The 4 Things to Do When You Run Out of Money

For corporate misfits afraid to begin, and fledgling entrepreneurs running low.

Because far from being the end, it’s an invitation to thrive.

I’ve run out of money more times than I have fingers and toes.

Yet I’ve never felt poor or ‘broke’.

Whether I was alternating corporate work with long stints of travel or investing everything into my passion projects, approaching a zero bank balance simply meant I was ready for the next step. Time to recharge the coffers. Try something new. Do something different.

It steered me to jobs where I would ‘meet’ the inspiration for my next project or uncover a talent or skill I never paid attention to before.

It was never a failure or something to be ashamed of. More of an invitation to keep moving forward and pay attention.

But now that I am building my own business, my philosophy has been challenged something radical.

As I navigate the mental and emotional roller coaster of starting up, I’m invited to re-align with my own metrics of success at every threshold of what ‘others’ perceive as failure and success.

I’ve learnt that:

Freedom is a state of mind. Money is an enabler. Success is for me to define.

So before you throw the baby {your self worth, personal identity and dreams} out with the bath water {your bank balance}, here are the 4 you can do first.

1. Be ok with it.

When you run out of money there is a tendency to feel a profound sense of personal failure. With the muscular stealth of a boa constrictor it can literally squeeze the passion, purpose and vision out of us.

But let’s face it. Why should business be any different from relationships or your career trajectory… or your fitness, or anything else?

What I’m referring to is the highs and lows of almost everything in life.

Deep troughs of frustration and annoyance, epic heights of success and achievement, and long stints of ‘blah’ in the middle where nothing is really happening {in a good way} and nothing is really happening {in a bad way}.

When starting up, the money sometimes flows in quickly, sometimes slowly, and sometimes not at all for what seems like forever.

Be ok with it. It’s inevitable.

  • It has nothing to do with how brilliant you are. Because you are. Billionaire or not.
  • It has nothing to do with how good your idea is. Because any idea can be tweaked and modified to perfection. For goodness sake if Fitbit can convince yuppies to wear an ugly rubber band then, honestly, any idea has the potential to fly.
  • It doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. Even though there are a zillion business blueprints out there, every single person who developed them learned by trial and error, succeeding and failing, and integrating a shit-ton more insight & wisdom that has nothing to do with business that steers them towards success in business. Like the time they ran out of money and had to do ‘x’ which led them to meet ‘y’ who introduced them to ‘z’ and helped them learn ‘a’. This is your time for that.

Be ok with it.

And why not use an epic prompt to create metrics for personal success that are not tied to money?

The beauty of this is that your joy won’t be tied to something completely out of your control.

2. Clear the blocks.

If you’ve quit your job to explore & experiment and haven’t identified the prefect idea just yet, chances are you’ll run out of money at some point.

You’re not alone. I have done this a million times, since the first 6 years of my odyssey I simply alternated travel & study with corporate contracts. A zero balance was familiar.

Whether you spend your cash savings or max out your credit limits, the mental and emotional intensity of being ‘broke’ yields a powerful opportunity to cleanse yourself of old beliefs about money, wealth, success and abundance, some of which might not even be yours, i.e. Inherited from your parents, learned from the media, or influenced by hearing the same old shit on repeat for long periods of time.

  1. Make a note of all your thoughts … I am a failure, I’ll never think of an idea, I have to work really hard to earn money, I’m just not good enough, My ideas will never amount to anything … write down EVERYTHING.
  2. See if you can trace them back to the point where this ‘belief’ or ‘thought’ became a reality. My self-worth took a hit in 2010 when my then boss made it a mission to publicly undermine me in front of clients, peers and my direct reports at every opportunity. It was only years later that I identified it as a turning point in not believing in my skills and what I had to offer. I had to pin point it and ‘clear’ it to move forward in my life and business.
  3. Clear the thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve you. Kiniesiology and EFT {tapping} have worked incredibly for me. You can either see a practitioner or do it yourself.

The following books combined are a great intro and foundation to understand the psychology {& biology!} of belief better:

Of course there’s a practical aspect, too. If you’re already in business and you’re investing more than you’re making, there’s another block to clear: the block in your funnel.

Whether you sell protein bars to athletes, have created a dating app for Tinder phobes, or deliver green juice cleanses to people’s doorsteps, you’re business is online. Yes, it is. {If it’s not, there’s your block!}

As a starting point ensure you’re website is hooked up to Google Analytics so you can see exactly where people are coming from, how long they stay for, where they drop off, what they do, and generally how they are ‘acting’. This will give you a huge amount of intel.

  • Perhaps your web traffic is generally low or even non existent. So your block is marketing.
  • Perhaps no one is signing up for your newsletter or free offer. So you need to make your offers more compelling and relevant to your audience.
  • Perhaps you’re getting a ton of refund requests. So your product or service is not meeting expectations, or you’re attracting the ‘wrong customers’. You must tweak your product, or change how you market to your target so you attract the people you created it for in the first place.

And so on …

But you have to think about your specific business….

Look at each step of the customer journey from ‘discovery’ to ‘post purchase’, and at each juncture where they have to make a decision {buy or not buy} …

Find the blocks in your beliefs and your business and clear them.

3. Get some money coming in.

There’s no reason to wallow in poverty and dwell in financial or spiritual bankruptcy.

Once you’ve accepted running out of money as part of the experience of entrepreneurship and identified and cleared the blocks in your beliefs and your business, it’s time to get on with it.

  • Use your career skills. Hit up past employers and colleagues for some freelance, contract, project or even permanent work. They probably miss you! Or connect with recruiters/ headhunters to help you make new connections. More and more companies value entrepreneurial spirit in their employes and value life experience as a commercial asset, especially CEO founders. Make sure your CV reflects your commercial and strategic learnings.
  • Get a part-time job. Did you ever wonder what it would be like to tend bar, or stock shelves in your favourite book store? What about working at your local art house cinema or West End theatre? Work doesn’t having to be mind numbing or boring, it can be fun, and best of all either part time or shift work. It pays the bills, yet reserves your inspiration & creativity for your game-changing ideas.
  • Sell stuff. If you’re like almost everyone I know, you could likely benefit from a decluttering session. Go through all your stuff, throw away what is broken, give to charity what you don’t use, and sell on what is valuable but sitting unloved in the corner. Old iPhones, designer clothes that don’t suit you, shoes you will never wear again. Stick that shit on eBay. You’re probably surrounded by wealth.
  • Find hidden money. Do a complete financial audit. Look at savings accounts, pension accounts, over seas accounts. Look into tax refunds here and overseas. Look at ISA’s, premium bonds or any where you may have put your money and forgotten about it. Look at investments you could sell. Not only can you possibly liquefy some of your equity, it’s also a nice reminder that you’re not actually ‘broke’. You have wealth. Even if it’s just a tenner in the jacket you haven’t worn for three years.
  • Ask for help. No one wants to see you suffer. Your friends and family will offer love and support in all forms. But first they have to know you’re struggling. Tell them. Your Mum might suggest moving back in for a while to take the pressure off. Dad might remind you of the $500 premium bonds they bought you as a graduation present. Your friends might chip in with professional advice, or even design and development help. People want to help other people. And best of all you’ll realise: you’re not alone. You are beautiful, and smart and important just because you are. You’re loveable because you’re YOU.

And if you’re already in business…

  • Offer a flash sale. Create short windows of opportunity to buy your stuff at crazy discounts! This works especially well for digital information {courses, ebooks, digital files etc}
  • Create unusual, one-off experiences. If you’re not usually customer-facing you could create a one-on-one opportunity to spend time with you {brainstorming, advising, whatever}. Amanda Palmer launched a Kickstarter campaign where $5,000 bought a house party at which she would play a gig and $10,000 bought an art-sitting and a meal with her. {Source: The Curve by Nicholas Lovell}
  • Upsell to previous customers. Whether you have a product or service, there might be something you can add on to a previous purchase that might help them get more out of it {ebook? Webinar? Podcast series?}
  • Create a premium tier. Add some kind of exclusivity to it. Go bananas!

Come at it from both angles and money has no choice but to flow towards you.

4. Keep at it.

Running out of money is not an excuse.

It’s not the end.

It’s not a sign you should quit.

What is it then?!!!

It’s a test to see how committed you are.

But not to your business.

Nor your idea.

To yourself.

To navigating uncharted terrain. To a new way of living and working. To following your passion, purpose and vision. To leaving the world a little better than you found it.

It doesn’t have anything to do with being in business or being commercially successful, but in your commitment to being completely aligned with what you truly want and ensuring you thrive on all levels, including — yes! — financially.

To quote Guys’s mantra from The Big Leap ..

I expand into abundance, love, and success every day, and inspire others that surround me to do the same.

So, take a step back.

Rest, relax.

Find joy and self worth again, because they are your birthright.

Re-imagine. Re-create. Re-align. With what you want to do and why, and who you want to do it for.

Then come back and give it another go.


This article was first published in The Freedom Philosophy, free weekly articles for corporate misfits and future entrepreneurs.

Stephanie Holland is a strategist, author and creator of The Freedom Philosophy, a Guide to Creating a Freedom Life & Business for Big-Hearted Entrepreneurs.


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