bring you down.

The more challenges you have to overcome.

The more you have to fight.

And the harder it gets.

But there is hope.

I want to share some encouraging words my mentor said to me years ago which really help me get through tough times. When you just want to quit. Or don’t know where to turn. Or you’re in a right old flap and not sure what to do….

Years ago, I was in a bad place. I had a dilemma on my hands. (One of many, believe me.)

Anyway, I rang my mentor, Ken, all upset, panicking and gave him the low down.

He said to me:

“Bianca, are you going to remember this in 2 years time?”

I thought about it long and hard and kept silent, tears rolling down my face.

He said “Let me put it another way… Are you going to be losing sleep over this in 2 years time?”

I said “No, probably not.”

And he said “Well it doesn’t matter then, does it?”

You can imagine my reaction. I was like “WTF? Do you not understand, this is going to cost me a fortune, I’m done. This could ruin me. I suck at business. I can’t do this anymore…”

He said “No my dear, you can fix this. It’s not that big of a deal really. It’s just business.”

He went on to tell me that I just had to roll with the punches.

I had to learn how to ride the waves. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. And bloody down.

He said I had to just learn how to better ‘react’ to the situations and understand it was all part of the journey… the war.

But the one thing that stuck with me the most? Was when he said:

“You just have to learn how to ride the tiger.”

Close your eyes and picture yourself riding a tiger for a minute. It’s pretty powerful.

So when he said that?

I had this incredible rush of pure calm wash over me.

Suddenly everything I was stressing about just seemed so insignificant. So fixable. So… nothing.

I was just overreacting to something that was part of my journey. It was just another lesson I had to learn the hard way to get to where I wanted to go.

It was meant to be this way.

It was business. And business is fucking hard. Remember, business is WAR.

It’s not for the faint hearted either, as you know.

Sometimes I wonder if we have some kind of genetic flaw with all the shit we put ourselves through. I mean, who does this to themselves, really? What’s wrong with us?

This year I’ve been through the ringer… a hundred times over.

It makes my other saga I mention look like a piss in the ocean really. This year has been my worst yet. My most challenging. One that I had to reach to the deepest depths of my soul and question my entire being a thousand times over just to make it through.

So much so that I’m surprised (and damn well proud) that I survived it at all…. it was THAT bad.

Just when we thought it was over, BAM, another kick in the guts. And another. And another!!!

But Ken’s saying just kept with me… “You just gotta ride the tiger. Ride the tiger. Ride the tiger.”

And it worked.

When you think you can’t do it? You can.

When you want to throw in the towel? Don’t.

When you tell yourself you’re not smart enough? Savvy enough? Creative enough? YOU ARE!

Even when you think you’re gonna lose it all? Keep. On. Fighting.

Ride that fiery tiger. Armour up and go for it. Give it all you’ve got.

Get into WWE Smackdown mode and whoop those idiots that are trying to bring you down.

Fight the critics. (Including your worst… yourself.)

You will come out on top. I know you will. Nothing’s surer.

Because business is not just about perseverance.

It’s a war zone. It’s about survival.

And… it’s about arrival.

Arrival to a place where you know you can handle any artillery that comes your way.

Arrival to a place where you have complete confidence in your ability to single handedly fight 10,000 men AND win like the trooper you are.

Arrival to a place where you know that behind every crisis, lies the biggest, bestest, badass opportunity in disguise just wanting for you to grab it by the horns and make it yours.

Crisis creates opportunity.

Remember that. It’s a powerful way to reframe ANY situation.

Yeah, I cried this week. In front of my staff.

I had a moment of weakness. But it took me all of 2 hours to get over it.

It gave me an opportunity to reassess everything we’re doing; and remind myself of why we’re doing it. My purpose.

It’s been a tough week; I had to figure out how to resource a mammoth project we’re half way through in a different way; a better way… two men down. But I did.

I picked up my amour, dusted myself off and went back into battle.

I looked at it as an opportunity, not a loss.

Because that’s the difference between those that make it and those that don’t.

Which one are you?

What do you think? Share your comments below.

Author Bianca Board

After 20 years inspiring more than 10,000 designers and small business owners to take control of their business, Bianca is now spearheading Foxley, a brand spanking new SaaS platform for designers. She is deeply passionate about helping distil the complexities of running a web design business - to make it easier for all designers to make the leap from designer to design entrepreneur. She’s a translator of web jargon, a lead generation master, a champion for small businesses and you can Google her brain for endless strategies on how to transform your business.

More posts by Bianca Board
  • “It was business. And business is fucking hard. Remember, business is WAR. It’s not for the faint hearted either, as you know. Sometimes I wonder if we have some kind of genetic flaw with all the shit we put ourselves through. I mean, who does this to themselves, really? What’s wrong with us?” Heh! this totally rings a bell – so frigging true!

    • Abso-bloody-lutely! Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone! (Or insane!)

  • Running a business is 80% marketing and sales and the rest is design talent.

    • So true! The minute we focused 80% on sales and marketing was the minute our business shifted in a very big way.

  • Very inspiring Bianca!

  • Michelle

    Turns out we are all just human. I feel like as a new business owner all of my insecurities became completely exposed, the doubts, the fears, the “negative self talk”. Like Bianca said, we are our own biggest critics. It’s in us to shut up that critic because when we do our true authentic self arises.

    • Totally Michelle. I think as designers we’re more judgemental of ourselves and our work than most other professions are. I still struggle with it but what’s helping me lately is just gently reminding myself that we’re all unique and all have something inside of us that only we can give. There’s only one of each of us and we’re ALL uniquely special in that way. Not better, just different and special. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, it’s bang on!

  • Christine

    Awesome post, thanks for writing this. You’re right, we’re our own worst critic to ourselves and sometimes we just need to pick ourselves up and trudge on 🙂 I’m going to keep this post on hand for when I go through these times…

    • My pleasure Christine, thanks for reading! Glad I can be by your side when the going gets tough. 😉

  • Law Jackson

    I’m making my way through my third year as a studio operator and the highs have been pretty fun, but the lows… Thanks for this.

    • I remember just how proud I was when I made it past the 5 year mark because of that stupid statistic that 90% of businesses fail in the first 5 years. (I don’t even think it’s true BTW!) But hang in there Law, it’s worth it. When you hit those lows just remind yourself it’s meant to be that way and in some roundabout way, it is for the right reasons. Thanks for reading. 😉

      • Law Jackson

        Thanks, Bianca 🙂

  • Great article Bianca but I am still having self doubts and negative thoughts… I can sit here and read/watch all the positive stuff and feel great and empowered for a while, but I keep falling down again. How do I know when my downs are more truthful than my ups??

    • That’s natural Grace, I still do every day. Being aware of them and practicing techniques to deal with them is a great way to keep moving forward. Affirmations, visualisation, NLP Tapping and journaling, especially what you’re grateful for can all help immensely.

      Re: your downs, just know that in every bad moment there is always a lesson. Look for the lesson and draw positivity from that, then thank the Universe and move on. 🙂

      • Thanks Bianca. I had a listen to one of your webinars after posting this and it really helped me feel more positive about things 🙂

  • Shahrina Shaharin

    Thanks, Bianca… I was just smacked down when suddenly I saw this little small title that hit me wham! in the face. Was just about calling it DONE.

    Than I read this. “Riding the tiger.” .. Tears rolling down and i get every sentence… It hit me straight to my heart. 🙂 You make me smile again.

  • Lee Cox

    After a terrible day out of left field yesterday I googled, “when designers feel like crawling into a hole and dying.” and this article was the first result. Thanks for writing this! It helped rescue the day.

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