How to Handle Failure and Success in Your Business!
By Jena Kroeker
Recently, my husband and I watched the movie Darkest Hour, which depicts Winston Churchill’s early days as Prime Minister during World War II. He had a way with words, and the movie ended with one of his most powerful quotes:
Although this quote comes from a certain time in history, I couldn’t help thinking about how it can also apply to our lives as online professionals and virtual business owners. It shows up in many places, including numerous picture quotes and an article by Jayson DeMers titled “51 Quotes to Inspire Success in Your Life and Business.”
DeMers says, “What is success? There are many definitions, but there’s one thing all the greats agree on: Success only comes by persevering despite failure.”
Have you encountered failure in your work as a freelancer or online business owner? If so, take heart and be inspired as we unpack Churchill’s famous words and discover how to handle failure and success in your business.
Success is not final.
Okay, I admit this first part doesn’t sound so inspiring. But let’s break it down. First of all, what is success?
We could look it up in the dictionary, but for the purposes of this blog post, think about what success means to you in your virtual business.
– A full client load?
– Business growth and profitability?
– Influence in the freelance industry?
– Status as a business leader?
– Enjoyment and fulfillment in your work?
– Respect from colleagues and peers?
– Positive impact on your community?
The list could go on and on. And as Shana Lebowitz explains in her article “12 rich, powerful people share their surprising definitions of success,” successful people often measure their success more by well-being, societal impact, and relationships than by how rich or powerful they are.
Going back to Churchill’s quote, the point here is that however you define success in your business, it is not final.
And how is it not final?
As I think about my own virtual work as a writer, I often define success by the quality of my writing, how it helps my client, and whether it is well received by readers. Those are a lot of variables that can change at any moment.
For example, as I write this post, I have no idea whether anyone is going to enjoy reading it. If a post I wrote two months ago was well received, I can’t just rest in that success and stop writing new content. I have to keep moving forward and taking a risk that the next post may or may not succeed.
If you measure your success by the relationships in your life, you know that sometimes the stresses of business can affect how much quality time you have to spend with friends and family. So it’s always a roller coaster where we hit successful peaks and then plunge into valleys and climb up again.
Not to mention the fact that unexpected circumstances can shake the foundation of our lives and affect our businesses. It is during these difficult times that we fully grasp how to handle failure and have the strength to move forward.
But don’t be discouraged because the next part of Churchill’s quote is quite uplifting…
Failure is not fatal.
How do you define failure as an online business owner? My imagination runs away with me sometimes, so I visualize failure in many ways. Here are some examples:
– I overlook a serious typo in this blog post and lose all credibility as a writer among my clients and peers.
– I write an uninteresting, uninspired post and am never asked to write again.
– I lose all my clients, who have told everyone they know not to hire me, and I have to go back to working a 9-5 job outside the home.
Those are extreme cases where I’m viewing failure as fatal, with no hope of redemption. Often, what might be deemed failures are simply mistakes that set us back in our business endeavors or relationships with clients.
For example, in the article “Why Failure is Necessary in Business,” Jean-Philippe L’Écuyer uses the example of a failed marketing campaign and recommends taking a step back so you can see the episode as “nothing more than a learning opportunity.” He says, “More importantly, the lesson you take away will be a key factor for you to avoid a bigger failure in the future, namely an even more costly but still ineffective marketing campaign, a decrease in clients or even, ultimately, insolvency for your business.”
So in this case, a failed project can be a positive force in your business – difficult to face, but ultimately helpful for you and your clients.
And what if something happens that does signal the end of your business? Hard as it is, we need to hold on to Churchill’s words and keep telling ourselves that failure is not fatal. We can learn from mistakes and avoid bigger failures. And even if we encounter bigger failures, we can adjust our sails and change course.
There are so many opportunities within the online business industry, and so much help and training available, we can move beyond our failures.
This leads us to the final part of Churchill’s quote…
It is the courage to continue that counts.
What does this statement mean? When success is waning, and failures are mounting, how does the courage to continue count for anything?
When I read this statement, I think of hope. There’s always hope, even when there doesn’t seem to be. And when you have hope, you can continue. And even if you feel like you have no hope, you can continue.
And that’s what counts.
What does having the courage to continue look like? Think about it as it relates to your own business. Here are some examples I thought of:
– Continuing in your current business endeavors with lessons learned from mistakes (discussing new strategies with your client, brainstorming new ideas to avoid the same situation?)
– Readjusting and continuing in another direction (new niche, new clients, new business structure?)
– Figuring out what you need in order to continue (new skills, new software, advice from a colleague, mentor, or mastermind group?)
You can fill in the blanks with your own thoughts and ideas. Having the courage to continue can look different depending on the situation.
And you might even become more successful through your failure! Paula Estrem provides the following encouragement in her article “Why Failure Is Good for Success”:
“According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, many companies are deliberately seeking out those with track records reflecting both failure and success, believing that those who have been in the trenches, survived battle and come out on the other side have irreplaceable experience and perseverance.”
So no matter how many times you have succeeded or failed in your virtual business, your experiences have value. Hold on to that thought when you’re facing a difficult time.
It also might help to step back and ask yourself these questions:
– How do I feel about this situation?
– How might it impact my business?
– What can I discover from this experience?
– Is there a way I can fix the issue or adapt to it?
– How might I learn how to handle failure?
– Who or what can help me find the courage to continue?
And know that all of us at Freelance University are here to support you in your business, no matter what successes or failures you’re experiencing.
Now we’d love to hear from you. What famous quotes have inspired you as a virtual business owner, and how do you find the courage to continue? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.