Episode 135

How to Deal with Inconsistent or Fluctuating Income

At the time of this episode’s release, we are heading into the summer months, and you might be dealing with competing desires to either take time away from your business, or maintain consistent income. That’s why I’m sharing one of the most important episodes in the podcast’s history, all about managing fluctuating income.

As entrepreneurs, creating a business we love and serving our clients is an honor. However, for everything there is to love about entrepreneurship, there are some challenges too, one of which is income fluctuation and inconsistency. When you aren’t earning the same amount month after month in your business, you can be left feeling uncertain, and even anxious. 

Tune in this week to discover how to deal with fluctuating income in your business. I discuss why fluctuating income is a perfectly normal part of growing a successful business, I share how your brain reacts when the stress of fluctuating income starts to build, and you’ll learn how to address the issue and create more consistent income in your business.

If you want to make six or multiple six figures in 2024, my group coaching program Wired for Wealth is just for you. This is my lifetime-access coaching program designed for coaches, creatives, and service providers who want to create consistent high-income months with a small audience. Wired for Wealth is now open for enrollment, so click here for all the details!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why fluctuating income is normal for any business, especially as you’re growing.
  • The story your brain tells you about the way your income fluctuates in the summer.
  • How your brain reacts when you start to see evidence of unpredictable fluctuating income.
  • Why leveraging KPIs is vital for creating more consistent income.
  • The importance of keeping track of your expenses and where your money is going.
  • How to keep things moving in your business, even if you’re experiencing fluctuating income.
  • Some ideas for creating more predictable income in your business.

Resources

Read the full transcript now

You’re listening to The Jewish Entrepreneur Podcast with Debbie Sassen, Episode 135.

Welcome to The Jewish Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m your host, Debbie Sassen. I went from being a financial adviser, author and chronic under earner to building my business to six figures as a financial planner and money mindset coach. And then, on to multiple six figures as a fulltime money and business coach.

I help entrepreneurs create money making businesses and build wealth, using sales and money mindset strategies in alignment with authentic Jewish values. Now, let’s dive into today’s show.

Hello my friends, and welcome back to the podcast. This week on the podcast, I’m going to bring you back to one of my earlier episodes on managing fluctuating income. As I record this introduction, it is the end of June, meaning we’re at the end of the first half of 2024. We’re about to go into the summer months, and some of my clients are having a little bit of drama, let’s say, about summer.

Because as much as we love summer, the weather is warm… Oh my gosh; it is so warm in Israel. I don’t know what your weather is wherever you’re listening in the world, but it is hot and it is humid. Welcome to summer. It’s going to be like this ‘til late October or November, so we just better get used to it.

Our electricity bills are going to shoot up; talk about fluctuating income. Sometimes income goes up, sometimes it goes down, and my electricity bill definitely skyrockets in the summer. But I digress.

So, some of my clients, as I was saying, were telling me this week and last week, “In summer our income goes down.” This is what I want to share with you. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes that is not true. If you were to look at your income over the last 2, 3, 4 years, depending on how long you’ve been in business, you might see that your income does go down in the summer, but you might actually notice that it doesn’t go down in the summer.

There are clearly some industries where income increases in the summer. Let’s say, for example, that you manage an outdoor swimming pool. Swimming pools are in demand in the hot summer and income goes up. If you sell beach chairs, or anything to do with the beach; that can be flip flops, bathing suits, towels, anything to do with traveling, backpacks. All of those industries see a spike in sales during the summer months.

And there are some industries where income does decline. During the summer if, for example, you’re a tutor, and you normally tutor during the school year, and nobody’s in school during the summer… You might have some people who want to brush up on their skill sets. They might need to go back and review some of the material during the school year. But it is definitely possible that you have less students and less income during the year.

But what I want to offer you is, if you are running an online business; you’re a coach, you’re a creative, you’re a healer; most of my clients are in those industries. You could even be an accountant or bookkeeping. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your income is going to go down in the summer. But when you approach it that way, with this fear that your income is going to go down, it sets off this sort of chain reaction where you even stop going out and looking for new business.

You stop marketing, you stop selling, and you assume incorrectly that nobody is looking for your services. So, what I really want you to think about is, is it true? Are there people who need what I’m looking for?

Today, one of my clients actually sold a new offer. She’s a branding strategist, she does design, and somebody bought a package from her today. We’re at the end of June, and somebody’s using this opportunity… Perhaps in her business, business is slower during the summer. I don’t know what her business is. I don’t know the client of my client.

But sometimes if there are slow months, people have more opportunity to work on the foundations of their business. So, if you’re a copywriter, you could be helping people to copy on their websites. You could be writing them blogs. In fact, you could batch for them content that they might be posting during the summer months.

So, if you are concerned about a decline in income during the summer, I want you to get creative and think about ways that you can come up with a special offer for the summer that somebody would implement right now, and that would be so much in service of your clients and in service of your income as well.

Think about genius ways that you could come up with a short-term offer for your clients. If you’re a coach, you could come up with a laser coaching package. Maybe there’s a small issue that one of your clients wants to work on over the summer, and you could offer them a four-week package or a six-week package. Think about something that could be unique and special for this time that people could grab up, and it would help them and it would help your business at the same time. It would really be a win-win.

The last thing that I want to offer you before we jump into the podcast episode, is that it’s really important for you to write down your expenses. What gets measured gets improved. In the podcast episode, we’re going to talk more specifically about managing your money and how to deal with fluctuating income. But it’s important for you, for next summer, to know what your expenses are.

So, if you’re going on holiday, if your kids are having swimming lessons, if you need to buy some summer clothes, whatever is normally happening in your life… That air conditioning bill that we talked about, right? If there’s a spike in your air conditioning… you need to know how much money you need, so that next year, when you’re managing your fluctuating income for July, August, September, whatever your expense cycle is like, you can make sure that you can have enough money set aside.

And you can also try to reverse engineer your business income, next year, for the cyclical or seasonality aspect of your business. You might not be able to fix it 100% this year, as we’re going into the summer. But if you know your numbers, you can definitely plan for it ahead of time.

Also, if you are writing your numbers down, then you will also notice if you’re thinking about spending things without clicking your brain in gear, you’ll be much more intentional and decisive about your spending. So, rather than just giving your kids a bunch of summer experiences, and yes, do this, yes-yes-yes, and always being the person who says, “Well, it’s summer, we have to do…”

When you’re writing down your expenses, you’ll be able to be more discerning and be like, “You know what? This week, we want to have one special outing.” And then you won’t be saying yes to everything. Maybe it will be smaller experiences like, today you’re all going to go to the ice cream store. But rather than going to ice cream and bowling and-and-and it’s going to be much more on a smaller scale. It could be one large expense during the week.

So, make sure you’re writing down your expenses so that you will pay attention to them now, and also be able to reverse engineer your business next year. Alright, my friends, let’s dive into the podcast.

Hello my friends, and welcome to Episode 4 of the podcast. It’s late November when I’m recording this podcast, and we were supposed to be launching yesterday. Which is a little bit funny, the uncertainty that has been generated around the podcast; getting it launched, getting it out there into the world. It’s almost like a baby.

And as a mom of eight, I have had this experience a few times in my life where you have a due date in your mind, and you’re expecting that your baby is going to arrive on November 23rd, or March 10th, or whatever it is, and then you get closer to the date and the anticipation increases, and every little time you are feeling something in your belly, a little pain here, a little pain there, you start wondering, “Is this it? Is this not it? Is today going to be the day?”

That’s kind of the way I have been feeling about the podcast. Last night, we got word that we are actually delaying the launch for a whole week. Now, by the time you are listening to this episode, it’s already going to be December and the podcast will have launched. Now, it’s just kind of like I have a new due date for the baby.

It’s like, “Oh, okay, let’s just recalibrate all of our expectations and reorganize our brain for something new. We’ve got new information, new data points, and let’s focus on the new date.” That kind of ties right into what I’m going to be talking about today, which is fluctuating income and the uncertainty that the entrepreneurs have around the ups and downs, that kind of rollercoaster ride, around fluctuating income.

A lot of entrepreneurs say they don’t really like that part of being a business owner. They love being out there in the world. They love serving their clients. They get a lot of satisfaction from being out there and doing the thing. But the money part, the income part, the ups and downs, that rollercoaster ride that gets everybody to show up at Disneyland and Disneyworld, that’s not the fun part of the process.

So, we’re going to dig in a little bit into how your brain is hardwired, and why it’s a problem, let’s say, why it’s a challenge for entrepreneurs and what you can do instead. Alright.

The first thing that you have to be aware of is that your brain has been hardwired to look for patterns. It takes the data points that are out there in the world… and sometimes we don’t have a lot of data points… and it tries to organize them and create meaning.

Our brain wants to tell us a story, and it wants to keep us alive. And it doesn’t matter that the data that’s coming in is true or not true, it wants to give you meaning because the job, the main function of your brain is to keep you alive and to keep you safe.

So, imagine, for example, that you’re out hiking in the mountains. Three and a half years ago, I was in Northern California, in Yosemite National Park with my family. We were hiking; I hiked Half Dome. If you want to go and take a look on my website, on my blog, there’s a whole blog that I wrote about hiking Half Dome.

I made it to the top. It was an amazing, exhilarating experience. But during part of the hike on those trails, there was actually a time where we heard some rustling in the bushes, or rustling in the leaves. We looked over the side of the trail… Actually, there were a lot of people looking over the side of the trail by that time… and there was a rattlesnake.

Of course, that’s what your brain wants you to do, it wants to hear sounds that are unfamiliar, that rustling in the bushes. “Maybe it’s a snake. Maybe it’s a bear. Maybe it’s some other predatory animal.” Once upon a time, it could have been an enemy tribe that was going to attack you.

Or if you’re out at night, right? Your brain is going to be listening for unfamiliar sounds. Maybe steps that are running after you, because it wants you to run, flee, hide, and stay safe.

Another incident happened to me 22 years ago. I had a newborn at the time, and I was nursing him in the middle of the night. It was a rainy winter night, and we were living in a new neighborhood at that time. There was a lot of building going on, and it wasn’t uncommon, in the wind, to hear the scaffolding around the buildings, that metal scaffolding, rattling in the wind.

I heard the sound, and my brain is processing information, taking in the data, and thinking to myself, “Does this sound like scaffolding?” As I paid closer attention, it sounded to me like the window bars, the security bars of my house were being rattled. I woke up my husband, and I said, “I think there’s somebody trying to break into our house.”

He jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, looked out into the garden, and indeed there was somebody trying to break into our house. He banged on the window, and the guy made a face at him. I think he actually gave him the finger and ran away.

Interestingly, probably that same robber had actually gone to one of the neighbors down the street. He had gotten into their house on this rainy, windy night, when their brains weren’t processing information is dangerous, and he managed to load up their car with a bunch of stuff; I think the computer; I don’t know, maybe some cell phones and other things. But he couldn’t get the car started, so he ran away, leaving all of the things from their house in the car.

Okay, so just beware that if you have something going on in your business, your brain is trying to create meaning from it. And if you don’t have steady, repeatable, predictable income, your brain is thinking, “Oh no, no food, we’re going to die.” That’s the first thing to notice.

The second thing is that your brain loves predictability. Right? This is why there are people who just love being employees. They love working in a job and knowing that every single month they’re going to have money coming in, the same amount. It doesn’t even matter; it does, but it doesn’t matter so much if it’s a lot of money or a little bit of money. There’s safety created when you can rely on the same amount of money coming into your bank account.

Your brain can relegate that to a lower part of the brain, to your unconscious mind. You don’t have to think about it anymore. Now your brain can get back to doing other things that it wants to do, like keeping you well fed, well hydrated, keeping your body temperature even, and making sure that you are staying safe in other ways.

So, when your income drops, and all of a sudden it’s unpredictable, again, your brain is going to start creating meaning out of that, and it’s going to be, “Oh no, what’s going wrong here?” It’s really going to think that something is happening that shouldn’t be happening.

And if we think about this, as a parent, let’s say, if you want to create safety for your children… and since I have a lot of them, I love talking about my kids… morning routines and bedtime routines create a lot of safety for our children. They know what’s going to happen next. They know 6:00 or 6:30 is dinner time, and then they are going to brush their teeth, there’s going to be maybe a story; mommy, daddy is going to read them a story.

Of course, they’re going to ask for a drink of water, because kids always want a drink of water before they go to bed. With our kids, we say a little prayer with them before they go to sleep, “Shema Yisrael”. Sing a song. There were times when I would lay down in bed next to my kids to also help them create that safety.

But regular nighttime routines and regular morning routines help us know what to expect, so we don’t have to think about a lot of other stuff going on, especially in the evening. We’ve had so much going on during our day, so many stimuli, so much data coming into our minds, that our brains are just exhausted. If we can go to sleep without having to think what to do next, it makes it so much calmer and so much easier.

Of course, everybody likes vacation, when we are out of routine, but let’s be honest, when we get back to the day to day; get up in the morning, go to work, go to school, go to bed, eating food, going to exercise, whatever we’re doing in a regular pattern; we breathe a sigh of relief because it’s familiar, it’s safe. We know what to do.

Third thing about how your brain is wired is that it’s been familiarized with cause and effect. This starts when you are a baby, fresh out of your mommy’s womb. Baby cries, the baby feels uncomfortable for some reason, and mommy comes and picks up the baby, cuddles the baby, burps the baby, nurses the baby, feeds, diapers, right?

The baby obviously can’t express what’s uncomfortable, what’s bothering him or her, so the mommy does whatever she can in order to comfort the baby. The baby learns ‘if something’s not going well, cry, and somebody is going to come and take care of me.’

Then, as the baby grows up and gets older, maybe now you have a toddler. She is learning to crawl, or she’s learning to walk, and when that baby has that growth spurt and does the next thing, then everybody claps and cheers. Again, there’s cause and effect.

Then, the baby goes to school and she learns her ABC’s, or she learns her timetables. Now, that young child is learning, ‘oh, if I study hard and I do well, mommy and daddy are happy. Maybe the teacher gives me a gold star on my forehead. I get a hundred percent on my test and everybody loves me. There’s a happy face on my test.’

We make a connection between what we’re doing, which is the studying and the learning, and the reward that we get on the other side, which is the grade or the star or the cheers. Whatever it is.

Then you go out into the world, and you go to work. And if you’re an employee, you learn that you work and you get paid. You put in the effort and you get paid. You put in more effort and maybe you’ll get a bonus, or you’re going to get a promotion. We just have these expectations going on in our mind that we do the thing and something is going to come back at us almost immediately. Maybe you get paid once a month at the end of the month.

But there’s this almost instant expectation of doing something now and achieving the reward very, very soon thereafter. Let’s just throw in that we’re in an industrialized, high-tech world that has created this bias towards instant gratification and we want to see the rewards now, even more quickly.

Now, what happens when you’re a business owner or an entrepreneur and your income fluctuates? Well, first of all, it’s not predictable. That, already, sets off this lack of safety in your mind. And not only that, your brain can’t relegate income to the lower part of your brain. Now, it has to exert effort focusing on the data points. So, that’s already the first thing that’s exhausting. Your brain is working harder than it would be if you were an employee.

Then, it takes the data that it has and it’s going to start searching for a pattern. It wants to create meaning from the information. This is where you, as an entrepreneur, get on to that emotional rollercoaster. Because if you have an amazing blockbuster month, and you go from, let’s say, $5,000 of income in one month to $10,000 or $20,000 the next month, your brain is excited, thrilled, celebrating. You’re on a high. You might even go on a spending spree; we can talk about that another time.

But there’s this elation that something is going well and something is amazing in your business. Now, what happens when it goes the other way? You had a great month, maybe you’ve had a few great months, $10,000, $11,000, $12,000 in your business.

And then, all of a sudden, things start going the other way. Now, you’ve got a $5,000 month, a $2,000 month, a $4,000 month. Your brain takes that information and is like, “Oh, no, I am doomed. I don’t know what went wrong. Something’s happening. This shouldn’t be happening here. Why is this still happening to me? I have been in my business for so long.”

Let’s remember that your brain’s most important function is not to think on purpose about the information that’s coming in. Its main purpose is to keep you alive. When your brain sees this downward trend in income, it starts worrying that it’s not going to have food or water, or it’s going to be able to keep you out of danger.

It starts getting stressed out and worried, and maybe frustrated. All of a sudden, that elation that you might have felt in the previous month when you had a great income, all of a sudden you start getting scared and shrinking and wondering what’s happening.

So, here are six things that you can do as an entrepreneur to help you create safety on purpose. Because you need that feeling of safety and security in order to go out into the world and do the thing that you do, and serve the clients the way you love to serve your clients.

The first thing is to take a deep breath. Drop into your body, breathe deeply, and breathe on purpose. Notice what’s going on. I also am a practitioner of EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, and one thing that I love to do is to tap under my collar bone gently with a few fingers, maybe even your whole hand. Just lightly tap under your collar bone. That also creates a feeling of safety. It releases any negative emotion, or energy, or stress that’s in your body.

Even if you’re not into, body-centered practices, yoga, or meditation, or getting down on the mat and doing those kinds of things, we want to really stop and create a pause so that we can focus intentionally on what’s happening and send a message back to our brain that everything is okay. We are still alive. We’re still breathing. There’s still food in our refrigerator, and we’re going to be okay.

Number two, you want to look intentionally for patterns. Because your brain has probably created meaning from just a few data points. So, zoom out. What does your income look like, if you look for the last year? Or you looking at data points for the last two years or three years? Depending on how long you have been in business. Is there a seasonal pattern to your income? Is this a one-off? This is just one month where it’s a blip on the scale, and when you keep going in your business, it won’t be noticeable.

I remember, a year and a half ago I was working with a coach, and it was right after the Jewish holiday of Passover, Pesach. I was feeling really low because I had a drop in my income. I came to our coaching session and I explained it. She’s like, “Wait a minute. Let’s zoom out and look at the patterns of what’s really going on in your business.”

I had created a story in my mind that I had, more or less, consistent $10,000 income months at that time. So, I pulled up my bookkeeping software on my computer. In Israel I use this software called Green Invoice; it has lovely green bar charts. We looked at the real information, and what I noticed was that there was an up-and-down pattern to my income. It might have been $10,000, $9,000, $11,000, $8,000. My income was hovering around $10,000 consistently/month, but there were fluctuations.

And if we looked over a year’s worth of information, the trend of income was going up. So, this one month when my income dropped to, I think it was $4,000; it really was an outlier. But my brain wanted to create something meaningful out of nothing. So, take a look at your business and what’s really, really happening. What are the long-term trends?

Christmas season, which is coming up, is a time where you normally sell a lot in your business. Right? So, look for that and make sure that you’re on track to bring in the income that you’re normally bringing in this time of year.

If summertime is where most of your clients are on holiday… Let’s say you’re a therapist, or you do other one-on-one work with people, and they go away on holiday during the summer. And you always notice that you have a drop in income during that time, nothing’s gone wrong if July and August are quiet months for you. But make sure you’re not making a big deal out of a few data points that are really meaningless in the long-term picture.

The third thing is that your brain is always going to look for what’s not working in your business. We have a negativity bias because, again, our brain wants to keep us safe. So, it’s going to take all the data points of things that aren’t going well and create a story for you.

What you can do is intentionally look at all the things that are working in your business. Look at the number of people who are paying you. Look at the conversations, the sales conversations, that you are having. Notice the positive feedback that you’re receiving from your emails and from your social media posts; if you have been doing Facebook Live or Instagram Live or Instagram Reels, and people have been commenting on your social media. Pay attention to what is working in your business.

Every business should have its KPI’s, your Key Performance Indicators. Now, for some businesses, that’s going to be the number of people who land on their website and click through to a blog, to an ad, to a “Buy Now” button. And depending on where you are in your business, your KPIs might be the number of sales conversations that you’re having, the number of people who say yes, your conversation ratio, the number of people on your email list.

Figure out, for your business, what is the data that you should be focusing on. The main thing is you don’t have to focus on everything. But know for this stage of your business what you should be focusing on, and notice what’s going well and what is working.

Number four, if your brain tells you that, “You should be doing it differently already. This should be working. You should not be experiencing fluctuating income, because you have been in your business for so many years,” your brain is lying to you. Just notice that. Because the reality of the situation is that you are experiencing fluctuating income. So, if this is what’s happening in real life, it should be happening.

Tell your brain to just calm down a little bit. This is what’s happening, and let’s take a look a little bit more closely about why you’re getting that message. It could be for one or two reasons. Number one, your brain could be shaming you. It’s like that voice of your teacher, or maybe your parent, in your head. “You should be doing this differently already. You’re old enough that you should know by now.” Right?

And as a mommy, I’ll tell you that when we shame our kids and we tell them what they should be doing something that they’re not doing, it never works. They’re going to go into the corner and start crying because we made them feel bad, and they’ll probably just get really angry and want to fight back at us. And so, when we’re “should-ing” our kids, or if teachers are “should-ing” their students, or if we’re “should-ing” ourselves, we are shaming ourselves and telling us that something’s wrong, that never works. It just makes you shut down.

The second thing that could be happening is, if you’re thinking that this shouldn’t be happening, there might be a tinge of entitlement in your thinking process. “At a certain point in your business, you should have arrived already. This shouldn’t be happening to people like you.” It’s sort of like putting your foot down and saying that something outside of you, something external is wrong, and you’re entitled for things to be different.

There might even be a little tinge of indignation in your voice, or in your mind, when you’re thinking like that. Again, when you’re feeling entitled or indignant, it shuts out the possibility of looking at the external world. Looking at the data with an open mind and trying to create your own meaning out of the data, rather than your brain doing something on purpose.

Number five, if fluctuating income is part of the pattern in your business at this stage, create a contingency fund. Open up an emergency fund or an emergency account. This should be for both your household budget and your business budget. If you’re regularly sending money from your business into your personal bank account, make sure that there’s also a safety net in your personal bank account for those times when your business income drops.

Also, make sure there is a safety fund, a buffer, or contingency fund in your business for when your income drops. Just be aware that there are fluctuating cycles in your business, and you want to be able to eat, and feed yourself, and pay your mortgage or your rent, your electricity bill. You want to be able to carry on your day-to-day activities and stay alive even when your income drops.

Number six is recognizing that the money you receive in your business is always a lagging indicator of the value that you have already put into the world. This is different from a job where you show up, let’s say, on the first of the month, and you work, work, work, you put in your effort, and then on the last day of the month, you get your paycheck.

As a business owner, things work differently. You write the blogs. You run a workshop. You give a webinar. You give value on social media. You launch a podcast. You do YouTube videos and Instagram Reels. Whatever it is, you put your value into the world over and over again. And the more value you put out there, you can rest assured that sometime in the future that value is going to come back to you in the form of money.

As a business owner, the reward comes later. It’s not such immediate gratification as it is as an employee. Now, you might run a webinar or a workshop and somebody immediately signs up to work with you, and that’s fantastic. You can call that an “extra special cherry on top” of being a business owner.

But for most of us, the way we create more predictable income in our businesses is to show up for a year, or two, or three, or sometimes more, and continue creating value, with the awareness and the knowledge and the confidence that the reward will come.

So, keep putting value in the world. Share your goodness, share your gifts, and rest assured that in time money will follow.

Alright my friends, that’s what I have for you today.

Thank you so much for tuning into today’s podcast. I hope that you walked away with some very valuable information, material, and things that you’re really going to do to take charge of your money during the summer months. This is one of those seasonality times in businesses. And then, of course, there are the holidays, whether they’re Jewish holidays or holidays on the calendar, when our business income does tend to fluctuate.

When you know your numbers, that’s how you can plan for it ahead of time. If you would like to find out more information about money and your mindset around money, remember we talked about it at the very, very beginning. That the way you think about your summer months, “Oh my gosh, my business income is going to decline,” when you’re in that scarcity, anxiety, stress, fear around money, it really does hold back the flow of money.

You can go to my website, DebbieSassen.com/mindset, and download my Money Mindset Workbook. Because when you understand the way you’re interacting with money, and your family-of-origin story around money… just like when you know your numbers, you can fix your numbers… when you understand your money mindset, you can fix that too.

So, go to my website, DebbieSassen.com/mindset, and download the workbook. I will see you next week on the podcast. Bye.

Thanks for listening to The Jewish Entrepreneur Podcast. If you want to stop underselling and underearning and close more sales, you need to clear the limiting money beliefs that are sabotaging your business growth.

Head on over to DebbieSassen.com/mindset and download my free Money Mindset Workbook. Uncover and dissolve money blocks, like hundreds of other entrepreneurs who are now building six-, multi-six-, and seven-figure businesses and creating true financial freedom.

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