Lessons from a minor breakdown

A couple of years ago, we experienced something of a minor breakdown. For many weeks, we had daily bouts of hiccupy sobs, bad headaches and an unbearable feeling of failure. During a particularly bad episode, Rob snot-cried his way through an entire toilet roll in two hours while I downed paracetamol like it was M&Ms.

Looking back, the situation wasn’t actually that bad. We’d been working with extremely difficult and demanding clients for Mortified Cow, who seemed to hate us and need us (night and day) in equal measure. But – in a situation reminiscent of the Woody Allen joke, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible… and such small portions” – our biggest concern was how to get more of these clients into our terrifyingly narrow pipeline.

A few weeks and many comfort-wursts later (we were living in Berlin at the time), we got a grip and figured out what to do.

As far as our client work was concerned, we needed to find the right clients – not just any clients. So we quit with all our “client outreach” attempts like blog posts and podcasts, and agreed to put more effort into getting testimonials and referrals from our best clients instead – based on the (it turns out correct) logic that they would send us other people like them.

We also had a fantastic opportunity staring us in the face, which we’d somehow managed not to notice. Rob had a huge audience for The Property Podcast who were literally begging for more information and products – so we started taking it more seriously and created an online community and, later, a property management company. The variety is a lot of fun, and the different business model evens out the feast-or-famine consulting cycle.

While we were busy feeling sorry for ourselves last year, our mentality seemed to be: “Well this work is utterly shit… but it’s scarier not to have work… so how can we get more of it?” It’s hard to think creatively about opportunities when you’re stuck in a rut – whether that rut be a dead-end job with two weeks’ vacation a year, or undeserving clients who drive you insane and don’t pay you enough.

But in our experience, it’s SO worth the effort. All it takes is a deep breath and an objective look at what’s really possible – combined with a subjective assessment of what you want to be doing in life. Spend some time thinking about it while eating your weight in German sausages (if you want to follow our exact blueprint), and you’ll be on your way.